We as Black people have a slew of long standing traditions. A testament to the strength and perseverance of Black people, both living and deceased. Many of our traditions stem from slavery and other experiences of our ancestors; Sunday’s are part of this tradition and experience. Sunday’s were oftentimes the only day that those in bondage had to themselves if they were allowed. Sunday’s were a time of rest, family, food, and worship. This is still true for Black families across the United States today.
Whether you are religious or not, you can probably name at least one family member who wakes up early every Sunday to throw on their Sunday best and head to a church service. Those church services are usually followed by ‘Sunday Dinner’ in Black households. Sunday Dinners have been a staple in the Black community for generations. In the book African American Foodways: Explorations of Food and Culture, William C. Whit writes, “Saturday night was usually the time for distributing slave provisions. This made possible the tradition of a larger than normal Sunday dinner — a practice that has continued with minor modification in many African American households.” To this day, many families begin their Sunday dinner prep on Saturday and finish it up after church service on Sunday. Not only that, but families still typically plan and prepare their meals as a unit. Assigning certain dishes to certain folks and only straying from dish assignments in dire circumstances. For example, the person who is in charge of making the baked macaroni and cheese should never try to randomly switch it up and make the potato salad. Believe me, someone will notice. And if they notice and it’s bad, well…good luck.
Another important aspect of the Sunday Dinner has nothing to do with the food itself, but more so about the location. Black families, from observation and personal experience, tend to gather at the homes of the oldest members of the family. This allows for an intergenerational gathering to take place. The young mixing with the old. Personally, growing up, my family always gathered at the home of my great-grandmother, but I had friends who gathered at their great aunt’s homes. Whose house folks gathered at typically seemed to be the person responsible for keeping the family unit “together” in a sense; the roots that hold everything in place and keep the tradition going until they pass it down to the next person in line.
Family plays a key part in the majority of Black lives. Whether you have blood relatives, or ones you might have adopted along the way, that sense of ‘togetherness’ is unmatched within our community. The traditions we all share will surely continue well into the future. With the pandemic aside, I’m sure there will be plenty more Sunday gatherings for us to take part in.
What traditions does your family celebrate?