Exploring roots through traditions and stories.
A sense of connection with our family roots can be deepened when knowledge from previous generations is passed down. For Nicole Morton, pieces of her own English, Italian, and Irish heritage weren’t always a direct part of her upbringing, but they have remained integral to her life experiences and values to this day. In this community spotlight, Nicole shares the power of keeping and seeking out traditions and stories within families, and their ability to inspire future generations to carry them forward.
The Joy of Small Discoveries
Sometimes, the spark of curiosity about one’s roots can have larger impacts than we might expect! In Nicole’s family, history has been preserved in ways both big and small. “I think we have always allowed storytelling to be our means of passing down our origin stories.”
Nicole’s father, in particular, always has a tale to share. “He knows the ingredients to a good story - a bit of truth, a bit of embellishment, a buildup with a middle, an end, and sprinkled with funny and engaging elements.”
Although many of us might have family members who aren’t as forthcoming about the past, they can impart unexpected treasures all the same. Nicole’s grandmother, for instance, had adopted her Italian husband’s family traditions upon marrying, leaving behind (by all appearances) her Irish roots.
“It seemed she wasn't really connected to her heritage … but when she passed away and we cleaned out her house, I was delighted to find at least a dozen leprechauns/fairies she had tucked away and had them peaking out of all kinds of spots in her home (pinned to drapes, hanging inside a lamp).”
This discovery intrigued Nicole. “I did a bit of research and learned the history of the mischievous elf, and in that moment, I totally connected with the fact that my relationship with my Gran was always full of fun and mischief.
To this day, I have an affinity to the leprechaun and have introduced my daughter to them.”
Making New Connections
For Nicole’s daughter, much of her own curiosity about her roots stemmed from the less familiar aspects of her father’s heritage. Raised with mainly English-Scottish influences on his mother’s side, Nicole’s husband had fond but more fleeting memories of his Japanese family, like recollections of eating sushi with his grandparents. It wasn’t until adulthood that he became close with his uncles and cousins—and through his daughter, more intergenerational ties began to flourish.
“His uncle taught my daughter origami and we have had many conversations with him learning the family history,” shares Nicole. “My husband's family property was taken away during war, and we were able to figure out where in Vancouver it would have been, and what business they would have run there."
My daughter is very interested in her Japanese heritage and if you ask her what her cultural background is….she identifies as Japanese … At my suggestion, we picked a Japanese name for her (Emiko) and she is trying to learn some language. She is very interested in attending the Japanese festival and her great uncle plays taiko drums, which she finds very interesting.”
Today, the many influences in Nicole and her family’s life are reflected in the way they celebrate important pieces from their heritage. They incorporate Japanese food into many of their day-to-day meals, and special days are marked with nods to old traditions.
“[Growing up], the preparation of food was a big part of these events, and we had specific foods for specific events. For example, on Sunday nights we were allowed to move our chairs around the dinner table in a configuration that allowed view of the TV and we watched Disney and ate homemade pasta.
The art of traditional pasta making has long been passed down between women in Nicole’s family. “My Irish Gran learned from her Italian mother-in-law, who then taught my 50% Italian mom how to make homemade pasta noodles, and she taught me. I have since taught my Japanese-mixed daughter the tradition. I love that the traditional recipe is still being used …
My paternal grandparents were English/Scottish. We would have afternoon "tea" with them on Saturday afternoons and to this day, I am very sentimental about enjoying a traditional afternoon high tea.”
The Christmas season in particular holds many special memories. “There’s making butter tarts and a fudge wreath, and opening one present on Christmas Eve (which mysteriously is always a pair of new PJ's). We always sing carols on Christmas Eve and my mom reads ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas.’ “
Nicole’s family worked to keep these traditions going during COVID’s more isolated holiday seasons too. “We had to be creative, and we read the story over a group Facetime visit and used an online Karaoke game to sing carols together... it allowed us to still feel connected when we were all far apart.”
Preserve With Intention
It can sometimes take the loss of traditions or loved ones for us to more fully appreciate all the richness of our roots. This season, we encourage you to get more intentional about safekeeping your own family’s stories for the future by using our Conversation Tools - we might even help suggest a question you never thought to ask before!
We also invite you to explore Nicole’s business, iClick Financial Services. This all-female insurance business strives to build women's worth and wealth. By helping clients connect with people and understand their story, iClick ensures they protect what is often most important to them—family.
What’s one of your favourite family stories or traditions? Were there any discoveries that sparked a deeper curiosity about your roots? Share in the comments below!