Using Food to Tighten Families for the Holidays

Some would say that food is the glue that holds families together. We share nightly dinners, bring our distant relatives together for holidays, birthdays and other special events, and often involve the whole family in making everything from chocolate chip cookies to ratatouille.

Food gives us the shared experience of preparation and enjoyment, satisfaction in our success, and often, lessons from our failure. Our fondest childhood memories and the notions of security we hang onto as adults often have to do with food.

If you’d like to make food a bigger part of the holiday experience for your kids and extended family, I’ll share a few ideas today that will help you do just that. All of them are fun strategies that I have personally tried or have seen other people successfully execute in their family. Enjoy!

Idea #1: 25 Days of Christmas

Many families, ours included, play a fun game throughout the entire month of December leading up to Christmas. 25 small containers are filled with ideas for family activities and are often placed in a decorative wall ornament with small doors, etc. Each day, a new little door is opened and the family reads their fun task for the day.

What if every one of those containers held an idea for a meal or dish the family could prepare together? Whoever was able to participate that day would help get the ingredients, chop vegetables, cook, and enjoy the dish together.

If cooking every day sounds overwhelming to you, consider mixing 5 or 6 “dish cards” in the mix of 25 other easy activities you could do. This is exactly what our family decided to do this year. Over the weekend, we made our own Christmas cookies, and tonight, we’ll be preparing ratatouille together–everyone chops up their assigned vegetable!

Idea #2: Holiday Movie & Sweets Night

Another idea that we are perfecting over the last 2-3 years is a holiday movie night with the entire family and the neighborhood kids. The movie almost takes care of itself–I say “almost” because we actually set up a large sheet outdoors and a projector, since 40+ kids would be a tight fit indoors.

What does take some work and the part that’s fun to do with your family beforehand is all the food prep. We serve holiday cookies, cakes and other pastries and hot chocolate. Everything is homemade the day of the event (a few things are made the day before), so you can be sure that everything is fresh and delicious.

This kind of event for friends really gives the whole family a sense of satisfaction and lets you give back to your personal community.

Idea #3: Twelve Dishes

One of my favorite holiday traditions revolves around the Polish idea that twelve dishes must be prepared, served and eaten at Christmas. The number twelve is highly symbolic in Catholicism, which is thought to be the origin of this food tradition. The reason I like it is because it forces you to come up with 12 awesome and unique dishes, and recruit help if you don’t want to go crazy preparing them.

Recruiting help is exactly what you want if you’re trying to get the whole family involved in preparing your holiday meal. Everyone can be in charge of their own dish, or lend a hand in preparing every one of the twelve dishes served. Either way, they have a sense of ownership over the meal and feel like they were instrumental in helping to bring it to the table.

Your Idea?

Do you have a cool idea for bringing your family together with food for the holidays? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.