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Service & Impact
winter 2022

Gather Round, Everyone

Celebrating Our Family Bonds Around the Table
Written by: Jocelyn Brown

WITH FOUR GENERATIONS IN our family to honor, support and celebrate, planning for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and beyond has always been a joyous time that stirs up lots of excitement and anticipation. We have heartwarming memories of everything from decorating the space to setting the table with fine china down to the savory flavors of the meal.


Each major holiday is hosted by a different family member. The host designs everything from the menu to the entertainment throughout the entire day of celebration. Everyone is assigned a dish to prepare that contributes to a themed six- or seven-course spread. Surprise menu additions are encouraged and always welcome; we’ve complemented meals with the holiday cuisine of both Mexico and Italy on separate occasions.


Every family celebration begins with prayer, often led by the eldest person present or the hosting family. We give thanks to God for the wonderful meal and also for the lives of recently transitioned family members and their influence and impact. A recently added Thanksgiving tradition followed those prayers. Before we ate, each person was asked to share one word that might be a guiding light throughout the upcoming year. Among them were Ability, Faith, Grace, Integrity, Joy, Love, Respect, Serenity and Unity. At our next holiday gathering, Christmas, everyone was gifted a beautiful journal inscribed with their chosen word, to encourage them to reflect on it in the months that followed.


We also celebrate all the November birthdays at Thanksgiving since there are six in the month. There are candles, birthday cake and a song for each person. It’s also the time when we draw the name of our Secret Santa recipient in preparation for Christmas.


While choosing to remain safe, we didn’t allow the COVID-19 pandemic to keep us from celebrating together. That meant each household created its own full holiday meal and decorations and we gathered for prayer via Zoom and ate dinner together. The technology allowed us to maintain our connection as best we could until it was safe to meet in person: where there’s a will, a way can be made with faith, effort and determination.


Our young adults are also creating new traditions. Some time ago, we moms decided we were doing way too much work in preparation for celebrating ourselves on Mother’s Day. The result: we now celebrate the special day on the preceding Saturday at a fine restaurant, where a gourmet meal is served to us, not by us! There are champagne toasts and raffles as we share our dreams and report on what we have been doing in our professions and businesses and in our communities. Then we get to spend actual Mother’s Day with our own families.


Why go to all the effort for these kind of gatherings? Because family traditions provide feelings of warmth and of comfort and symbolize a sense of oneness. They create habits that allow us to feel connected, strong, supported and celebrated. The hope in sharing some intimate details of our family celebrations is that you may be inspired to create your own celebratory observations under the framework and backdrop of the values you want instilled in the hearts and minds of your family members and extended circle.


Jocelyn Brown is a proud resident of Chicago. Her career has been devoted to generating millions in national media advertising sales annually through educating marketers on the economic power of Black consumers.