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The Holidays Both Are and Aren’t About Food

In just a few days, most of us in the U.S. will be celebrating Thanksgiving, a holiday that’s kind of about gratitude but is a lot about food (and gratitude for food). After that come our winter holidays, which are also a lot about food, and then Valentine’s Day and Easter, both of which often involve lots of chocolate.


All of that can make this a challenging time for those of us who have a difficult relationship with food. You might have gotten advice to focus on the people and not the food, but I only partly agree.


Because like it or not, a big part of the holidays is the food.


Connecting through food

Almost every holiday has some food associations, but as far as I know, Thanksgiving has the most. Even thinking about Thanksgiving conjures images of tables groaning under the weight of food: turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing, green bean casserole, bread, pumpkin pie, and more.

This doesn’t mean that you need to have all those foods on Thanksgiving, but you probably have some of them. You might look forward to your aunt’s (or uncle’s) pie, your mom’s stuffing, or other foods.


You may have learned how to make a recipe a certain way from someone in your family, someone who’s no longer with you, and the holiday gives you a chance to make that food again and remember them. You likely also have memories of eating these same foods, year after year, with your family, seeing people grow and change.


From that perspective, the holiday food becomes a way of connecting to the past and helping carry those memories forward, which is very valuable.


Not only about food

That being said, you’ll likely have a more enjoyable holiday if you don’t only focus on the food. It helps to also be present and engaged with those around you.


This is true even if you don’t have a traditional meal. For a few years before COVID, I went to an Indian restaurant for dinner with friends on Thanksgiving. It wasn’t typical Thanksgiving food, but it was good and we had a nice time. (I also made myself things like cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie to have at home, to keep some of the usual food traditions.)


No matter what you have, you can also find time to play games, maybe go for a walk, watch a movie, or catch up on life. Depending on the holiday, you could also listen to favorite music, share readings, or tell everyone what you’re grateful for.


Food is part of the experience

Holidays, even Thanksgiving, don’t need to be all about the food, but food is definitely part of the experience. Trying to deny or ignore that will only make things more challenging.


Instead, focus on the foods you like best and find some time for the people you’re with, too. If you can strike that balance, your holiday meal will likely be all the better.


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