Rethinking Thanksgiving

Rebecca Herzberg, Formatting Managing Editor

Thanksgiving, a holiday associated with friends, family, and food, was unusually intimate for many students this year.  Most families chose to either stick to their immediate family or small groups and host Zoom calls. “It was weird not having the normal chaos Thanksgiving brings every year,” explains Sam Young (‘23).  Countless families, like Young’s, were forced to postpone large, in-person gatherings due to rising COVID-19 cases. While this was a vital precautionary measure, it did not make the distance from family any less difficult. 

Other  students also felt the notable contrast in this year’s festivities as long-standing customs were pushed aside. “It barely felt like Thanksgiving to me,” says Francesca Knoetgen (‘22). “So many traditions were missed… like going to my cousin’s house and my uncle cooking the meal.” Alexa Donovan’s (‘22) family had planned a socially distant dinner with her grandparents, but, unfortunately, it was canceled. “We became more nervous [as Thanksgiving approached] and had to sadly call it off,” explains Donovan. “It was a hard choice to make, but anything without masks had to be out of the question.” Tough decisions like these are becoming increasingly common as the winter months approach and COVID-19 continues to spread.

These students were far from alone in their scaled back family gatherings. On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the Transportation Security Administration reported that the number of travelers screened this year was less than half the number of travelers screened in 2019. This statistic does not account for the many car trips to relatives that also were canceled, including Knoetgen’s. 

Despite the various downsides of this year’s holiday, some students were able to find the positives aspects. “I think the small gatherings allowed a new level of intimacy to be achieved,” says Marion Karp (‘23). “This year’s Thanksgiving wasn’t anyone’s first choice, especially not mine, but [it was] unique and overall special.” It is important to look for moments of optimism and maintain a sense of buoyancy during this holiday season. “It was actually nice having an immediate-family Thanksgiving, and there is definitely still a lot to be thankful for,” reflects Seth Julie (‘22).  “The pandemic has given me time to think about how fortunate I am, and there is no better time to be grateful for all of that than Thanksgiving.”

Since this holiday season has already proved itself to be distinctly different from past years, the best thing to do is approach the holidays with a positive attitude.