Money or a Dish: Monetary Compensation for Holiday Dinners?

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I was listening to the radio the other day and stumbled across a debate on a hot topic: whether or not it's acceptable to ask for money instead of a dish when throwing a holiday dinner. My first thought was, "Definitely NO. How tacky!" But the more I thought about it, the more I realized there were valid arguments to be made for the other side.

In my family, it was always tradition to go to my grandparents' house for holiday gatherings. We have a small family, and it was never rotated to another family member's house. Dinner consisted of a sit down meal with special holiday china and glassware, silver cutlery, white table cloths and linen napkins. My grandmother cooked all week and spared no expense. Back then, money was never an issue. But with the economic downturn, they were hit hard.

My grandparents still throw the holiday dinner, but it's not quite as lavish as it once was. I also know they wouldn't dream of not hosting it, nor could we grandchildren ask to share the burden by throwing the gathering because of proximity and traveling constraints. And they would never dream of taking money, let alone asking for it. But it does weigh on me. I know their savings has to last them through old age, yet they have too much pride and offering money would be insulting.

I realize everyone's scenario is different, but just bringing a dish or two doesn't really offset the expense of cooking an elaborate meal. And my grandmother would still end up making all the staple dishes anyway. For some readers, I'm sure you may believe the idea of contributing money goes against the spirit of the holidays. But in this economic climate, I think it's a topic worth exploring. What are your thoughts? How does your situation differ, and how does your family handle hosting the holiday gathering? Do you rotate between family members' houses? If you don't, would it be insulting to send an early donation towards groceries or a gift card to a grocery store? I'm very interested in hearing your thoughts on this topic.

(Image credits: Bethany Adams for Apartment Therapy)