Each month, we share the story of an inspiring family and their shared meals. But as we enter the holiday season in 2020, we thought it might be nice to share a little about our families and how we’re all taking different approaches to the season. From Thanksgiving through the New Year, here are all the ways we’re keeping old traditions and creating new ones. The Family Dinner Project Team wishes each of you a healthy and happy December!
Some families are going to have to adapt their holiday celebrations this year because of COVID. How are you adapting?
- “We usually host an in-person Thanksgiving for friends and family, and we also have some sort of virtual event with friends and family around the country. This year, we’re not hosting the in-person event, but we’re celebrating via multiple Zooms with the usual attendees and some new ones. For the usual in-person crowd, we’re still hosting by providing safely prepared full meals for all. And we’ll provide curbside delivery to all on Wednesday evening — the party packs include food, flowers and a special beverage. Then, on Thanksgiving we’ll all Zoom during food prep (with some) and for the meal with all. We’ll also play charades and possibly other games.” – Shelly, co-founder of The Family Dinner Project
- “Since moving to Seattle we have holiday dinners with my ‘sister-from-another-mister’ and her wife, but we can’t do that this year because of COVID. Instead, we’re having a small family dinner with just us and the family we pod with (since they can’t see their family either) and are leaning into gluttony by doing ‘Best of’ dinners. Each family is cooking 3 of their favorite dishes and we’re going to swap stories about the foods over dinner!” – Cindil, Assistant Executive Director
- “I like this quote: ‘There is no creation without tradition; the new is an inflection on a preceding form; novelty is always a variation on the past.’ So we will definitely keep our tradition to celebrate the holiday season with our family and friends, but this time we will add the “new”: a digital celebration. It’s so sad that we can’t physically visit family and friends, but we can still celebrate it together: with food, fun and conversations.” – Anna, SEO and Marketing Consultant
- “While large family gatherings are the norm, health is key this year, so we are keeping things low key and close to home. We are part of a neighborhood school pod and will be starting new traditions together – Friendsgiving, book swaps for the kids, wine tasting for the adults, game nights, etc. While we won’t be celebrating with all of our loved ones we will celebrate the wonderful friendships we have formed in our small town.” – Shannon, Website and Analytics Consultant
- “I rethought Thanksgiving this year so that I could have a quick, outdoor meal in chilly New England with one son who lives in New York. Like so many other families, I ended up rethinking again and now neither son will travel. We will be baking together over Zoom on Wednesday and on Thursday we’ll have a zoom with most of the other dozen guests who usually attend and plan to play a round of the Hat Game and Top Four. My sister-in-law suggested that earlier in the day we all watch the Last Waltz that was filmed on Thanksgiving day in 1976. Late into the evening, my family will join my sister and her family over zoom in California which is a silver lining since we don’t normally get to see each other for Thanksgiving.” – Anne, co-founder and Executive Director
- “Usually, the holiday season gets extra-hectic for our family because both my older son and I perform with different musical groups and tend to have lots of rehearsals and concerts. This year, everything is cancelled, and while we’re sad and missing this huge part of our lives, we’re also taking the opportunity to do some other things we might not usually have time for. My younger son has always wanted to design his own gingerbread house and do a multi-day baking and building project as a family, so I told him this is the year to dream big! He’s already got schematics and supply lists ready for us. And my older son and I are talking about working on a musical collaboration with some of our own arrangements of special pieces that we could record for friends and family while we wait for the day when our performing lives return.” – Bri, Content Manager
Still, traditions are an important part of family life, especially at the holidays. What traditions will you be keeping this year?
- “The menu is unchanged but there will be more leftovers than usual!” – Anne
- “Food, fun and conversation…and charades! Charades is a long-time tradition of ours.” – Shelly
- “The weekend after Thanksgiving we go to a small family tree farm in the Cascade mountains and cut down our Christmas tree. We will definitely be doing that this year – rain or shine!” – Cindil
- “Coming from large Italian and Portuguese families, food has always been the focus. Traditional multi-course meals, starting mid-morning and extending late into the evening. While we won’t be doing these traditional feasts, we will keep a few of our traditional menu items – homemade ravioli (my grandmother’s recipe), sausage and peppers on Christmas Eve and cinnamon buns for breakfast. My father also used to make a beautiful antipasto on Christmas Day. This will ALWAYS be a tradition.” – Shannon
- “My great-grandparents emigrated to America from Sweden, and every year they would open their home to friends and neighbors for a Christmas Eve Julbord (the Christmas version of a smorgasbord, or buffet). They’d host over 100 people some years! Each generation of our family has continued the Julbord, even if it’s just a small one for immediate family. So Christmas Eve will find us gathered around my dad’s favorite movie — It’s a Wonderful Life — with loaded plates from the Julbord I’ll make with all of our traditional family recipes.” – Bri
- “Looking for luck in 2021? We all need it, right? This is our favorite tradition: make your wish on New Year’s Eve, write it down on a piece of paper, and then burn it. Put the ashes into a glass of champagne and drink it. It works!” – Anna
What’s a funny or cherished holiday memory you’d like to share?
- “Our friends had just bought their new house, and we decided to celebrate Thanksgiving there. Our GPS was wrong, and we came to a different house. The beautiful family who lived there explained to us where to go, gave us some sweets and even their phone number in case we couldn’t find our friends’ house. We found the right house, and we had a great Thanksgiving celebration. But we decided to call this beautiful family the next day to thank them. Almost 15 years later we’re still good friends!” – Anna
- “Years ago, we were hosting Thanksgiving for a large group. We were all eating dinner, and the dessert pies were on the kitchen counter. All of a sudden we heard crashes in the kitchen. We rushed in to see several pies on the floor, and our bad boy cat Willie happily (no, voraciously) licking everything.” – Shelly
- “During the Thanksgiving after the 2016 election when I was worried that there might be some political tension at the table, I created the Hat Game. Each person answered a prompt– what character in a children’s book did you(or do you) most want to be as a child? What was(is) your favorite toy?– and wrote the answer anonymously. Then at the table I pulled out the answers and everyone tried to guess which answer went with each person. Two members who never talk to each other came up with the same answer!” – Anne
- “Back in 2011 my brother decided to start Christmas day off by sharing YouTube memes from the Norwegian Butter Crisis with the family. We were all in tears before 9am and the day turned into a cascade of sharing our favorite YouTube memes. This has become one of our favorite things to do during the holidays. Every year the best videos are added into a running collection that we watch every Christmas. Timeless favorites include “honey badger don’t care”, “David after dentist”, and “A butter message to the USA”. This year, we’ll be sharing via FaceTime and I am hopeful that the newest addition to our list will be “Harry Potter Laundry”, which is one of my contributions for 2020.” – Cindil
- “A few years ago, my son and I went with a group from our church to sing holiday carols at the local nursing home. We were asked to make a special visit to one room, where a man who had grown up in our church was bedridden and not likely to make it to the New Year. He asked my son and me to sit by his bed, hold his hands, and sing his favorite Christmas songs to him. I think both of us felt that was the most meaningful afternoon of the whole year. We still talk about it every December.” – Bri
- “I have 14 first cousins and we used to spend every Christmas together. One year as young kids, we wanted to stay up to see if we could see Santa Claus. We all slept in one large room together and tried SO hard to stay awake. While we couldn’t quite keep our eyes open, I remember that night like it was yesterday. The laughter and stories we shared until the wee hours will always be cherished!” – Shannon
Do you have your own family dinner project to share with us, or would you like to tell us how your family is sharing meals and navigating the holidays during COVID-19? We’d love to hear from you! Contact Us.