I knew I’d forget something – the pineapple sauce. For the glazed ham, of course! There was barely room on the table for it! I managed to squeeze one small jug of it in between the vase of fresh flowers, “best” wine glasses and multiple platters to complete the feast that was about to begin. Gathering together and sitting at this table laden with food, I took a small pause to drink in the abundance and feel a deep sense of gratitude for the sharing of food with family.
Special times of the year, such as Christmas, give us key moments to gather our families and friends together to celebrate the year, share wonderful food and laughter, create memories and deepen the connections to each other that are often just out of sight during the day to day rush of our busy lives.
Our families are where we live our lives; whether it’s the family we were born into, a family we create or our family of friends. Spending time preparing and sharing a wonderful meal with special people nourishes and grows the deep connections that create our family’s unique and special story, in whatever form that may take. For children, knowing their unique family story helps them to understand who they are, what makes them special and develop their own sense of belonging that can act as a “soft place to fall” when life throws an inevitable plot twist along the way!
Sometimes the hardest part is knowing where to start to tell family stories! What do we share...and what do we leave out? We can clear a space at the table for stories and ideas to be shared by sharing some ourselves as parents and caregivers. We might tell positive stories of our own childhood memories of Christmas Day – what are our favourite Christmas memories? We might share stories of people from past generations – who they were and how they lived. Children also love to hear about people in the family who have similar interests and skills to themselves and how they use these. If humour is something your family enjoys, make it a challenge for everyone to tell a funnier joke than is traditionally found in the Christmas crackers!
The truth is we don’t actually have to wait for a special occasion with an elaborate and carefully planned meal. In fact, the day to day ordinariness of family life is perhaps the best place to find ways to write your family story. There are moments in every day that can make us pause, laugh, think and be thankful. Taking the time to notice these special moments and then sharing them over a family meal is the best place to start.
So this festive season, after the frantic build up, pause with gratitude not only for the abundance of food but the special people at the table and the contribution they make to the unique family story that is continually being written. And I can recommend pineapple sauce with a glazed ham!
Lynley Forde, co-founder of 2flourish, is a specialist teacher with post graduate qualifications in education and psychology.