As Epicurus said, “we should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink, for dining alone is leading the life of a lion or wolf.”
If you think about it, Christmas dinner is an odd combination of food we’d never normally eat and traditions whose origins are a bit hazy. Sprouts. Turkey. Sauces made of things like bread and brandy and a dried fruit based pudding set on fire as it’s brought to the table.
So why do we do it? Because tradition has it that we do it together, and eating together is a critical part of what it means to be human.
Sharing food has evolutionary roots in strengthening social bonds. Strong social bonds meant strength in numbers and strength in numbers meant a better chance of survival. We’re the only mammals who don’t fight when we eat and who look each other in the eye. Out of the cave, preparing and sharing meals and entertaining guests at dinner all serve to nurture our relationships. How we eat, as well as what we eat, reflects our lifestyles, preferences and values. This makes the ritual of eating an intimate one. When we choose to eat with someone, we are sharing a bit of ourselves along with the food.
As we’re faced with competing distractions, greater choices of things to do and increasing pressures on our time, eating together is more important than ever. Wolfing down food dishonors the effort to cultivate and prepare it. Meals eaten on the Tube, in front of the TV or staring at a laptop turn eating into lone lion feeding.
Blackfriars Settlement, who we are raising funds for, serves Christmas dinner to about 40 senior citizens, who would otherwise spend Christmas Day alone (as around half a million over 65s will according to WRVS). Speaking from personal experience as a Crisis at Christmas volunteer, despite the other things on offer, it is people sitting down to share their meal that often has the most impact.
People may sit and eat in companionable silence, chat about the day’s activities or talk from the heart. But they are together, connecting with others socially, often (in the case of Crisis guests) for the first time in weeks or months.
So join our dinner table and support the Feel Good Christmas Dinner so that more Southwark residents can eat together on Christmas Day. Whoever you’re with and whatever you’re eating, enjoy being together, and have a very Merry Christmas.
She’s our Head of Digital. Usually found online somewhere, rather fond of the real world too.