Mennonite Heritage Village

The Family Meal

December 15, 2022

By Gary Dyck

Have you have ever visited a traditional farmhouse? It probably had a dining area just as big as its living room. There is a reason for that. And if the finances and vision of Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) allowed I think it would be great to have one of those square 1920s farmhouses on our museum grounds. It used to be that the family meal was a priority, and a home was built around it.

Today our families are so busy and scattered, the family meal is nearing extinction. The nourishment we get from a homemade meal is one loss, but the greater loss is the nourishment from one another. The common table is to be a source of emotional support, and the attention we all long for. It is to be a place where after a busy day away, we finally get to share our adventures or mishaps with ones who love us, learn from one another, and enjoy rejuvenating banter.

Further, as Benedictine Sister Joan Chitister writes, “At the common table, too, we are taught self-control. There is only so much of the vegetables to go around. Everyone must get some. No one must take too much of anything… Nothing should be wasted. Nothing that has been prepared for us should be rejected… Here we remember daily those who have none of what we have and recommit our lives to their fulfillment… [when] we eat on the run instead of at a table, we eat alone instead of with someone else and we wonder where the wonders of life have gone.” If we knew that the family meal does all this, I think it would be a priority again.

In her well researched book, The Village Effect, Dr. Susan Pinker shows how a boy’s academics and social skills may improve with regular family meals, and reduce eating disorders and suicide rates in girls. Pinker also hypothesizes that a shared feast can jumpstart cooperation and could be another reason why traditional cultures have meals at the funerals. I’ve seen how it bonds the community to the grieving family and helps the people around them to remember to help them in their time of loss. This is just another example of how there is a lot of inherent wisdom in our traditional cultures and customs.

This Christmas and beyond may you practice hospitality. May you have regular mealtimes with your loved ones, or at the very least, face-to-face time together over a cup of coffee. Visit MHV together and learn more about Mennonite history and customs in our main gallery. See our upcoming events below.

Upcoming Events:

MHV Village Books & Gifts shop and Galleries are open Tuesday to Saturday, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm. The grounds are available for strolling (heritage buildings are closed).

Winter Day Camp Registration Now Open December 28-30. Children ages 6 – 11 are invited to experience winter at the Mennonite Heritage Village! There will be skating, crafts, sleigh rides, and so much more!

Winter in the Village, December 16 & 17 – Experience Winter in the Village at MHV! Bring your friends and family to MHV for skating, snowshoeing, kick sledding, and so much more! Be enchanted by the village light show, skate along Main Street, or on the ice rink! Explore the grounds with our snowshoes or kicksleds. A warming hut will be open for visitors. More to come in January! Sign up for our newsletter for more info.

Exhibit opening: “Resurfacing: Mennonite Floor Patterns,” January 18, 2023, 7 pm – Join artist Margruite Krahn for a presentation followed by a Q&A and exhibit opening.

12 Deals of Christmas November 15 – December 22 Every Tuesday and Thursday, check out our social media posts or our website at for some wonderful deals leading up to the Holiday Season!