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Sorry, Gen Z, but table manners are important. Here’s why

Family sitting around table eating dinner

Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock

Family eating dinner

Cerith Gardiner - published on 04/12/24

A recent survey of 2,000 diners showed that 60 percent of generation Z felt that etiquette at the table is unimportant.

Growing up one of the things that was drilled into us is the important of eating correctly at the table. From holding silverware correctly, to keeping those elbows off the table. The repeated instructions were part and parcel of childhood.

However, over time priorities and habits change — something that is not unusual if you look at how people used to eat centuries ago. And when the Italian restaurant group Prezzo carried out a survey it gave an indication as to how those born between 1997 and 2012 feel about table manners, as shared by Fox5.

The findings

Interestingly, a significant 77% of Generation Z participants felt that elbows on a table were no longer an issue. And as for silverware, only 40% believed it was important to hold a knife and fork correctly.

Other table manner faux pas were also addressed, such as if it was important to wait for others before beginning to eat, and eating from someone else’s plate, with 38% of respondents feeling that these common manners were not essential.

In fact, it’s not just the beliefs of Gen Zers that were a little shocking. Apparently 38% of all those questioned felt table manners were not that important in life.

However, it gets interesting when nearly half of all participants stated that they wouldn’t date someone with bad table manners. Respondents were also pretty unimpressed with those using their phones at the table — admittedly this is something parents of the older generations didn’t have to contend with!

The importance of table manners

While households might consume more TV dinners these days, or order more takeout, it is important to know how respectful behavior at the dinner table plays an important part in any child’s education. Here are some very Catholic reasons why:

Graceful Gratitude

Table manners provide a visible expression of gratitude for the blessings of food and fellowship. In a society where there seems to be an abundance of food, it’s vital our children are aware of what they’ve been provided with. By dining with decorum, we honor the abundance provided by God and we can express our thanks for what we have, especially when there are so many who go without.

Hospitality and charity

Sharing a meal with good manners fosters a sense of fellowship and community, mirroring the unity found within the Body of Christ. Through conversation and respectful behavior, we strengthen bonds with others and create a welcoming atmosphere of belonging.

Respect for Others

Practicing proper table manners demonstrates respect for others at the table, recognizing their dignity as individuals created in the image of God. By showing consideration for their comfort and enjoyment, we uphold the Christian value of treating others as we would like to be treated. (And remember, the number of people in the survey who were bothered by bad manners is still high.)

Witness to Virtue

Our conduct at the table serves as a witness to the virtues of humility, self-control, and moderation taught by the Catholic faith. By exercising restraint and avoiding excess, we exemplify the moral principles that guide our lives as disciples of Christ.

Family Values

Table manners play a role in transmitting family values and traditions from one generation to the next. By passing down standards of etiquette and sharing meals together with respect and affection, families reinforce their bonds and create lasting memories rooted in love.

Sacramental Symbolism

In the Catholic tradition, the act of sharing a meal carries profound symbolism, recalling the Last Supper and the Eucharistic celebration. By approaching the table with reverence, we recognize the sacredness of the meal and the presence of Christ among us, both spiritually and symbolically.

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