Thanksgiving is one of the year's busiest travel times in the United States. According to the US Bureau of Transportation, the number of long-distance trips (50 miles or more) increases by 54 percent around Thanksgiving.
Visiting friends and family is the single biggest reason Americans travel during the holidays. The visits account for 53 percent of all Thanksgiving trips. The average Thanksgiving trip is 214 miles. In 2012, AAA estimated that nearly 44 million people traveled during the holiday weekend - 90 percent traveled by car; the rest traveled by air, train or bus.
Many of us are lucky to have close friends, who feel like family, in our lives. In recent years, genetic research has supported the theory that friends are more likely to share certain similarities in their genetic makeup.
When I was growing up, Uncle Max was always hanging around our house, chatting with my parents. He helped steer my father right with his do-it-yourself home projects, he told jokes at the dinner table, and he always came bearing little treats for my siblings and me. He visited so often that he was considered a member of the family.
I had always assumed that he was a second cousin or somehow distantly related to us. It was only when I was a teenager that I discovered that "Uncle" Max was not my uncle, but a very close friend of my parents. He had shared several stages of life with them and had essentially become family. Growing up, we were closer with Max than we were to many of our other aunts and uncles.
Passed down from generation to generation, often with a background story, they help preserve our heritage for future generations. We recently wrote about bizarre places to find family heirlooms.
I grew up in a home where many pieces of furniture once belonged to my great-grandmother. I thought that it was strange to have such antique furniture in our modern home but, as I grew older, I came to appreciate their value and the importance of safeguarding pieces that once belonged to the matriarch of our large family. Little did I know that my family was not unique and that furniture is commonly passed down in families and cherished for generations.
Those of us fortunate enough to grow up with grandparents understand how important they were (and are) in our lives. I grew up knowing my mother's parents and maternal great-grandmother; my paternal grandparents had died when I was quite young, although I do remember some holiday celebrations
My great-grandmother took care of my mother when she was little, so her parents (my grandparents) could work without worry. Today, this model is still common in many cultures around the world. Both parents are often working and grandmothers (and grandfathers) are helping to raise their grandchildren.
I remember my grandmother’s visits very well, and saw my great-grandmother, quite elderly by that time, during the summer vacations. Grandma would arrive for visits laden with boxes and jars of wonderful delicacies that our mother didn’t have time to prepare. When we were little, she kept us busy and happy with painting, making pasta necklaces and pasta artwork, trying to teach us how to sew dresses for our dolls. Her legendary attempts to teach me to crochet, unfortunately, fell on hands that just didn't catch on.
A cousin is a relative with whom you share common ancestors. First cousins share grandparents, but all cousins share a family history bond that goes far beyond that.
If you have a really close cousin, you know that the relationship can be very special.
Does family size impact how happy we are?
Our ancestors often came from larger families, with at least three siblings. Today, however, the number of couples who are having more than two children is small.
A recent happiness study found that two-thirds of couples with three or more children consider themselves happy most of the time. Also, they are more satisfied with their lives and build stronger personal relationships with others.
My grandmother was recently searching for some old jewelry of her mother's that she had misplaced. She wanted to give it to me for my birthday to ensure it gets passed down to the next generation.
She opened all the closets, searched through kitchen pots, and even behind light switches! Where did she finally find it? In the pocket of a jacket she hadn’t worn in years.
I was the second of four siblings. Growing up as middle children, my sister (the third child) and I often joked that we were considered double-stuff Oreo filling, and therefore we were the best part of the family.
According to various studies, birth order in a family can have a great impact on a child's life.
Middle children often feel squeezed between older and younger siblings and have trouble finding their place in the family. There's even a syndrome named after us!
Here are five things that only middle children will understand:
Contributing writer Schelly Talalay Dardashti is the US Genealogy Advisor for MyHeritage.com
Wouldn't it be great to get your far-flung family together and meet them in person? E-mail and Skype only go so far.
Some families plan reunions every year or two, while some have been meeting annually for decades. Others have never organized a formal get-together.
We've been talking about this for our Dardashti family - there are so many relatives that we'll need a football stadium. Several years ago, we had a mini-reunion with descendants of six Talalay branches. It was probably the first time in more than 100 years that that these branches had been together since the late 1890s, when many cousins began leaving Belarus and Russia for the US. We were all stunned by the familial and personality resemblance within the group, which included those who had remained in the ancestral towns until only very recently.
Don't forget that your family website at MyHeritage is a great way to communicate with reunion attendees. Share pre-event planning and programs. Then provide - after the event - photos and videos for the whole family to see. It will encourage those who didn't attend to show up next time.
When it comes to family, the more time spent together, the better the chance to bond over quality experiences. Traditionally, mothers stayed at home and fathers were the family breadwinners -often rarely seeing their children.
In the past few decades, however, things have changed, and fathers spend seven times more with their children than in the 1970s. While the time is still much lower than that of mothers, there is an awareness for more equal family roles.
Interestingly, last week also marked the UN’s International Day of Families, celebrated each May 15 for over 20 years. The day is also meant to reflect on the importance of family, as well as to increase knowledge and awareness on social, economic and demographic issues that affect families around the world. Each year has a theme; this year it is gender equality in the contemporary family.