Don't let the hustle and bustle of the holidays keep you from some of the pleasurable family moments of this season: at the dinner table.
I love the holidays, but I admit there are times when they feel like a bunch of loud, showy, uninvited guests. Just when my family and I have begun enjoying our quiet winter nights at home, there is this pounding on the door. My husband and I exchange looks: not them again! We don't want to let them in. But the pounding continues and, finally, reluctantly, we open the door and let these blowhards in. They take over our homes and rearrange our lives. Before we know it, the guests have captivated us all, gotten us singing and shouting, and we've forgotten we ever wanted a quiet evening at home.
But, still, I savor those first weeks in December, when it feels so new and cozy to be eating cold-weather food, when the windows are newly dark behind us and there are no distractions calling from the back yard. Of course, it's party season all month, but midweek evenings at home can still focus on the humble experience of family dinner.
Throughout the holiday season, it is essential to maintain a modicum of sanity, and one of the best places to do this is at the dinner table. Make the most of these nights. Here are some tips for making even weeknight dinners special:
- Light candles. Kids love candles. They also help set a lovely tone, and mark the beginning and end of the meal.
Bless the food. Whoever it is that you say thanks to - God, the person who cooked the food or the farmers and the animals - a moment of appreciation goes a long way toward expressing the value of this time.
Tell family stories. Talk about when the kids were born, how Mom and Dad met, or first experiences with food that is on the table: tomatoes you grew as a child, fishing trips you went on, or farm experiences with your grandparents. Family histories are essential for children, and can create a meaningful lifelong habit of sharing stories at the table.
Linger. The average family dinner used to last 45 minutes. Remember this before you jump up to do the dishes or check your email. Even when children are done and beginning to mill around, it can be a wonderful time for parents to relax with each other.
If it feels like a lot of work to keep an entire family interested in sitting at the table, well, some nights it is. But, in the long run, these cozy dinners at home can offer a far more meaningful version of what that fast-talking, flashy guest is trying to sell us - warm family memories.