Pioneer heritage is important in Utah.
There are parades and fireworks, and even a rodeo! But ultimately what we want to celebrate on Pioneer Day is strength and a sense of belonging.
Cami Packer has six pioneer-inspired traditions that are simple, meaningful, and fun.
Find more ideas from Cami on Instagram, @camillajpacker.
6 Creative Ways to Celebrate Pioneer Heritage
Whether we had ancestors settle in the Utah Territory or not, it’s an important part of July to celebrate our heritage. I’ve felt the strength and feeling of belonging that comes from knowing about those who’ve gone before me, and I want my own children to feel those feelings, and to be grateful for those who built our beautiful state. For Pioneer Day, my goal in celebrating is simple, meaningful, and fun!
Embroider a Utah tea towel
One of the lessons we learn from the Pioneers is the joy and satisfaction of making something with your own two hands. Pioneers are also known for the way they made basic, everyday items beautiful in any way they could. I think everyone-kids and adults, boys and girls — should know how to thread a needle and make a simple running stitch. Kids would be especially proud to see their handiwork being used all year long! We traced out a Utah shape (luckily the simplicity of our state’s shape really comes in handy) and a beehive shape to stitch onto a flour sack dish towel.
Make a banner of your ancestors
We have easier access than ever before to so many photos and stories of our ancestors through family history websites like FamilySearch. Print those pictures out, glue to a piece of cardstock, type up a summary of each of their lives to print and glue to the back, and string up the cardstock with some twine. Wherever you hang it, I’m willing to bet your family will gather around it and feel a connection to those photos.
Use your family heirlooms
We know the saying “it’s better to have loved and lost it, than to have never loved at all”, right? I think the sentiment applies to our family heirlooms…it’s better to have used a family heirloom and for it to have chipped or cracked, than to have had it sitting in a box in storage forever! Of course we shouldn’t be careless with these special items, but their value comes from the person that they belonged to, the person we love and have gratitude for today. Every time we use these items, we can think of these “Pioneers” of our own families, gain strength from them, and feel connected to them. We should take every opportunity to tell our children about these items and where they came from, and who the ancestors were who owned them. I have a bucket that belonged to my great-great-grandmother, who was pregnant with her 8th child when her husband died in the 1919 flu pandemic. She worked so hard to raise her children on their ranch in Wyoming. I use this bucket as my garden bucket, and every time I grab it I think of this strong woman and I feel like I can be a strong woman too!
Make paper Pioneer lanterns
This project is a nod to the punched tin lanterns the Pioneers used. I used paper (not plastic) party cups and a nail to punch holes in the sides of the cups. Put an LED tealight candle in each one. On a night close to Pioneer Day, I like to have everyone in my family find a story about an ancestor to share. If you can’t gather around a campfire, adding a few of these to a table would really set the scene for talking about the past.
Make a journal
We are lucky enough to know the things we know about our ancestors, mostly because they kept journals. It’s good to remind our kids (and ourselves!) that someday, WE will be the ancestors, and our posterity might want to know about our lives. These journals are made from 3 paper lunch bags, folded in half, stacked together, and the edges sewn with a sewing machine to create a binding. I have a list of prompts for ideas to start writing.
Make Beehive Bread
One of the most loved Pioneer traditions at our house is making Beehive Bread! It’s a fun way to celebrate living in the Beehive State, and to talk about what that means and how we can contribute to the “beehive.” I use my basic roll recipe but any roll or bread recipe would work. Wrap a large glass mixing bowl in tinfoil, and spray with cooking spray. After the dough’s first rise, roll it out into a rectangle and cut long strips, about an inch wide. Take each strip, gently twist it, and wrap it around the upside-down bowl that’s been placed on a baking sheet. Continue until the bowl is completely wrapped. Let sit for 15-20 minutes, until puffy, while the oven preheats to 375 degrees. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until golden brown, rotating a couple times during baking. Brush with melted butter, and serve with honey butter.