There are many films that have been released over the years that poke fun at the craziness of holiday gatherings. Many of these movies are hilarious, and often show situationally-silly, comedically-catastrophic happenings around a holiday dinner table. I admit that these movies are fun to watch (and I enjoy them year after year), but I imagine that in real life most of us have sweet, fun, and joyful holiday meals together.
In just 10 days, many of us will celebrate Thanksgiving. I started thinking about why this date, and a few other holiday meals throughout the season, feel more special than other meals. What happens at these meals to make them so memorable? Although the answers might seem obvious, I decided to take a closer look. I made a list of “ground rules”:
1. Family members appreciate that each person has planned to be present at the table; the date is secured on everyone’s calendar.
2. Gathering together doesn’t feel like a “to do” or a chore; people look forward to it with anticipation.
3. There are plenty of hands to help with the planning, cooking, and after-meal actvities (no one person is trying to do everything on her/his own). Kids of all ages get involved.
4. People pay attention to the quality of the food, and the quality of the ambience. Recipes from relatives are on the menu, and the dining room is decorated in a way that represents the personality of the family. TVs and technology are taking a nap.
5. Basic standards of how people interact with each other are understood by all (confrontation and discipline are not invited); a general feeling of fun and cooperation rules the day.
6. There’s a feeling of inclusiveness, including open conversation and storytelling.
7. The meal includes traditions and ritual; someone usually acts as a leader for these types of activities.
8. People aren’t rushing through the meal so they can run off to another activity; instead they are savoring the food, and the company.
9. A feeling of solidarity and gratitude is expressed to each other (even if it’s not spoken out loud).
10. Love is in the air.
I believe that many of us desperately want to produce the same warm, loving experience of a holiday meal every day, but we stop short for any number of reasons (including not being able to commit to sharing a meal because of work or doing too many activities, being distracted with TV or technology, or being too tired to do it all alone).
Do you believe that the joy from sharing a meal can only happen a few times a year on pre-determined holidays? If so, I respectfully ask you to reconsider your view…for the sake of experiencing daily joy, connection, and having the opportunity to nurture the relationships with those we love on all 365 dates of the year.
It’s not realistic to think we can create a formal, extravagant meal event every day — nor do we need to! These 10 “ground rules” listed above are ideas I know we can all do to create a basic shared-meal plan for our family and friends.
I believe with just a little thoughtful planning and a cooperative spirit each of us can have a relaxed, celebratory — and most of all, loving — shared-meal plan each and every day of the year.