For families with gluten-free children, let’s be honest: the holidays can be stressful. The never-ending stream of sweets and eats can make parents feel stuck in a loop of never-ending “nos.” Yet I’m here to tell you that—necessary “nos” aside (because, well, safety first)—we can shift both our actions and our thoughts towards ringing in a new kind of holiday. So whether you’re decking the halls, lighting the menorah or kinara, or otherwise celebrating this month, ’tis the season to relish the old traditions while creating the new.
Here, a few ideas for rethinking the gluten-free holiday hoopla:
1. Design a Holiday Party Around an Activity (instead of food only)
Kids and adults alike will appreciate the creativity of one of the below holiday soirees. Including gluten-free snacks and drinks is fine—the difference is that the focus is more on the creating, and less on the consuming:
- Holiday Craft Soiree: Make holiday cards, collages, snow globes, candle holders, or another festive craft. You can find many books and sites dedicated to seasonal and religious projects.
- A Gathering for Charity: Gather children, friends, and/or family to help someone else who could use a bit of holiday cheer. Ideas for this event might include a charity bag-decorating and/or card-making gathering, a bring-a-present party (everyone can help wrap gifts for others in need), a blanket or quilt-making circle, or even a field trip to the dollar shop or grocery store to gather items for a cause.
- Holiday Game Night (or Day): Invite the gang over for games with a holiday twist—be it the location (i.e., under the tree), to the tune of festive music, or with new “holiday rules” you create for the chosen game.
2. Speaking of Games…This is the Perfect Time to Instill the “Take Notes on Things You’d Like to Make at Home” Game!
- Buy your gluten-free child a pocket notebook to take to events—holiday or otherwise. If there’s anything on the table that she wants but cannot eat, take note. That way, you can plan a fun baking/cooking day at home wherein you create one or more of the recipes you wished you could eat—and guess what? Now you can!
3. Make Pot-Lucking a Tradition
This little tip goes a long way for gluten-free living and advocacy in the long-term. If a food-based event is at your place, of course you can make it entirely gluten-free (we always do!). However, if you’re traveling “over the river and through the woods,” you can still—and always—keep your child safe and happy. For us, that usually means preparing and bringing some type of protein-based dish and dessert. There’s nothing wrong with alerting your host about your “pot-luck tradition” and situation; that said, don’t go to events with any hard expectations for safety beyond what you bring. Which leads me to my final, and perhaps most important, point….
4. Repeat the Mantra, then Repeat it Again:
It’s not about the food; it’s about the people, places, and experiences in our lives…for in the end, these bring us the most meaning and joy!
And on that note, may this season bring you warmth, love, and connection to usher in the best of times ahead.