The University of Ottawa Guide to …surviving holiday family dinners
Ah yes, the holidays. A time for giving, sharing and loving. Relatives from far and wide come together and soak in each other’s love. Well, usually that is what happens. Sometimes holiday dinners do not go as planned, drama always seems to creep in at the dinner table. Holiday dinners are not supposed to be stressful nor dramatic; it should fun! At your next family dinner, be prepared by reading this guide!
We don’t want this happening!
If you’re hosting…
If your family is hosting the family dinner, pretend your family is someone else’s! It may sound a little strange, but think about it. When you are at your friend’s house for dinner, you act differently. You are polite and compliment the food even if it is terrible. If you pretend that your family is someone else’s, you will not get upset, you’ll be more understanding of any given situation.
Do as the guests do. You can spend hours trying to get everything perfect for the big gathering, but something is more likely to go wrong. If something does go wrong, be just as shocked as the guests are! Your dad has butter-fingers and giving him the cheesecake to carry was probably not the best idea, but it’s okay! Don’t let the simple accidents that may occur get to you.
If you’re a guest…
If your family is going to a relative’s for dinner, there is less pressure on you. However, just because there is less pressure, it does not mean that there is less drama! Your aunt Mabel just always seems to have something to say to you, every chance she gets. This time, be prepared for the questions she may ask. For example, if she asks why you are still single, reply by saying: “When I meet someone, you will be the first to know [insert smile here].” A simple answer like that, goes a long way! Instead of using a snarky comment (that will most likely get you dirty looks from across the table), go with an answer that will keep her from asking anything else.
And for the youngest cousin at the table who’s quiet and playing with their food, talk to them! Stirring up a conversation with a younger relative can be a huge lifesaver at family gatherings. Not only will they have a lot to say, but they will have the adults intrigued. Ask them questions about school, school projects, friends, or anything that seems to spark their interests. You will be so grateful that you had.
No matter where you are…
The most common topics that seem to start a lot of drama and chaos are: religion, politics and the passing of a relative. Try to keep the topics neutral at the dinner table, that way nobody will lose their appetite. Talk about the latest movie you saw and how interesting it was, or talk about pets! Pets are about as neutral as it gets, as crazy as that sounds. Sharing stories about the latest thing your pets have done with your relatives is laid back. Everyone will be laughing, forgetting all about the tension that was in the atmosphere.
If you plan on inviting your significant other to dinner, be prepared for the worst. Especially if it is the first time that they are interacting with your family. Have them prepared to answer the craziest questions. If a relative seems to be picking on them, mention something great that they did. This will make your partner feel less tense and their responses will be genuine, not forced. You want them to feel welcomed, not afraid.
Family dinners can be really scary if you are not prepared. Whether you are hosting or not, your family can be intimidating. If you remember these tips though, you will be fine! Remember that it’s the holidays, be happy and grateful for your family, no matter how crazy they may seem.