[San Juan Silver Stage | November 2020 | Kathryn R. Burke]
Thanksgiving 2020. Well, it will certainly look different this year, no matter what your views on restrictions regarding public and family gatherings. Because of Covid, most community meals and programs are cancelled. Many families fear the virus and won’t be doing a traditional Turkey Day—or if they do, it will be limited to close family members. Those who live alone may have to spend the day by themselves and, like residents in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, they are also at high risk of loneliness. Regardless of where we are, we will all suffer from enforced loss of tradition. Thanksgiving is supposed to be a joyous time, celebrating abundance. This year…not so much.
When most people think about Thanksgiving, they focus on food, family and football-watching. But putting the “thanks” back into Thanksgiving is a good start in improving your heart health, researchers say. American Heart Association.
This holiday is a time we look forward to all year, when families gather and share a congenial communal meal while catching up on their news. While Christmas tends to be more about kids and is based on Christianity, Thanksgiving is more of a generational event. It’s an all-American, non-religious holiday, an annual gathering shared by family members from great-grandparents to newborns. Thanksgiving is about family as well as food. It’s a celebration of abundance.
Traditionally, we often tend to overdo the abundance. We cook up a storm, eat too much, suffer through a messy cleanup (turkey and goose can be greasy!), and pack up a lot of leftovers to be turned into hot turkey sandwiches, scalloped turkey, then stew, then soup—Thanksgiving food can last for days. Even longer if you don’t have all those guests at the table who can take some of it home with them. Better start making room in the fridge and freezer now.
Thanksgiving is about being together. It’s a time and place of sharing dialogue, conversation, food, family, and (for some) football—all in the same place at the same time and within touching distance. “Pass the potatoes, please,” just doesn’t work when you share a picture of the spuds on your phone.
The first Thanksgiving football game was a college match between Yale and Princeton in 1876. Now there are three games every year.
Thanksgiving is also a big football day. Families and friends enjoy a meal together and watch NFL games as part of the day’s celebration. This year’s three games (noonish, late afternoon, and evening) leave plenty of time for a mid-game meal. It’s hard to do a “virtual” celebration, though, when (noisily) watching a ballgame. All that Zoomed cheering, booing, and armchair quarterbacking gets lost when you’re tuned in to each other and the “each others” are all tuned in to the game.
Did your great grandma go to her grandma’s house by sleigh for Thanksgiving? Paula Brown image.
Old-fashioned Thanksgiving brought back memories of older traditions, like when the family used to take the sleigh to Grandma’s house. Today, they can still go, even by sleigh in some areas, but they’re more likely to Zoom to the grandparents home, than ride with sleigh bells and singing.
With tradition thrown under the bus because of Covid, there is a plethora of ideas—some good, some bad, some just plain silly—out there. We took a look at the recommendations from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), along with suggestions in various news articles and other sources, on the best ways to celebrate your Turkey Day, and came up with our own list of pros, cons, observations, and comments.
In-person, family gatherings of people who live in your household. The good news is that you can avoid sharing a meal with people you don’t really like anyway. Food served meets family dietary requirements and consists of things you know they like to eat. Less food, lower cost, less cooking, fewer leftovers, less mess, shorter cleanup. However, less can also mean more work for you, especially if you use the good china, since you are now chief fixer and “cleaner-upper.” Small, limited gatherings also mean loss of tradition—with favorite foods and special table settings—and loss of camaraderie with extended family and friends. You also miss out on the joy of preparing a meal together. In our house, that meant drinking some of the wine that went into the stuffing before it went into the bird. Kitchen time was also family gossip time; the bigger the gathering, the more of us in the kitchen, the more before-dinner shared news. We had so much fun.
Virtual gathering. You don’t have to physically be together to “be together.” Get everybody hooked up simultaneously on their smartphones. Which could be challenging. Preparing and eating a big meal is a lengthy process. Filming it could take a while. How about Zooming it in pieces…with a little dialogue? “Here I am cooking—look at that mound of potatoes you don’t have to help peel.” “Here we are eating—aren’t you glad you don’t have to eat that green bean casserole?” “Watch me clean up—and you totally get out of scrubbing these pans.”
Try a totally different “themed” table. This one celebrates the movie diva’s of the 1930s and ’40s. We all dressed our parts. ©Kathryn R. Burke.
Maybe Zoom-in on each attendee’s table and hold a virtual conversation while you all eat at the same time, but in different locations. “Oooh, Aunt Susie got out the Waterford.” “Sara is using paper plates –but she’s still going to have to clean the pans!” ‘Course, you’re gonna preserve for posterity some less-than-pretty pictures: mouths open, gobbling food, bellies expanding, over-imbibing. But if you’re determined, better make sure your smartphone is charged up, camera working, and you’ve got good Internet reception. Lotta people will be online TG Day. You might get bounced off the air after that first messy bite of turkey.