When I was growing up, meal times weren't exactly sacred. My father worked at night, and my mother (a picky eater) often made separate meals for herself, which she ate alone while watching the evening news. From my point of view, eating together was what families on TV did. Not real people with jobs and chores and homework. So it came as a big surprise when my six-year-old announced the other day that his favorite family activity is Friday night dinner. Here's how it happened. About a year ago, my son wanted to know how people lived without electricity. Ever the empiricist, I suggested we find out first hand. Later that day, as the sun went down, we gathered candles, shut down computers, unplugged appliances, and assembled in the kitchen. We cooked, ate, and cleaned by candlelight. Since the rest of the house was dark, we spent the evening together at the kitchen table talking, laughing, and playing cards. When it was time for bed, we brushed our teeth in a bathroom full of twinkling tea lights, then huddled together in bed to share the reading light.
Over breakfast the next morning, we talked about the previous night's experiment. Without the constant hum of appliances, the house had felt calmer and quieter. We were more rested having retired earlier than usual. And we felt more connected to each other than we do after our regular evening routine.
What started as a one-time history lesson soon became a semi-regular occurrence. Thus, Electricity-Free Friday was born. Unbeknownst to me, I had created a treasured family ritual that everyone—including me—looked forward to.
What dining rituals or traditions does your family have?