between the turkey, decking the halls, lighting the menorah, and the
ushering in of a new year, countless family stories will be told and
Some of the stories you've heard a thousand times. And perhaps this year, some of the stories will be shared for the first time.
Telling the "WE story"
Storytelling is a collaborative, social learning practice that strengthens family and cultural ties while also providing a context for information to be carried forward to future generations. These family stories (folklore, food traditions, and oral histories) are a mirror of where we have been and shape where we are going as families, society, and individuals.
Even things you wouldn't suspect, like cherished family recipes, may exist only in a verbal format. If you don't ask grandma how she makes that incredible pumpkin pie, chances are it could be lost forever.
In his book, The Art of Possibility, Benjamin Zander calls the invisible threads that hold us together "the WE story."
As Zander explains:
By telling the WE story, an individual becomes a conduit for this new inclusive entity, wearing its eyes and ears, feeling its heart, thinking its thoughts..."
An Orange for Christmas
A few years ago I asked my grandma why she always put oranges in our Christmas stockings. I mean, we lived in Southern California, so we always had oranges. We had an orange tree in our yard and even if they were out of season, we could always just go to the store and get one.
So it always seemed strange to have that orange stuffed in the top of the stocking. Even stranger, nobody in the family--including her own children--had ever asked her why we always had oranges in our stockings.
My grandma explained to me that as a child growing up in Nebraska, during the Great Depression no less, an orange was an exotic, welcome, and indulgent treat. In the depths of a Great Plains winter, an orange from California or Florida was a reminder that the snow and frigid winds would soon give way to days filled with playing in the sun, tall prairie grass, and climbing her favorite tree.
At that moment, the family ritual was set in stone and the orange in the stocking became a necessary part of our shared Christmas experience. And this year, our first without her, we will put an orange in the Christmas stockings and share the story with my niece and nephew.
Families, History, & Digital Storytelling
GreatSchools.net, in conjunction with Yahoo! Education, have put together an oral history resource guide to help you collect, record, and preserve your family stories. GreatSchools has even compiled a list of interviewing tips and questions to help you get the memories flowing.
So this holiday, take some time to sit down and preserve some of your family stories. Engage in the dance of the "WE story." It doesn't matter how you preserve these stories, it just matters that you do!