by Fr. Mark Beshara
from The Word, November 1970
Families like to meet together for a meal. When the family is large and particularly close to one another, it usually develops this family meal into a kind of ritual. Most Americans find this most clearly expressed in the traditional Thanksgiving Dinner, held every year. The time and place are important for Thanksgiving Dinner, so too is the menu which must be built around certain meats—usually a big turkey—and certain other traditional dishes, such as cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. Other ritualistic elements are usually developed when a family meets over a number of years for this traditional meal: certain persons have certain functions, definite places to sit, preparation rites are evolved into a strict custom, certain routines become traditional after the meal is finished. And when the afternoon is finished, everyone goes away back to his own daily round of living strengthened once more in the sense of oneness with this family. This conviction of unity and mutual support will bolster each person often in times of frustration or loneliness which come into all our lives. No family should be without a traditional meal. All of us, even those who cannot have such a gathering at Thanksgiving, know that this is true. Some families find that many more than one family meal each year is needed. And these families usually enjoy a unity and strength among themselves that is envied by others.