Mis Reynas! How many of you grew up having family over every Sunday after church? I remember as a child coming home after church and changing out of my vestidito hermoso and putting on play clothes while I waited for my extended family to arrive. Mi papa would come home and do the same then promptly head out back to light the charcoal grill for one of our family favorites, fajitas y cebolla, while my mom headed into the kitchen to make arroz, frijoles y guacamole. Hijole, my mouth salivates just thinking about it!
Now, I don’t remember the conversations that happened all those Sundays as a child or the specific experiences of each family gathering but do you know what I do remember? I remember my family and the laughter we shared around the table. I remember how my aunts would join my mom in the kitchen to help her make all the side dishes. You know what else? I remember how seamless everyone seemed to work together. It was as if they had an unspoken language between them. Each mujer knew their strengths and where help was needed while the hombres took care of the food outside.
You may be asking, “Bueno, that’s great! But how does that help my family gathering?” Well, Reynas I am here to give you some tips on how to make your next family gathering a memorable success! Whether it’s your first or your 200th gathering, the most important thing to remember is why we do them in the first place: la familia.
1) Music sets the mood: Reynas, you know how as Mexicans we usually have a soundtrack to our life? Well, this is no different. Set the mood in your home by playing music that gives the house energy! While you’re setting up the kitchen or setting the table, music gives you the energy to move through each thing with grace and a little flare. Ay! Y a quien no le gusta bailar un poquito, no?
2) Set the stage: Celebrating your abuelita’s birthday or an anniversary? Special touches like old family photos on the table, candles, and decorations also make the mood a little more festive! Polaroid pictures work great here! Have everyone snap a Polaroid of themselves when they come in and add the photos to a photo wall so everyone can see! Extra little touches like photos, a color scheme, and themes create wonderful experiences for everyone.
3) Get the children involved: The little helpers of today become the helpers of tomorrow. Encourage your children to help you prepare. Show them how you make your food, let them set the table, help them choose the playlist or the menu for the evening. Getting your children involved not only creates beautiful memories for them, but it also allows them to create a sense of teamwork, family unity, and bonding through something that is so important in our culture: our food.
4) Get the family involved: I don’t know about you, but when we had family gatherings, everyone brought something. My tia Leti used to bring her famous fruit salad. Everyone…and I mean everyone loved that salad! It was a highlight of the gathering! Other family members would bring ice, meat to put on the grill, rice, and beans, or chips and salsa. Y saben que? Every time someone walked into our home on the afternoon of our gatherings, they came in with arms full of offerings and they were greeted with the biggest “HOLA!” There is something so satisfying when you see your family come together to eat and enjoy one another. If you’d rather not have anyone bring food, bueno, that’s ok too! You can get them involved by helping in other ways or by just enjoying each other while you are together.
5) Phones down, eyes up: More and more, I’m attending family gatherings that have a basket at the front door for people to place their phones as they enter the house. We’re living in a world of technology and easy distractions that it has a tendency to take away from our quality time with those around us. Pero Reynas, we have memories to make and family to keep united! When we lead by example and set the tone that our family time is quality time, we encourage others to do the same. Putting a basket at your front door may not work for you so try to encourage your family to limit their phone use so everyone can focus on connecting with one another in the present.
Pero oye, all this talking about food and gatherings has me wanting to create my own now! Luckily, I have plenty of food options to offer mi familia for our next one! Until next time, mis Reynas! Keep laughing! Keep creating memories and keep loving the way only you can, mis amores!