I get sappy around the holidays – even the 4th of July. We’re usually attending my husband Dave’s family reunion this time of year. The Rashid Family will be holding its 91st annual reunion this year in Pittsburgh, PA with 300+ in attendance – yes, that’s right, 300+. Dave’s grandmother, Bahia Rashid, arrived at Ellis Island in 1920 at age 19. The celebration, which even has its own reunion website, moves around the country, mostly Eastern United States, depending on which branch of the family is willing to take on the responsibility of hosting. The first year I attended – 15 or so years ago – Dave tried to coach me on who’s who but finally suggested I just call everyone “cousin”.

Honestly, it’s a mini convention complete with room discounts at the hosting hotel, planned activities and outings and, of course, food, lots of great Lebanese food. I wondered how the hotel managed such authentic food – baba ganoush, kibinai, hummus, etc. – until I learned that the women of the hosting family work side by side with the hotel chef to create the dishes. I imagine there have been some interesting exchanges between the gals and the chefs over the years.

Friday night is the relaxed night – families gathering over drinks and getting caught up. Saturday night is the formal dinner – everyone dresses. There are speeches including a presentation each year of scholarships to every young adult headed to college. The formal part of the dinner ends with everyone standing, hands over hearts, to sing “God Bless America”. I get choked up just typing this. A room full of 300+ 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation Lebanese who are so proud and thankful to be Americans…something to reflect on this 4th of July.