Written by Beth Lewis
Our family is spread out across the country. To the west, Arizona, California and Washington. In the Midwest and southeast, Missouri, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky. So, when we gather for holidays, it is almost always just a few of us gathered in any one place.
But, one of our traditions is to look for people who don’t have family nearby and invite them to join us for our holiday gathering. Our gathering always includes appetizers as we gather, a festive meal on a dining table laid with our best china and crystal, and after dinner card or board games. If it is Christmas, it includes opening of gifts. At Easter, an Easter egg hunt takes place.
We lived for 12 years near our granddaughters in Phoenix. They saw us invite many people for these holiday gatherings; friends of their parents, sometimes with kids and sometimes not; a couple who are friends of ours whose adult kids are far away became regulars at our holiday gatherings for several years.
A few days before each holiday, we’d invite our grandkids to help with the preparations. Sometimes it included hand-lettered, stickered, and glittered place cards for the table. At Christmas, a few small gifts were selected, wrapped and tucked under the tree for our guests. And, special dishes that are iconic in my family and my husband’s family were prepared with love.
It was always fun to have these friends and neighbors join us and their presence made our holiday more festive!
But, at our last Thanksgiving before relocating to Seattle, we were living amidst moving boxes and our lives were more than a bit stressful. We decided to host our daughter and family at a restaurant. It was the pragmatic thing to do.
But, a few days before the holiday, our then 9-year-old granddaughter was at our house. As she was helping by bringing sheets and towels out of the linen closet to go into moving boxes, we were talking about the upcoming holiday. She was chattering about her love of turkey, mashed potatoes and, especially pie!
And then, she stunned me with, “Who is joining us for dinner this year?” Not if we were inviting someone, but who?
In the busyness of moving, it hadn’t even occurred to me. But, for her, it is simply what our family does! We are hospitable to friends and neighbors who need temporary family for the holiday!
With less than two days before the holiday and most of the kitchenware already packed I couldn’t figure out how to squeeze in a full-blown turkey with all the trimmings dinner. But, we decided that we could do a post-restaurant dessert and games party amidst the boxes. We quickly invited some people we barely knew to join us and explained that our house would be a wreck with moving boxes everywhere and desserts served with paper plates and napkins. But, it just didn’t matter. And, to make the chaos of our home a bit festive, we handed our granddaughters colored markers to draw turkeys, pilgrims and other Thanksgiving designs on some of the moving boxes!
It was hectic, but it was a joy! And, I was so proud of our granddaughter who taught me that busy Thanksgiving week what we had been teaching her by example over the past few years….that hospitality and welcoming others into our home and family is a value worth passing on to the next generation.
BETH LEWIS has spent most of the past 40 years working in publishing, first for several Fortune 500 companies and since fall 2002 as President and CEO of 1517 Media. Beth has a passion for passing on her Christian faith to younger generations, including her grandchildren, ages 21 to 2 years old.