Thanksgiving is typically a time of family, food and tryptophan-fueled naps. Old family recipes are brought out, people gather around the dinner table and, overall, it is a happy, peaceful holiday. In the age of COVID-19, some of the usual traditions carried out on this holiday may be modified. While Thanksgiving will look different this year for many families, it does not mean the thankfulness attached to this holiday goes away. It is important to remember that Thanksgiving is a holiday to remember what we are thankful for. This concept may be hard to recognize in the midst of a global pandemic but even in the darkest of times we all can remain hopeful and grateful.
Be thankful for your health. There are many who have not been so fortunate. Be thankful for your family. Many people have sadly lost a loved one in these trying times. Be thankful for your friends, since everyone needs a strong support system when times get tough. There are many other people or parts of your life that you can be thankful for – be sure to keep that at the core of whatever you decide to do this Thanksgiving.
Travel this year may be off the table for many but this does not mean family cannot connect during Thanksgiving. There are multiple ways to see loved ones without face-to-face interaction, such as a simple phone call or even an extended Zoom session lasting all through dinner. Digital interaction has come a long way to meet the needs of many varying situations in this time and Thanksgiving could be the perfect time to utilize these different options to stay involved with those we love.
Another possibility is to acknowledge that Thanksgiving can extend past blood relation to those we live with and care about. If traveling home from campus this year is not a viable option, then have a meal around the table with those you live with. Roommates and friends may not be able to go home either, so come together to create a hodgepodge meal of different family recipes and traditions. Sharing a holiday with those we see on a daily basis can be just as special, while those that are considered family can extend past those we are related to.
If it is impossible to even conceive of having a Thanksgiving that looks different from every other year, then make sure that COVID-19 guidelines are met. If the weather holds, maybe set up a beautiful dinner table outside and spread out the chairs. While one long table may typically be the norm, it would be better to set up multiple tables and have those who live in the same household exclusively set together. When going inside to fix your plate and be around other people, wear your mask to protect those you care about, just in case you have been exposed. Modifications can be made to a typical Thanksgiving and the amount of thankfulness you have regarding your family will not change if it has to be held in the open air.
Finally, if you cannot go to visit anyone during Thanksgiving and you live alone, be kind to yourself. This time is hard on all of us, and you are not alone in your isolation. Remember why this holiday is so important to our country, your family, and you. We all come together to remember the blessings we have in our lives, and one of the greatest blessings is to be able to wake up during a pandemic to enjoy another day. Write a list about what blessings you have, call your family and friends to help yourself feel close to them and remember this will not be eternal. Some day we will arrive at a new normal where we can see and hug our loved ones without fear. Playing our part this Thanksgiving to make sure that all of our loved ones get to make it to that time is crucial – and there are multiple ways to safely celebrate this loving holiday.