This is the time of year when many of us get to enjoy the company of our loved ones. And also members of extended family we might not know as well.
It’s one thing to bite your tongue at the dinner table while your never-before-seen Uncle Earl drones on and on about his timeshare in Fresno. But it’s a whole ’nother can of worms when you’re invited to the home of a distant (and supremely powerful) relative. Especially when that home happens to be at the top of the Empire State Building.
You might be worried about what to wear and what to bring. But when dealing with the Greek gods and their (in)famous family gatherings, the bigger question is always What are we going to talk about?
For those souls lucky enough to have been invited to a dinner party with the Olympians this holiday season, here are a few surefire conversation topics to help you avoid both their judgment and their wrath. Or even more frightening, those awkward silences.
Play the Hits
The gods have strange and unique histories that span millennia. Brush up on your myths. Make note of the pantheon’s greatest battles and triumphs, and the pranks they have played on us mortals.
Despite the gods’ claims that they would rather focus on the present, and their insistence that they’re just as dynamic and relevant as they were in 800 BCE, they will never pass up an opportunity to plunge into nostalgia. Particularly after a few libations. Did you know that Athena invented the flute? Or that Artemis and her hunters captured four golden deer back in the day? Watch the hours slip away as they recount every single detail. Just please refrain from saying, Here’s what I would have done . . .
The only thing the Olympians love more than revisiting the past is disagreeing about the past. Looking to kill some time? Ask Zeus to recount his legendary story about the llamas. Then sit back and relax while Hera argues with him about what actually happened.
Discuss Their Recent Accomplishments
Tired of hearing about life before the invention of plumbing? Ask Poseidon about his latest tropical vacation. Or Hephaestus about his latest invention to revitalize the sparkling water industry. Oh, and Ares is always more than happy to recount all the fights he’s won over the past few weeks.
The trick is to fluff their egos. Did a certain god or goddess, say, fail to ensnare a couple of demigods and their friend in their trap of eternal youth? Remind them that everyone has an off day. It wasn’t their fault. They’ll get those kids next time.
Here’s the secret: when they’re not scheming or battling the Titans, the daily lives of most divine beings aren’t as interesting as they were back in ancient Greece. Unless you want to hear about their most recent love affairs with mortals. But the gods may not want to discuss their romantic lives while sitting next to their spouse-sibling (It’s complicated. Probably best not to talk about).
There are always exceptions. Take Aphrodite. If you’re able to catch some alone time with her, you can bet that she’ll be willing to spill all the juicy details. Even the stuff you definitely don’t want to hear about.
Dish About the Kids
And, speaking of mortals, you may be surprised to learn that the gods actually enjoy bragging about their demigod children. The ones worth discussing, that is.
Who recently got accepted into their first choice of college? Who survived their initial encounter with the Minotaur? Who just got back from their first trip to Tartarus with minimal injury and trauma?
Alternatively, there are the complaints: Who’s been hanging out with the wrong crowd? Who won’t return their calls? Who’s been dressing very strangely recently?
They’d never admit this when their kids are around, but the gods do take an active interest in the lives of their progeny. Um, maybe just make sure that Hermes is sufficiently preoccupied before broaching the topic.
When All Else Fails, Default to Gossip and Trash Talk
Certain gods are unlikely to attend a dinner party during this season. If there were ever an opportunity to discuss the creepiness of the Underworld, or how strange someone’s marriage to the goddess of springtime really is, now’s the time. And you’ll undoubtedly have more leeway if the mother-in-law is also in attendance.
If you want to play it safer, make some passive-aggressive comments about the Titans or the Protogenoi and watch the gods kvetch about their own problematic extended family.
Or why not fan the flames of ancient rivalries with the other pantheons? Those Norse gods? Talk about dysfunction. The Egyptian gods? So high and mighty. Insult the Roman gods at your own peril, however. Word always seems to get back to them somehow.
Unfortunately, the harshest words at these parties are almost always reserved for the people in the room. Namely, the servers, the chefs, and the cupbearers. The only thing that every god can agree on? Good help is hard to find.
They’re wrong, of course. But since the only prerequisite of working for the gods is Be pretty to look at, they probably shouldn’t expect quality service.
Not only are the servants’ jobs totally impossible, but also the gods refuse to give them any time off. And if someone screws up, like loses track of Zeus’s favorite cup, for example, you better believe the party will end in fireworks. The violent kind, not the fun kind.
So, extend some sympathy to the poor cupbearers. These unfortunate souls are forced to attend these gatherings year round.
All told, navigating a dinner party on Mount Olympus can be a deeply challenging and even life-threatening experience. Remain calm. Do your research. And remember, no matter how scary and imposing the gods seem, these parties can’t be any worse than discussing politics with your great-aunt Gladys.
For more tips on how to power through a family get-together with the gods (including what to do when things really go south), be sure to check out Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Chalice of the Gods!