Family Heritage: Understanding Its Meaning and Impact

Published February 26, 2021
Senior man smiling at young man

By definition, heritage is a person's set of values, beliefs, and traditions. A family's heritage is their shared culture, history, religion, artifacts, and general way of life. Having a family heritage is beneficial on numerous levels and celebrating it is far simpler than many people realize.

Benefits to Celebrating Family Heritage

Continuing your family's heritage has many benefits, and celebrating your family's fabric can be extremely enriching.

Creating Connection

Hundreds of years ago, groups of families lived close to one another, but in today's world, extended family is spread out in just about every corner of the world. People of the same lineage live in different cities, countries, and even on different continents. Continuing to celebrate a common family heritage creates connectivity and closeness among family members. Even divided by space, people sharing the same familial heritage share in a sense of togetherness.

Having a History

All families have a unique shared history. Their history is the story of how they came to be: where the family originated from, the hardships and trials that they survived, the traditions, foods, and the love that has been a part of a family for generations. Family heritage not only connects family members to other living members across the globe, but it connects them to the deceased, the pioneers, the people who essentially made them who they are today. Having a history allows people to have a strong sense of self, and they often feel rooted in their place in the world.

Defines People's Strong Sense of Values

A family's beliefs help individuals develop strong values over time. Throughout the years, families identify and connect with certain ideologies, and they then teach those thoughts and beliefs to the younger generations. Family values are carried on by members who consider them to be important. Strong values, in turn, assist in the development of self-worth, identity, and security.

Ways to Celebrate Your Heritage

There are likely parts of your family heritage that you partake in without realizing it, and there are other aspects of family's heritage that take intention and dedication. If your family was never strong in the family heritage department, that's okay. You can always start creating new family traditions or re-start ones that have fallen to the wayside. If celebrating family heritage is important to you, consider partaking in the following activities to highlight your family's culture, history, and uniqueness.

Learn the Language

One way to get connected to your culture and your people is to learn the language of your ancestors. As a family, begin learning a language traditionally spoken by the people of your culture. Make this a fun activity with children, adding a few new words each week to your repertoire. Start a language learning dictionary or a family word wall, showcasing the words and terms that your family has learned.

Connect With the Elderly

If you want to hear the great stories of your people and your family, head straight to the source. Elderly family members are full of memories and tales that can help you connect with your family heritage. Older members of the family won't be around forever, and sometimes when they pass, their stories leave with them. Take the time to listen, and hold what they tell you dear.

Feel It With Food

One fun way to connect with your family heritage is through food. Research traditional meals from your cultural background and learn how to cook them. Dig deep into the family roots and connect with an aging relative. See if they have any family recipes that they could share with you.

Woman making homemade ravioli

Discover Cultural Events Near You

Larger cities are full of interesting cultural events, and there is a good chance that at least one of them fits your heritage bill. Check out festivals and events relating to your people's traditions and culture and immerse yourself in all that there is to learn there.

Connect Through Popular Media

Once you know where you come from, discover books, movies, and podcasts from your ancestor's country. Connect what you know about your family's heritage with what you discover from various media sources. Take a smaller sense of self, learned through family heritage, and relate it to a wider cultural realm.

Travel to the Homeland

Traveling to the place of your ancestors is a bucket list activity for sure. If you can swing it, the experience is a once-in-a-lifetime activity. Walk the paths of your family's ancestors. Experience cuisine straight from the native land. Meet distant family members that you otherwise would never have the chance to come face to face with.

Young Woman At Machu Picchu In Peru

Researching Your Family Heritage

If you are disconnected from your cultural and family heritage, it's okay. You have to start somewhere! There are lots of ways to begin exploring who you are and where you came from. Many websites offer the ability to discover where your family originated.

DNA Websites

Genetic testing sites can provide curious minds with information about origins and ancestry.

Family Tree Sites

These sites help you connect with family members who you didn't even know existed. If your family tree is scant on branches, these sites are amazing ways to gather information and specifics about the people to whom you are connected through family.

Celebrating Heritage Isn't Set in Stone

Why is culture important? It helps bind families together. Continuing the family traditions of your cultural group is beneficial, but it isn't law. As you grow into your own adult identify, you'll notice that there are some components of your family heritage that you thoroughly value and enjoy and you'll want to keep these aspects of your family heritage, teaching them to future generations. There will undoubtedly be parts of your family heritage that don't fit into the fabric of your own belief system. It's okay to let those things go. You can choose what is special to you and leave out what doesn't provide meaning.

Family Heritage: Understanding Its Meaning and Impact