Happy Canadian Thanksgiving! While you’re reading this, I’m probably running around like a chicken with its head cut off (Sorry for the icky mental picture!), getting ready to host a big turkey dinner. There will be 19 people around the tables, plus 3 babies. Wheee!
For many years now, we’ve done our family get-togethers potluck style. Often, we pick a theme, but leave the choice of what people bring wide open. (Our Christmas Eve appie night is a much-loved tradition now, as is the occasional Taco Tuesday.) Other times, we decide on what type of dinner it will be, like, say, a traditional turkey dinner J, and we each pick dishes to bring, according to our mood, energy level, or whatever’s left to choose from by the time we volunteer.
Dinner parties with friends have slowly moved toward this model too—again, usually with a theme: Italian or Greek night, Stone Salad, etc.
So really . . . although I’ll still clean my house (Booo!) for the party and arranging seating will take some work, as will setting and decorating the table (but that’s a chore I always enjoy), my contribution—a turkey, a ham, the punch, and the coffee and tea—will not make me too crazy. I’ll get to relax and enjoy my company, and even clean-up won’t be too arduous. Most of the pots and pans and serving dishes just go home with their owners to get washed up by someone who isn’t me. (And if that isn’t enough to make for a happy Thanksgiving, I don’t know what is!)
For many reasons, I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to do-everything-yourself-hosting. Yes, throwing a feast isn’t as daunting cost and labor wise if everyone brings a special dish, but the real benefits go deeper than that.
Potluck style meals allow everyone the fun and honor of contributing. (When my hubby and I were first married, for example, throwing a Christmas banquet for everyone would’ve broken our budget . . . but I still wanted to do something and create dishes that would become traditions for my kids.)
They make special diets easier (a person can bring a dish they know they can safely eat, then pick and choose from others that might fit).
They’re a great conversation starter/icebreaker if you don’t know people well. Not everyone has family, big or small, but you can create your own, friend by friend, meal by meal. Inviting someone over for a formal dinner might seem intimidating. Saying, “Hey, I’m throwing an Italian themed potluck, want to come over with a pizza or buns or something?” is less pressure on you and your guest.
Sharing the work load is fun as people chat about what they’re going to bring, creates a feeling of community, and allows everyone, even the host, to actually enjoy the hours approaching and during the meal.
Most importantly, however, the act of sharing a meal (literally, in terms of work and cost, not just eating—though the eating part is delightful!) feeds and nourishes the reason people get together in groups in the first place: to nurture and build relationships, create and strengthen connections, and help us appreciate the people we’re blessed by and grateful for.
We’re going into a busy time of year, with celebrations and holiday seasons of many kinds ahead in the next few months. If you feel stressed by the very notion of having people over, consider the simple, comforting pleasure of potluck.
Let me know in the comments if you’re already a potluck fan or if you’ve found other ways to make holiday entertaining more entertaining and less draining!
And hey . . . if you save yourself a bunch of time by having your lovely family and friends help make/bring dinner . . . you’ll have more reading time. Win, win, WIN!