Holidays often mean opportunities to gather with family and friends to celebrate. Whether you’re sitting down for a full meal or having something to drink and snack on, food is often a core component of our celebratory meetups. While we value time with those people we care about, the edible elements can present certain challenges for families managing food allergies. As we approach Easter and Passover, you may feel the stress of balancing holiday tradition with food allergies. I think I can help with that. Take a deep breath and keep reading.
Food Rituals Galore
Maybe you’re thinking, “Cheryl, seriously? There are egg hunts everywhere I look, baskets loaded with candy of all sorts, and the entire seder meal is steeped with ritual food elements.” I know. Instead of rehashing the tips we’ve shared previously, I’m going to encourage you to finish reading this article and then go back to check out these links: Get Hopping on an Allergy Friendly Easter and Celebrating Passover with Food Allergies. Just because food is a big part of these spring holidays doesn’t mean it has to be food you can’t safely eat. It just takes a little bit of planning and creativity to replicate the elements you want to hang on to in an allergy-friendly way.
Make New (Foodless) Traditions
Food may be other people’s tradition, but it doesn’t have to be yours. Do you have fond childhood memories of a family brunch on Easter morning? Trade in the omelets and pastries for a family walk on the beach or at a favorite park. Are you recalling evenings munching on lace cookies and kugel? How about taking the conversation outside and working together to plant some early spring veggies and flowers in a container garden.
Think Outside the Egg
Egg hunts in and of themselves are fun. Why let it end when the last plastic egg is found? Instead of candy, fill the eggs with puzzle pieces. Once you’ve collected all the eggs, spend time together assembling the puzzle. Instead of sitting around nibbling on jellybeans, crack open your favorite board games and have a family-friendly tournament. Roll out sheets of craft paper and create a group art project that reflects what you’re currently grateful for or what you’re looking forward to with the change in seasons. Again, no one said your family traditions had to be edible!
Put the Focus on the People
Whether you’re celebrating Easter, Passover or, frankly, any other holiday, it can be easy to focus on the food – especially when you’re actively trying to avoid some of it! While there are certainly traditional meals we associate with specific special days of the year, the holiday isn’t ever really about the food. (Yes, that includes Thanksgiving!) When we step back and really assess what’s special about these days, it’s not the food on our plate. It’s the people we’re spending the time with.
Go ahead and forgo that passed-down recipe for an allergy-friendly variant or bring your own allergy-safe meal to someone else’s home. It doesn’t actually matter if you’re eating the same main dish your great-grandmother made. It just matters that you’re eating whatever you’re eating with the people who mean the most to you.
Even if food isn’t at the center of your celebration, it doesn’t mean you can be lax. Take the time to read labels. Keep your auto-injectors in reach. Be aware of potential non-food items that may contain your allergens. Wash your hands before eating or touching your face (which is, frankly, good advice even if you don’t have food allergies!).