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Hints and tips for developing your own family holiday keepsakes legacy

Rockford (Ill.) Register Star

Keepsakes make us feel connected to each other, the past and the future. They are meaningful, one-of-a-kind gifts and a way to build closer bonds across generations.

They can be big or small, expensive or cheap. The value isn't in the item itself, but in the memories associated with it.

Here are some holiday keepsake ideas.

Start with a story. "Something to Remember Me By" by Susan V. Bosak (Communication Project, $5.95), is the award-winning best seller that inspired the national Legacy Project, which honors intergenerational, global history and traditions. The heartwarming storybook is about the special keepsakes a grandmother gives her granddaughter through the years. Share the story with young and old. You can give the book with a personal keepsake, or use it to prompt stories about family keepsakes.

Give old and new keepsakes. It may be the necklace from your great-grandmother, the ornament you made yourself or the special figurine you searched for across the city. The important thing when you give a keepsake is to explain or write down the story behind it. Where did it come from? Why is it important? That's what brings the object alive.

Bestow your furniture. Assign a special piece of furniture, such as a cedar chest, to each of your children and grandchildren. It makes both young children and adults feel special and remembered. It's also like giving twice now and in the future.

Start a collection. Whether it's stamps, maps, shells, rocks, coins, baseball cards, comic books or miniatures, a family collection is something you can add to over time. It becomes a shared interest all ages can enjoy and talk about.

Cook it up. A special recipe can become a treasured keepsake. This holiday, get the whole family together to learn how to make a family favorite. As you're cooking, write out exactly how to make the recipe, including a title that ties the recipe to the family member who made it (for example, Grandma Ann's Honey Cake), yield, list of ingredients with measurements and preparation instructions.

Hang "best memory" ornaments: Each person writes out their best memory of each family member from the past year. Brightly decorate the outside of the notes or write the notes on wrapping paper. Then roll them up and secure with a small bit of tape. Use gold thread through the center to hang them on the Christmas tree. On Christmas, open and read the notes aloud. Collect each year's notes in a scrapbook.

Make a family time capsule. Make a time capsule an annual tradition in your family. Each year, include items that represent the past year for your family schoolwork, photos, greeting cards, letters or e-mails, handwritten family stories, a videotape of people sharing memories and anything else you can think of. Put all the items in a container, mark it with the year and store it in a safe place. Each holiday, you can look back on mementos from past years.

Source: "Something to Remember Me By" by Susan V. Bosak and the Legacy Project,