Thanksgiving is going to be different this year, so let’s see if we can make it one to remember. We may get some push back when we are planning for the holidays—there may be some COVID-related arguments and hurt feelings, but we must remember that we do not need to apologize for any decisions that we make about how we choose to keep ourselves and our families safe and healthy.
Depending upon the level of COVID in the community, we may be able to go out for dinner in a restaurant, but this Thanksgiving there will also be plenty of take-out opportunities prepared by grocery stores and restaurants. In fact, grocers have anticipated that many of us will be hosting intimate gatherings, so they are stocking smaller “birds” and offering them in parts like breasts, thighs, and legs.
It is unlikely that people will be traveling long distances to get together, so families that traditionally celebrated the holiday together may feel a bit left out and sad. College kids may need to stay wherever they are holed up in distant learning pods, so friends and families may need to meet up virtually on their computers or cell phones to say, “Hi,” or share a toast.
Most families will likely celebrate within their own pod or immediate families. The good news is that smaller get-togethers are cozy and less stressful for hosts and that the celebration will be more intimate for those who participate. The bad news is that the gathering may lack the excitement of a large, noisy gathering but we can ramp up the atmosphere with an upbeat playlist.
For those of us who live in moderate climates, it may be possible to dine outdoors and sit at tables that are spaced at a safe distance apart while in cooler climates we might be able to bundle up and have dinner in the early afternoon while it is warmer outside. Grilling the turkey outdoors is an option, and so is gathering for dinner around a fire pit or an outdoor patio heater.
If non-household members gather for dinner indoors, it would be a good idea to open a few windows for ventilation and to set smaller tables for separate households. It would also be safer to offer individual platters for each table rather than serve a buffet-style meal. Masks and sanitizers need to be accessible, and it would be a good idea to stock bathrooms with plenty of soap and disposable hand towels.
We will miss being with our friends and relatives, but we can mail homemade treats or cards along with a note that says, “We’re looking forward to being with next year in person.” Wrap baked goods individually or leave them in their baking pans. The best bets for shipping are sturdy cookies, bars, brownies, loaf cakes, and muffins; although spiced nuts, fudge, hot cholate mix, or pralines might be another welcome gift.
This is an opportune time to start new family traditions. If we have children, we can encourage them to make greeting cards and mail them to relatives or to drop off bouquets or treats on the doorsteps of their friends and neighbors. If there are young children in our household, we can do something fun and silly like playing “pin the tail on the turkey,” wear our clothes backward and eat dessert first… why not?
Alternatively, we could dress formally for dinner and turn on some swanky music to create a festive mood. This Thanksgiving has been like no other so we may as well try to have a little fun with it. The holidays will be different this year, but we can do it—life has handed us cranberries, so let’s make it saucy! Here’s wishing you and yours a very happy, safe Thanksgiving along with the hope that next year will be better.
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