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What is an ‘Apology Dinner’?

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A custom known as an "apology dinner" exists, and it is common in regions or cultures.

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On April 29 2021, “Apology Dinner” became a Twitter trending topic — sufficiently popular to warrant a Twitter blurb explaining the phrase:

Many people are confused about the concept of an apology dinner after a woman shared in a viral Reddit thread that she was planning one for her sister[.]

On that day, a Twitter account devoted to sharing interesting threads posted to Reddit’s r/AmITheAsshole (often abbreviated as “AITA”) shared screenshots of and links to a post titled “AITA for arranging potluck for my sister’s Apology Dinner?”:

That post was submitted in the early hours of April 29 2021, and it featured details of the situation involving an apology dinner at which the poster’s sister was a guest of honor:

AITA for arranging potluck for my sister’s Apology Dinner? from AmItheAsshole

In the post, user Medium_Cook7987 wrote:

So my mom decided to host an Apology Dinner for my older sister.

As my mom was busy writing her apology and whatnot, she asked if I would take care of the food and beverages.

I said sure, thinking it was just for my family of 4… But when my Aunt and Cousins heard, they also wanted to attend, so I decided to make it a pot luck. (Pot luck is where all the adult guests bring a dish, and all the dishes are shared.)

Of course, I never asked my sister to bring any food because she was the guest of honor.

Well, everyone came over and we are all excited to listen to the apology and eat.

My sister was among the last to arrive, and she was offended that we were serving pot luck for her special dinner.

I explained that I had carefully planned what would be served (sister’s boyfriend is a vegetarian, so we had two meatless options).

But my sister yelled at me that the Apology Meal should be prepared (or at least paid for) by the apologizer (my mom) in order to show proper atonement.

We went forward with the Apology Dinner, but my sister call me the Asshole for undermining the apology.

AITA for arranging potluck for my sister’s Apology Dinner?

Text at the top of the post appeared edited in, and it read:

I remembered about this after reading about another poster’s Apology Dinner.

That appeared to be a reference to a somewhat similar (in that it referenced an “apology dinner”) post shared to r/AmITheAsshole one day earlier on April 28 2021, titled “Aita for refusing to attend an apology dinner after my mother in law called me a bad mother at my son’s funeral?”

Although both posts mentioned an “apology dinner,” the first of two didn’t seem to reference the concept as something that is established or common:

Aita for refusing to attend an apology dinner after my mother in law called me a bad mother at my son’s funeral? from AmItheAsshole

Rather, the poster relayed a tragic personal story about their son’s death and family disagreements at the child’s funeral, adding in the final paragraph:

[My husband and I] haven’t seen his mom in 1 year and 8 months. I’m now 3 months pregnant. No one knew only my sister in law (brother in law’s wife) but word got out. Though we told her not to say anything. Week later I had family members saying I was invited to a dinner hosted by mother in law so she could both apologize in front of the whole family and settle this issue before the baby’s born. They said mother in law was regretful, and offered to financially provide for her grandbaby and they want to see that. I refused But My husband surprisingly wants me to go. I had his grandparents calling me telling me that I’m a person with a good heart and forgiveness’s something I’m capable of giving. I told them I’ll never be sitting at the same table with the person who called me a bad mother at my child’s funeral. I still remember it vividly til this very day. My sisters said this change of heart from mother in law is probably for the new baby. It could be but I insisted I won’t come. They’re saying I’m making hard for everyone to move on and past this unreasolved pain and should really go.

In a context previous to the second “apology dinner” post, the first post seemed to use “apology dinner” as shorthand for a manageable title. In the body of the post, they explained their mother-in-law (who castigated her at her son’s funeral) “invited [the couple] to a dinner … so she could” apologize in public with family present.

By way of contrast, the second post (which included a reference to the first) appeared to be describing a structured and consistent mechanism to formally offer apologies to family members — with conventions for financial atonement:

But my sister yelled at me that the Apology Meal should be prepared (or at least paid for) by the apologizer (my mom) in order to show proper atonement.

We went forward with the Apology Dinner, but my sister call me the Asshole for undermining the apology [by arranging a less costly potluck].

A glance at u/Medium_Cook7987’s comment history indicated that the account had responded to questions about the purported custom of an “Apology Dinner.” In response to a simple comment about what an Apology Dinner was, the poster replied:

It where someone apologizes to another person in front of the whole family.

In another detailed exchange, another user invoked the subreddit’s “INFO” request, indicating that insufficient evidence existed to identify an “asshole” in the scenario. They wrote:

INFO

We don’t have enough context to evaluate this because nobody knows what an apology dinner is. What culture is this from? Why does it exist? Is this just a thing your family does, or is there a whole country/religion/mlm cult where this is normal? I know you said it’s a dinner where someone apologizes, but I’ve never heard of that before. I don’t understand why it’s a thing.

Without more context, I’d say you’re all a bunch of assholes for having a whole-ass dinner just so someone could get a public apology.

Before the original poster responded in that exchange, a third Reddit user chimed in, saying:

I am a cultural anthropologist with tons of ethnographies on my bookshelves and have never heard of this[.]

And u/Medium_Cook7987 claimed:

From Northern Dobruja, but we live in the States[.]

In a third exchange, another commenter opined that the concept was “absurd,” and the original poster responded:

I think it’s like in American culture. Let’s say a husband wants to apologize to his wife. So he gives her flowers. But then she finds out that his brother went to the the florist. So she’s mad that he didn’t pick out the flowers himself.

I also think there’s something in American culture where you are not supposed to arrange your own birthday party???

In another comment, u/Medium_Cook7987 elaborated:

To help make sure the apology is sincere.

Otherwise, the apologizer will try to get away with the minimum. (“Sorry you were offended”)

Finally, in what may have been a faint clue as to the veracity of the “Apology Dinner,” the submitter responded to a comment about the thread being “famous on Twitter,” hinting the thread was planted to bait lazy outlets into writing articles about the claims and taking them at face value:

Where’s my DailyMail article?

Ahead of the inevitable avalanche of tabloid items about the thread with no actual research involved, we checked on Google Trends to see if “Apology Dinner” was a popular search the week of April 29 2021; the only measurable searches occurred after the thread was posted. Broadening the search to a five-year span indicated some searches for the terms — which were highly common separately, and didn’t evidence an established practice.

Finally, we did a date-restricted search for “apology dinner,” restricting all results published after March 30 2021. Only four pages of results were returned, and the top hits were fairly generic in nature:

” … to an awkward apology dinner with Joaquin Phoenix, seemingly for his comments in ‘Three Kings.'”

” … Date or Apology Dinner? from the story Pretend // Brandon Arreaga by Awe5omesauce ( Chris ) with 1802 reads”

” … will buy you an apology dinner right away. No kidding. Vague No’s. Dear Founder X,. Thank you for meeting with me the other day …”

” … The local restaurant’s manager quickly called to offer what Rachel thought was a complimentary apology dinner …”

” … Robert Hanson : [ongoing argument] I said ’cause I thought you’d made me an apology dinner! Sol Bergstein : And why would I do that? I have nothing to … “

In an effort to sort for any sort of validation of the initial claim, we searched for “Apology Dinner” and “Dobruja,” again restricting results to anything posted before March 29 2021. Zero results were returned suggesting the practice existed or was in any way as formal as the poster claimed.

On April 28 2021, a Reddit account posted about being invited to an “apology dinner” by a cruel mother-in-law, but didn’t describe an “apology dinner” as some sort of formalized cultural practice. A day later, a separate account claiming to have “remembered about this after reading about another poster’s Apology Dinner” shared their own AITA post, asserting that the “Apology Dinner” was established among people from Northern Dobruja living in the United States. That user separately commented about expecting a “Daily Mail article,” possibly hinting at a phony story. Nevertheless, we were unable to validate the existence of any formalized “Apology Dinner” custom as described.