The looming holiday season fills many of us with stress and dread and a sense of obligation, especially if we are the one hosting. My mother-in-law used to have between 35 and 45 people for a sit-down Thanksgiving dinner every year. The preparations for hosting so many people are daunting for sure, and sometimes she would say "never again" the night before Thanksgiving. We, of course, oblivious at the time of the long-term planning that goes into such an event, always looked forward to those big gatherings. It's nice to dress up, it's nice to see Aunt Jeanne and Uncle Charles again, it's neat to see how much the kids have grown, it's fun to taste all those traditional family recipes again. It's also just simply wonderful to belong to this big crowd of family and friends. And the ritual of celebrating an annual holiday again and again grounds us in the seasons and in the circularity of natural cycles. I find it truly comforting. Relationships - being with others, sharing a meal, having good conversations - are one of the greatest mood enhancers. A strong network of friends, a good support structure, doing things in community or with friends all do more for your health than doctor's visits and pills. We thrive on relationships, on acceptance, on community, on activities with others. We love to be cared for, we love to belong.
Of course we need to take turns playing both roles - host and invitee, otherwise it's no fun for everyone else. But as long as it all balances out in the end I take the work of being on the giving end in stride. After all - if I don't give I won't receive. Besides, I actually love having people over, making them feel cared for, choreographing an evening of togetherness to create an environment of mutual enjoyment. It's quite exhilarating to create the backdrop for so much pleasure. Life doesn't get better than that!