Friday, December 25, 2009

On Being a Good Host

The older I get, the more I wonder about family dynamics. I've had a number of people over the holidays tell me that I'm a big grinch for not being more excited about Xmas and opting out of my family's "new traditional" Xmas Eve festivities. Said people obviously have some different kind of dynamic than I do; either that or they're really enthusiastic masochists.

For example: I've always felt that when you throw an event at your home that you should take into consideration the needs of your guests. If you're having guests who're Muslim, you might not want to have bacon on every item that you're serving at a dinner; and likewise if you're having a guest who is intolerant to wheat or milk, you make sure that you have alternatives for them so that they can enjoy the food too.

Consider for a moment the fact that my youngest sister, H, is a vegan. She's actually quite allergic to milk and milk products too... not just a "choses not to eat" them sort; so you can't go "oh well, it's baked in, she'll never know", milk products will make her physically ill. She’s been at least a vegetarian for twenty years.

My middle sister (E) hosts our family Xmas eve get together every year after taking it over from my parents a number of years ago. It used to be a cold buffet of yummy things—my dad being a gourmet hobbyist—served on my mom's good china. Just a nice evening of gorging ourselves with family. So currently, the new tradition is to go to E's house for Xmas eve instead.

So, a number of years ago (when I was going through my vegetarian phase) we went to one of E's Xmas eve dinners and arrived to discover that the only things that weren't meat on the menu were pickles, cheese, and crackers. That night we drove the short distance back to my mom's house and made tabbouleh just so that we had *something* to eat that weren't just crackers and pickles.

Fast forward now to the present: Yesterday afternoon H called E's house to ask if there was something they'd like her to bring to the Xmas eve festivities, they told her that there wasn't *anything* there that was vegetarian so she'd better bring something to eat for herself.

Seriously… “we’re not serving anything you can eat, you might want to bring something”.

What the hell kind of hosts invite you to a get together and then don’t provide any goodies that you can eat?

We had a good laugh about it over the phone when I talked to H this morning, but really I think that’s so completely rude that I’m pretty flabbergasted about the whole thing. It’s not like she’s someone that they don’t know well enough to realise that she’s got dietary “needs”, even if mostly they’re voluntary they’re still perfectly valid. I chock it up to some people being really egocentric so that they don’t see the needs of people around their immediate little circle of family; but it’s pretty sad when your own sibling doesn’t even fit in there too.


  1. Does E harbor an affinity for Glenn Beck-/ Sean Hannity-/ Rush Limbaugh-style shock jockery? I have a theory that this new form of talk radio conservatism is the root of the sort of thoughtlessness you described here.

  2. No, but probably only because we're Canadian and that sort of stuff is a little much for us on the most part, I think. My husband always jokes that hanging out with them is like hanging out with old people because they're so conservative. It's weird to think that we all came from the same genes and grew up in the same family though.