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Posted on: September 16, 2019 at 5:16 pm

Food just seems to taste better when eaten in a social atmosphere of love and unity.

Sometimes the term, ‘The good ol’ days’ holds true, and this is one of those times. There was a time when a Sunday without a family dinner wouldn’t feel like a Sunday at all. Families would only skip such events under special or dire circumstances. People would drive for miles across cities just to be with their extended family members and relish a good meal together. 

In those hours of love and laughter, all that mattered was one another. Details of everyone’s past week would be shared, achievements, and disappointments alike. There could be a different location each week or just the one, and everyone would contribute to the food and drinks.

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The Sunday dinner table is a place where family bonds are strengthened. The feeling of oneness and a sense of identity is imbibed into the younger generation when everyone regularly comes together. They learn that they can identify with these people at any point in their lives. They learn values and norms, listen to experiences, and build their character from the informal interactions at the dinner table.

The good old days, in every sense of the phrase.

Nowadays, family dinners are mostly organized on special holidays or birthdays (if at all). Everyone is either too busy or too exhausted to get ready and hit the road on a Sunday to meet up with family. I used to be one of those people, lazing around, padding about in my socks, reading Jessica Clare books, and drinking bland coffee. This is something I’m not proud of, but hey, I’m not alone on that ship. My mother recently had enough of it and brought everyone back to their senses. Life’s shorter than we imagine it to be, and we have to make the most of it while we’re still together. Long story short, nearly every member of our family in our area has begun to make it a priority to be present at Grandma’s house on Sundays. 

We don’t have them every week, but at least, twice in a month, we get together to bask in the radiant love of family (and enjoy some crazy good food).

The Family Dinner Project

The Family Dinner Project is a non-profit initiative co-founded by family therapist Dr. Anna Fishel. The program works to reignite the love of family dinners in people’s hearts, encouraging them to make even the smallest efforts to bring these dinners to the table.

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The benefits range from the cognitive ones (young kids having bigger vocabularies and older kids doing better in school) to the physical ones (better cardiovascular health, lower obesity rates and eating more vegetables and fruits) to psychological ones (lower rates of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse and fewer behavioral problems in school,” Dr. Fishel listed several benefits to NBC News [1].

She explains that the idea of a Sunday dinner doesn’t exactly lie in the food available but the presence of loved ones creating an air of belonging.

“These benefits don’t derive from a perfect roast chicken or organic tomatoes but instead from the atmosphere at the table — if there is conflict, stony silence or an intoxicated parent, these benefits do not occur. It’s critical that the atmosphere at the table be warm and inviting, that kids feel that it is safe to talk and know that someone is listening,” she said.

Family dinners are worth reinstituting into the social culture

A recent study carried out by researchers at the University of Texas reports that social interaction improves the mental activity of adults and prolongs lifespan [2]

 “It is difficult to convince people to go to the gym or commit to working out on a regular basis. But they may be willing to reach out to acquaintances, attend an organized group event, or talk to the barista who serves them at their favorite coffee shop. Socializing in these contexts also can increase physical activity and diverse behaviors in ways that benefit health without necessarily working up a sweat,” the authors wrote.

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Who better to interact with than your own family?

 Many people aren’t big on family dinners because they assume it must be planned with so much pomp, flair, and style every week. Of course, this does not have to be the case. It shouldn’t require so much effort to put together a table if everyone contributes their own quota every week, no matter how little. 

Here a few top tips for a successful Sunday dinner

  • Plan ahead. Let everyone know early enough that there’s going to be a dinner that week. Discuss details of the location and everyone should know what they can bring along. These requirements should be assigned by everyone’s current financial capabilities. 
  • The menu doesn’t have to be a smorgasbord of royalty-worthy dishes. Focus on inviting more people over than on the food to be served. With time, everyone would understand the real essence of the get-togethers.
  • Your family doesn’t have to be limited to people who are related by blood or adoption. Your friends, neighbors, co-workers, romantic partners, and acquaintances can also be family. Sure family is blood, but it’s also a mindset above all else. 
  • Choose a time of the day that suits most of the people that would be attending. It doesn’t matter if the dinner holds outside or indoors. Whatever the weather permits is fine, as long as everyone sits together happily.  
  • Tell everyone beforehand to do away with their electronic gadgets and any other sources of distractions. The television should be put off and no phones are allowed at the table, except for taking pictures. Everyone must focus on one another.
  • Sunday may be tradition but it doesn’t have to be. The day of the week doesn’t matter, as long as the family falls into an exciting pattern. It also doesn’t have to be held every week, but try for what works, and do it as frequently as everyone feels comfortable.  

The ‘Sunday family dinner’ is a lot more than tasty food, lovely, it’s an enjoyable time to bring everyone together. This is definitely ‘a good ol’ day,’ I think we all should want back. 

  1. Ronnie Koenig. Sunday dinner: The family tradition we need to bring back. NBC News. https://www.nbcnews.com/better/lifestyle/sunday-dinner-family-tradition-we-need-bring-back-ncna1001166. Retrieved 12-09-19
  2. The University of Texas. Interacting with more people is shown to keep older adults more active. Science Daily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/02/190220074610.htm. Retrieved 12-09-19
  3. Admin. Great Family Get-Together Ideas. USA Today. https://traveltips.usatoday.com/great-family-together-ideas-52378.html. Retrieved 12-09-19
  4. The Family Dinner Project. Official website. https://thefamilydinnerproject.org/. Retrieved 12-09-19
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