What happened to Sunday Dinner?
Remember Sunday Dinner? Families would gather together on Sundays and share a big meal. Although, some families do still gather together on Sunday nights to share stories with their relatives over traditional pasta, meatballs, and sauce, this time-honored tradition is on the decline. Another causualty of our very busy schedules.
When my mother was younger, every Sunday my grandparents took her and my aunt to their grandmother’s house. Sadly, I never met my great-grandmother, but my cousins and older sister who were lucky enough to have known her, referred to her affectionately as “Farmer Grandma.” Farmer Grandma was not a farmer nor did she live on a farm. In reality her farm was a big backyard in the suburbs that must have seemed huge and “farm-like” through the toddler eyes’ of the great-grandchildren.
My mother recounts these Sunday Dinners as fun all day eating affairs. The meal began early in the afternoon around 2:00.Courses were many with a variety of delicious dishes. Anitpasto, pasta, meatballs, briaciole are just a sampling of the scrumptious fare they enjoyed. Best of all, the whole family came together.
These bucolic scenes of Sunday Dinner just don’t seem to work as well in modern day society. First of all, who eats like that? Several courses for dinner? I would have blown through a day’s worth of WW points after the first course alone. However, my relatives all survived without any major eating disorders and more to the point seemed to enjoy themselves as well. And the best part all of the relatives came! That would be near to impossible in today’s world. Unfortunately, many of us have to work on the weekends. In addition, our budding athletes have soccer, lacrosse, basketball, and baseball games to be played on fields across the country on Sundays. On any given Sunday you can find yourself at one or more different sporting events.
Although, in my head, where that perfect mother with the perfect hair who makes the perfect meatballs lives, also resides the mom who desperatley wants Sunday Dinners. I love the thought of it! Along with all of my other delusions of grandeur I realize it is unrealistic. Sundays are so hectic and I just want to be home early to get everyone ready for school and work. I start to completely unhinge on Sunday nights and do not think I could handle it. We tried it for awhile with my family but it just didnt’ work.
However, all hope is not lost. I have to work late on most Mondays and don’t get home until around 6:00. My mother decided a few years ago, she would have us over for dinner on Mondays. She was already watching the kids on Mondays and wanted to save me the trouble of getting dinner ready at that hour.
It has become a tradition of our own. We all go to my mother’s for Monday Night Dinner. My sisters and their husbands come whenever they can. It is a modern twist on an old tradition. My children absolutely love Monday Night Dinner and look forward to it every week. It is great for me because I know atleast once a week the girls will eat a home-cooked meal.
My mother founder of Monday Night Dinner
Pictured here with my step-father and grandmother
It is not quite the same as the traditional Sunday Dinner. The parents drink water instead of wine and no anisette for the kids. However, it is our tradition and most importantly it works. They family is together and enjoying each other’s company. Although there are fewer courses than my Farmer Grandma’s Sunday meals the food is plentiful with a ton of variety. My mother makes sure there is something for everyone, and of course pasta and macaroni & cheese are always on the menu.
At Monday Night Dinner we play a game called Table Topics. Table Topics is a game comprised of over 100 cards with engaging questions on them. My daughters set one card at each place setting. During dinner we each take turns asking and answering the questions. The discussions that result are both wonderful and hilarious. We have discovered so much about each other and ourselves. Often I am surprised by some of the answers the other relatives give. It really is an eye-opener and you do learn about one another.
The discussions also have inspired my mother and step-father to retell memorable stories from their childhoods. I love for my children to hear these stories, it is priceless. Also, these family discussions have taught my children about our family values and some lessons on life. Sometimes the questions are intense so further explanations are needed and big discussions about life evolve. I adore listening to my daughters answer the questions, after we have explained a big topic. I love the youthful simplified answers. As adults we tend to think and complicate things too much. It takes me forever to come up with an answer.
Table Topics are great and filled with so many unique questions. They are a great addition to our Mondy Night Dinner.
Here are some sample questions:
- in your opinion what are the seven wonders of the world
- which historical sporting event would you like to witness
- which is more important intelligence or common sense
- if you could do something dangerous just once with no risk what would you do
- where would you choose to live if you had to leave this country
- who would you rather meet your great grandparents or your great grandchildren
Monday Night Dinner a new twist on an old tradition.
MND, goes well w/ Monday Night Football (during season) however, usually I’m so stuffed leaving your mom’s I proceed directly to snoring before half time.
Grace is a great moderator for table topics, although ‘Melie wants to be in charge too!!
She is a great moderator. I agree!
It’s funny how so many families of all different cultures tend to come together for “Sunday Dinner” it seems it’s a staple at the cornerstone of any tight knit family.As a child my strict Sicilian family would gather every Sunday for family dinner. My memories of those dinners are so present with me as an adult & how even as a child I could feel how precious these moments were, the comfort of the adults talking and bickering til there was only crumbs left on the table as loud as they were these conversations could almost rock me to sleep like a lullaby! The smell when you walked into my grandmas kitchen could make your mouth water instantaneously.. My fondest memory is making meatballs w my grandma, shed let me make them however big,small,square or round I pleased & I loved the acknowledgement I’d get ” oh what great meatballs Lau” (of course I kno now, as their niece my uncles would never have said if they were awful) it was always such an event & I so looked forward to it! Everyone would come there would sometimes be 20/25 people there Btwn my aunts, uncles, cousins @ family friends! It’s truly some of the best moments o remember from my childhood thru teenage hood & I feel in some way it instilled in me a “a let’s all love eachother,& can’t we all just get along” attitude… & I hope to 1 day have my own version as well & attempt 2 recreate the magic that once lived in Grandma Ida’s kitchen!
What great memories. I loved your story. I agree there is comfort in the sounds of adults talking and kitchen preparations. Those are the sounds we love as a child. They are safe sounds of home. I hope you can recreate or modernize Sunday dinner for your family. It’s so true that we want to recreate our favorite memories and experiences for our children. I love the philosophy lets all love each other and can’t we all get along. More families should instill this attitude with their children.
Thanks for sharing.
Amen sista! “uhh” cousin that is…. That’s awesome! all kidding aside. Whether its mon,sun,wed,fri….time with your fam is TIME WITH YOUR FAMILY! Good for you guys. My own mother has been trying this & again I believe the success as you said is “when they can come, they come” NO PRESSURE…especially today!
I like your thoughts on the subject “No Pressure” That is important. People will come and enjoy themselves when they want to be there. You can’t force people to enjoy themselves. You should come by on a Monday there is always enough food.
I absolutely love what you wrote. Coming from a sicilian family myself, i remember all the good times we had. my 2 aunts lived in the same 2 family house in queens with a basement that had a table with about 40 chairs. they had the biggest pots of water boiling you’ve ever seen! all the women would do their part to prepare a huge dinner every weekend, not to mention coffee, espresso and dessert. As a kid i thought i could swim in pasta pot on a hot day! i could smell their sauce from the driveway as we walked through the yard to the entrance to the basement. every aunt, uncle, cousin and neighbor on the the block was there. (Not to mention the cloud of cigarette smoke we walked into but thats another story) we would start on saturday night and all the cousins would crash after a huge meal. we didn’t have to worry about sports and running around on sunday. It was always “okay kids pack a bag we’re going to aunt anna’s and aunt rose’s house. Those were the greatest memories. I also wish my children can experience that now, but its hard when no one gets along and the family gets to big. although i do try and cook my sauce on sunday and make the same meal for them occasionly, its just not the same with out all the chaos, and arguements the adults had over their poker games after dinner. Thanks Jen for the great trip back to my childhood, if only for a short moment!!!!!
Thanks so much for sharing your story Gina. Looks like blogging will be your next venture. You bring up two good points: families getting too big and no one getting along. Those are two factors that also ruin Sunday Dinner. It just gets too hard when there are so many people. Also, several years ago my family had a big disagreement and it did really effect Sunday Dinner- which we were trying to do back then. The tension and the disagreements really killed it. I guess the best we can do for our families is to create our own traditions like you do with sauce on Sundays. Let me know what Sundays, I am coming over.