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 | By Steve and Bridget Patton

He Says: Now That We Can Gather Again as an Extended Family, I Want to Invite the Big Group for Thanksgiving.

She says: I enjoyed the smaller gatherings of the past couple of years; I don’t think we need 20 people for Thanksgiving dinner.

The pandemic forced us to socially isolate in just about every sphere of life that matters. As irritating and inconvenient – and sometimes catastrophic – as this upheaval has been, some would argue that it forced us to take a closer look at our career paths, work habits and even some of our family  traditions.

Being deprived of some of the traditional patterns of extended family life was devastating to some, and others were somewhat relieved by the break from having to attend – let alone host – those “big group” family gatherings.

So, as the COVID ice-age thaws and you emerge back into life as it was before, take it as an opportunity to consider re-setting some of your previous family get-together traditions. Here are a few guidelines:

  1. Avoid words like “should” and “need.” This is not a moral dilemma. Small gatherings are good; so are large ones. You’re free to feel and want different things. This is only about mutual respect and finding a solution you can both live with.
  2. Distinguish your respective likes from your dislikes. These are sometimes hidden. Like, maybe it’s not so much that you actually enjoy smaller (or larger) gatherings for their own sake as it is that you just don’t enjoy larger (or smaller) gatherings period. Be open, specific and honest, with yourself and with your spouse.
  3. Be flexible. Maybe alternate a bigger Thanksgiving gathering one year with a smaller one the next. Or maybe split the difference: If one wants six people and the other wants 20, settle for 13.
  4. Most of all, give thanks. At Mass we tell God (and remind ourselves): “…we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks and praise.” Thank him that you survived COVID, that you have each other and that you have an extended family. Many are not so fortunate. Speaking of them, maybe consider inviting one or two to your Thanksgiving gathering, whatever its size. Jesus challenges us: “When you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Lk 14: 13-14) 

Steve and Bridget Patton hold master’s degrees in theology and counseling and serve as family life ministers in the Diocese of Sacramento.

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