On February 4 , 1846, my ancestor Charles Shumway was the first person to cross the Mississippi River as part of the exodus from Nauvoo. I’ve thought a lot about what he might have felt that day. Did he look back with longing at his home? Was he scared for himself? His family? I had many other ancestors who were present that day, some of whom were children and teenagers. Thinking about their faith strengthens my own.
About 15 years ago, my family invented a holiday –we call it Ancestor Day. We celebrate it on February 4, but we could have picked any other special date (e.g., anniversary or birthday of an ancestor).
We do lots of special things on that day (or the day or two before depending on the year–and sometimes we celebrate for a whole week). Some of my ancestors brewed beer, so we make homemade rootbeer. We retell family history stories and sometimes act them out. One year we got in a boat and “ferried across the Mississippi” (a totally inaccurate reenactment, but we weren’t going for historical accuracy). We read books written by or about our ancestors, visit a gravesite, or watch 17 Miracles.
Doing these activities reminds me that my ancestors are still alive–just on the other side of the veil. They are aware of me and I want to be more aware of them. This idea is beautifully captured in a video by David Archuleta. It’s only in Spanish but you don’t have to understand Spanish to get the message the video portrays.
I recommend you give Ancestor Day a try. Start small, but I’m confident you will find a power as you connect with those who have gone before. They are real people, they are still alive, and they care about us–likely much more than we know!
BTW–You might not know this but Lani Hilton wrote a book called Celebrate Sunday, where she gives dozens of ideas to make the Sabbath a delight–including a more extended description of Ancestor Day. The book is on sale for $7.50 with free Prime shipping. If you don’t already have one, grab a copy today.!