By Sarah W. Caron
Remember the old days when Sundays meant gathering the whole extended family around the table for conversation, nourishment and love? Remember the connection it forged between family members young and old? It doesn’t have to be just a fond memory. Pluck that tradition out of obscurity and make it a reality again for your family.
The Guberti family has kept the tradition of Sunday dinners alive and extended the family time to encompass the whole day. “The special time brings you closer to each other as you invest the time into your family members. You can learn from each other, learn to be open, communicate and build a bond based on truth and love,” says Nancy Guberti, who spends every Sunday with her two sons and husband.
Their day begins with a healthy breakfast, fresh juice served in fancy stemware and church. In the evening, they gather around the table, sometimes with Guberti’s mom joining them. “It’s time dedicated to nothing else but the family. In this age of technology and constant movement from activities – the degradation of the importance of family time – our Sundays strip all of that away and bring emphasis on the importance of family time,” says Guberti. “We are a family, not a bunch of strangers living under the same roof.”
Indeed, Sunday dinners have been made more challenging to organize because of the sheer amount of demands on today’s families. Jobs are more demanding, schools require more and more homework and then there is a house to take care of. But making time for family is important too.
“The benefits of eating together are so numerous it’s hard to pinpoint just one. It’s really the best part of any day,” explains Laurie David, author of The Family Dinner. “It’s a chance to connect in a meaningful way and to eat (hopefully) home-cooked food, to show and share love. For me, it is always an extra opportunity to teach my kids something, whether we are playing a spelling game or talking about current events.”
Family dinners – and especially Sunday dinners that bring together more of the extended family – can provide a low-key way to instill values in your kids. “Children who have regular family dinners are more likely to do well in school, feel connected to their parents and to be of a healthy weight, to name a few. They are also less likely to engage in underage drinking, drug use or smoking,” says Grace Freedman of EatDinner.org and cofounder of BlogForFamilyDinner.org.
Making It Fit
If the idea of cramming another weekly commitment into your schedule sends shivers up your spine, don’t let it. This doesn’t have to be a stressful event – and it doesn’t even have to be on Sundays. Your family dinner could be any day that works for you. “Whether it’s Sunday, Friday or Wednesday, dinner with extended family is a must and here is why: The dinner table is the number one place where family history is passed down and it’s your kids’ knowledge of where Grandma and Grandpa came from that builds resilience in children. So invite those relatives over,” says David.
Can’t do every week? That’s okay, too.
For Marcia Kellogg of Connecticut, reviving her family’s Sunday dinner tradition was important. “I am of Italian-American heritage and can remember Sunday afternoon family dinners at my grandmother’s house,” says Kellogg. “What I remember most were the smell of my grandmother’s sauce simmering on the stove, the wine, the conversations and the fact that everyone was dressed up.”
Kellogg now hosts twice-yearly Sunday dinners in the Italian tradition she grew up with, inviting 10 to 14 people each time, although Kellogg’s husband would happily have Sunday dinners once a month. “I think that it is hard to continue the tradition today because the family unit is not as intact as it used to be. That, coupled with modern technology, has contributed to the fact that any family dinner today is so much more disjointed,” admits Kellogg. “People have so much on their plates these days and as someone who works full time, even finding the time to have a big meal once a week takes a lot of time and effort.”
Whether your new Sunday dinner tradition is a weekly, monthly or seasonal event, your family bonds will be reinforced and strengthened through the meal. Better yet, you can begin creating special family memories that will last forever.