How to Survive the Holiday Meal

Just adjust: If you’re like my dad, letting go of the past is easier said than done. He’s had a lifelong relationship with dead animals and is now surrounded by fanatics who are trying to change all that. My mom still serves his stuffed bird, but he can’t help feeling depressed when the rest of us turn away and request a moment of silence. To him, vegetarians are as bad as liberals. Now he’s related to several of both.

If you feel his pain, try not to let it get you down. After all, this means more meat for you.

Focus on the positive: There is something funny about a boiling turkey neck forcing vegans in the house to breathe through their mouths. Enjoy the yearly coming together of different generations because these shared experiences make for terrific memories. That’s one reason to chuckle when your mom calls her agnostic cousin “that atheist with all the tattoos.”

Try not to wonder what she says about you.

Be patient: It might take a while to explain to people who have never set foot in a health-food store how to make mashed potatoes without milk. Take deep breaths when Uncle Bob suggests organic apple pie is un-American. Traditional desserts won’t kill you, but Grandpa might if you refuse to make old-fashioned gravy. For everyone’s sake, get out of the kitchen and go meditate.

Show tolerance and understanding: If your niece prays for the “original” Americans at Thanksgiving dinner or your son’s New Years toast includes three cheers for the ACLU, remember you were young once.

For those in the growing-up stage of development, go to your happy place when Pop-Pop insists cleaning after dinner is for the “skirts.” One day your teeth will fall out, too.

What if you’re not quite young, but not yet old? There’s only one thing that will help you.


Lots and lots of wine.

Ignore what you can’t change: When the guys retire to the living room after dinner, there is no need to loudly announce your views on the historic ramifications of patriarchal sports and subsequent violence in American families. Relax, Norma Rae. Go start a blog and let everyone else enjoy the football game.

Holiday meals are a time to remember why you hardly see these people in the first place. Try to enjoy it.

After dinner, when Mom’s pumpkin pie makes its way through your digestive system, sit quietly and think up ways to avoid everyone until next year. Chances are - they are doing the same thing.

That’s probably the best time to give those wonderful, unique, and amazing people a hug.

Every year families gather together to celebrate the season, renew connections, and berate each other’s life choices. For decades the traditional feast was a fairly simple and predictable custom.

Then someone went and invented tofurkey.

Now older folks all over the country are confused by gluten-free grandchildren, nephews’ embarrassing body piercings and daughters who no longer celebrate “oppressive” holidays.

Never fear, there is a way to get through these modern meals without disowning anyone.

Here’s how.

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