Holidays can be challenging for a food allergy family like ours, as many of our societal holidays and gatherings are structured around food! I’m sure if you think back to your childhood and choose a special day celebrated in your home, you would be able to pinpoint the traditional meal that went along with it. For me, I remember deviled eggs being served for Easter brunch, and dyeing Easter eggs with my family. My grandmothers always made peanut brittle for Christmas, and loads of other baked goods for visits and celebrations.
Before having children, I imagined doing many of the things I did as a child with my own children. This included eating similar meals at holidays, because so many of the childhood family memories I have all include very specific meals and foods.
When we found out our oldest child had food allergies to eggs, peanuts and tree nuts, we were initially shocked and unsure what on earth we could eat. Of course we quickly realized that there would be plenty of options for food; we just needed to shift our perspective and have a plan to navigate eating in our home, outside our home, and at events, including holidays and other celebrations, in order to keep our child as safe as possible.
Fortunately, with the support of our family, a multitude of resources and connections to other food allergy families, we have started to approach the holidays with a greater focus on coming together and sharing experiences. Our only big food concern is not what we’re eating, but what’s in it.
Our approach is this: if food is coming into our home, it must be safe for our food-allergic child (meaning it does not contain or potentially contain their allergens). If we are going to someone else’s home and the food is not safe for our child, we either bring our own food and eat together as a family, or we eat before. If we don’t feel like it’s something we can comfortably navigate, we skip it altogether.
Over these past 4+ years, we have had a lot of practice at this, and had to get comfortable with setting boundaries and saying no to things. We’ve also had a lot of practice at safely and comfortably attending events with our family and friends, and creating our own unique traditions that work for our family. We are always grateful to be included, even if that means we may need a few accommodations in order to keep our child safe!
If someone you love has a food allergy, continue to invite them to gatherings! They would love to be included, and would be happy to share ways you can help keep them or their child safe. If you can’t accommodate, they can decline the invitation.
If you’re new to the food allergy world, get connected with other families already walking this road! Our support network has been invaluable in helping us navigate these challenges and keep our child safe.
Certain holidays can be difficult for many families for various reasons, and over the years we have realized that the important thing is doing what works for us. It may look different, but it’s ours, and for that, we are grateful.