Holiday gatherings are full of family stories

Published 6:00 am Friday, December 23, 2022

By Wayne Andrews

The holidays bring families together however it is defined. It might be dinner with neighbors, annual travel to visit distant
relatives, or friends spending time together. While these gatherings are often maligned in popular culture. It is during these
times that traditions are shared, stories repeated, and memories are created. These gatherings might even establish new

This will be the first time since the pandemic that many will host a large family gathering. The sharing of memories will fill rooms
and be passed across the table like a marshmallow topped casserole of sweet potatoes. We may not realize that the sharing of
memories is a form of oral history and storytelling. Hearing from those who lived the experiences offers a chance to pass on

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The pandemic was a sober reminder that time is precious. What’s most important is to remember the histories that we carry.
The stories shape our sense of family and community. Sharing a meal is the perfect chance to pose a question. Listen to family
members share a story. Reflect on how these stories connect each of you.

In our family, every holiday meal is not complete without a discussion of tomato aspic.

A staple for one side of my family from a time when gelatin-based dishes spoke of access to refrigeration. How this dish stayed
as a staple touches on social and cultural issues around women entering the workforce and convenience foods allowing families
to retain that image that preparing food took time.

The discussion of this past culinary holiday dish ensures that those family members who experienced those cultural shifts but
are no longer with us are still remembered at each meal. The tomato aspic reviled and loved all at once. Shared stories and
memories define family. I married into the tomato aspic but over the years it has become part of my family story.

This holiday season as you plan the meal. Think about planning a conversation. Think about questions you can ask your

Storycorps ( is a national program that collects stories. Began in 2003 this national project has recorded,
preserved and shared hundreds of thousands of unique American stories – told by two people, sitting down face to face.

Storycorps visited Oxford prior to the pandemic to collect, preserve, and share stories of ordinary Americans. Every story is
archived at the Library of Congress to ensure it’s available for generations to come.

Through the app found on the Storycorp website ( you can do more than share stories with your family across the
dinner table. You can record those memories and share them. I am sure each of us has a tomato aspic story.

Wayne Andrews is Director of the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council. Write to him at