Well, it’s official. The COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. is surging after a slight, brief reprieve towards the end of the summer. California just became the second state to cross the somber million case milestone and as of this writing, 48 of the 50 states have been declared “hotspots.” This handy online tool can show you the likelihood of encountering someone infected with COVID in your county and, wherever you’re, the odds are uncomfortably high.
This comes at an extremely difficult time, as many families had been looking forward to gathering over Thanksgiving to take a few days to reflect on the year we’ve had. Official guidance in many states now is to restrict your Thanksgiving feast to immediate family only or, if you’re single, with roommates.
That may not have quite the same magic as hearing Grandma wax about the good old days or watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with your nephews, but don’t despair. Celebrating Thanksgiving without going home can be both the fun and responsible thing to do this year if you just remember a few simple tips.
Plan Everything in Advance
Planning out the Thanksgiving meal at home is a long game even in precedented times which these, of course, are not. Grocery stores are already running thin on necessary supplies so you’re going to want to make sure you’ve got a strategy in place. Do a little research and make sure you’ve got what you need in stock. This goes for turkey, potatoes and yams, of course, but also for spices, serving utensils and stuff like butter. The last thing you want is to be short on butter. If at all possible, use contact-less delivery to minimize the amount of time you spend outdoors and, of course, tip extra if you can.
Think Outside the Box
Many hands make light work but that’s the thing. This year, you probably won’t have as many hands as you’d like. Thanksgiving feasts are a pretty big undertaking and if you’re only splitting that work up among two or three people, you’re looking at a very full day. That can be a very fun memory, if you’re up to it. But alternatively, don’t be afraid to make some different memories too. Grill some burgers. Have a grilled cheese sandwich-making competition. Order sushi. It’s a very un-traditional year and if you find making a Thanksgiving feast a little daunting, don’t be afraid to go un-traditional yourself.
Weather permitting, you should start the day off with a little outside activity. Whether it’s you and a pair of headphones, walking the dog or even a (socially distanced!) hike with friends, take a little time to embrace the autumn weather. It’s good for your health. It’s good for your spirit. And it’ll help you set a tone of gratitude for the day.
Get Your Zoom Situation Set Up
Zoom has been the software of 2020 and it’s going to get a real workout on Thanksgiving. A quick check-in with your family is customary and should be fine, but don’t be afraid to get experimental. Maybe you can time your dinners and set your screens up to eat at the same time. Maybe you can check in throughout the day (if you’re making a Thanksgiving dish for the first time, you’ll want a lifeline to someone who knows the ropes and can help you out of a jam.)
You can even have some questions or conversation topics prepped to help generate meaningful discussion. It’s not always easy to have a heart-to-heart over a computer screen but we all have gotten a little better at it this year. Now’s the time to bring all your practice to bear on creating the best digital environment possible.
Watch a Movie Together, Separately
Take a look at Teleparty, which synchronizes Netflix, HBO Max or Hulu movies over multiple accounts so you can all watch a movie together at the end of the day, and even have a little chat box to keep the conversation going.
Given, well, everything, finding things to be thankful for might be a little tougher this year than usual. From a divisive political season to COVID itself, many of us are mourning waylaid plans, fractured relationships and in some cases, loved ones who were taken from us too early.
So it’s more important than ever to remember that gratitude isn’t dependent on what you have or don’t have, but on where your heart is. As Paul says in Philippians 4, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.”
Thanksgiving can still be about giving thanks, even if it’s not quite the same holiday we’re used to this year.