Well, eight months later, we are still living through a pandemic. We are still physically distancing from others (I hope) and still wearing masks (I really hope!).
Now, the days are getting shorter, darker, and colder, and the holidays are coming.
Usually around this time, I am getting excited for Thanksgiving. For me, Thanksgiving means a visit from my parents, time with family, togetherness with friends, and lots and lots of cooking and enjoying.
This year, like much of the rest of 2020, will be different.
This year, we will be on our own.
There will be no grandparents showering my kids with presence and presents. There will be no girl time with my mom. There will be no friends at our table.
We are erring on the side of caution and keeping our physical Thanksgiving to just the four of us. This COVID Thanksgiving, we will continue to be thankful for our friends and family — we just won’t see them.
I was mourning the loss of another holiday to the pandemic. I was feeling lonely and isolated, resentful, angry, and sad. And, while I continue to feel all those feelings, I am choosing not to mourn the loss of my Thanksgiving plans but to own this year’s holiday.
This year, we will focus on our family unit: How do we want to celebrate Thanksgiving? What special foods and rituals do we want to have? Who do we want to make sure we connect with on that day?
I am putting extra effort into including my kids in the decision-making and helping them to own the holiday, too — and not focus on what is being missed. I encourage you to do the same! Here’s how:
Celebrate physically with just your family unit/pod. But that doesn’t mean you can’t include others. Who will you visit safely earlier in the day? Who will you Zoom with? Would you rather Zoom serially with small groups, or do one large Zoom at dinner time? From experience, serial Zooms work better for us.
What is for dinner? Will this be the first year you roast your own turkey? What special foods just have to be at your table to make it a true Thanksgiving? Are there any recipes you’ve wanted to try but just haven’t had the courage to do so? Now’s the chance to try new things and make new traditions.
What can make this Thanksgiving special for your family unit? Will it be dessert first? Will it be breakfast for dinner? Will it be pajama Thanksgiving? Or fancy schmancy Thanksgiving?
What crafts can you do with the kids? We will be making cards to give out to family and friends to show thanks. I also hope to make gratitude turkeys, which will figure prominently on our table.
Make sure to plan your day! The kids can get involved in this, and having an order of events will also bring predictability and excitement. When will you Zoom, and with whom? Do you want to make Thanksgiving a non-traditional breakfast meal, and spend the rest of the day doing a different family adventure? When will you watch the Macy’s parade reruns?
For me, this is what I don’t want to lose sight of.
Why Thanksgiving? It’s a day that we are able to pause and reflect on how lucky we are for our lot. Regardless of how the pandemic is affecting us, we have things to be grateful for. There is so much physical and mental illness, unemployment, political turmoil, social discord, and feelings of loss and isolation. Nonetheless, we all have something to be grateful for. Please, don’t forget to take the time to reflect on your own and as a family about what this means to you.
By doing Thanksgiving safely, you are thinking beyond yourself. You are helping to keep others healthy and safe, and you are modeling to your family the importance of self-sacrifice for the greater good.