It’s that time of year again. Thanksgiving is traditionally a time spent with the people you love but can only take in small doses — all while taking in large doses of food, football and libations. This year, turkey day and other winter holidays around the world will be much different for most. Here’s some guidance on how to prepare for an unprecedented version of an already challenging holiday.
Sean Braswell, senior writer
home for the (pandemic) holidays
1. Whoa, Canada…
Canada is dealing with the aftermath of its own Thanksgiving. Three weeks after celebrating its holiday in October, the country is seeing a national spike in COVID-19 cases despite widespread mask-wearing mandates. That’s one reason the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its holiday guidance amid a new surge in U.S. cases, recommending celebrants stay at home or gather outdoors in small groups. The CDC also advised would-be hosts to encourage guests to bring their own food and to avoid potluck-style gatherings.
Thanksgiving 2020 will require some creative readjustments to many holiday traditions. Many Americans will be replacing the traditional touch football game with a small family hike. Others will be sitting down to enjoy their meals together via videoconference. The downside: Thanksgiving chefs attempting to coordinate the preparation of multiple dishes will need to coordinate the timing of the meal delivery across multiple households. The upside: You can mute your crazy uncle on Zoom if need be.
3. Kids’ Tables for Everyone!
Trying to find the humor in these pandemic times will also be essential. New York comedian Matt Buechele offers up his own list of fanciful Thanksgiving precautions in a video on Twitter, from several kids’ tables and water balloons filled with gravy to a mask for the turkey and shooting the wishbone with your cousin’s gun. “Before we eat, everyone’s going to go around the table,” Buechele quips, “and say one thing they’re thankful for and one thing they scream into their pillow at night.” Sounds about right.
The Thanksgiving meal won’t be the only holiday tradition impacted by COVID-19. The consumer onslaught known as Black Friday will likely be muted as well. So why not make this the year that you spend more on Giving Tuesday than Black Friday? The #GivingTuesday movement created by the 92nd Street Y in New York City in 2012, and the charity that ensued from a single hashtag has been remarkable. Plus, when you give, you feel happier, more fulfilled and empathetic. And who couldn’t use more of that right now?
The evidence is clear: Masks reduce the spread of COVID-19. If you are planning an in-person gathering over the holidays with others outside your household, health officials advise that those preparing or serving food for guests wear a mask. So what do you do if a relative of yours refuses to wear one?
2. Mask Your Contempt
If faced with a mask-averse participant, social psychologists say it is important not to talk down to them. Name-calling and condescension rarely win people over. Instead, try figuring out their motivations for not wearing one and where they fall on the spectrum of mask wearing. Emphasize compassion and empathy and how wearing a mask will protect the most vulnerable in the group. And remember: Asking someone to wear one rather than just telling them to is always better.
3. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner Without One?
It may depend on who is in your family. According to an August Gallup poll, just 42 percent of white people wear masks outdoors when social distancing is not possible, compared to 60 percent of nonwhite people. Democrats were almost three times as likely to mask up outside as Republicans, and women were far more likely to do so than men.
Also remember: Weird or unpopular behaviors can, and do, often become cultural norms, especially when they limit harm. Remember the smoking section of the airplane? People under the age of 40 today do not. And social norms can also change rapidly: In one recent online experiment conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, the critical mass for such a norm change was about 25 percent of participants. And despite early resistance and noisy no-mask protests, 92 percent of Americans asked in a recent Morning Consult poll say they wear a face mask when leaving their home.
Of course, mask wearing may be the least of your disagreements with relatives over the socially distanced table. This Thanksgiving arrives against the backdrop of a pandemic and a contentious election across a highly divided nation and racial justice reckoning. Can you share a meal with your family members across the aisle and keep it respectful? Here are a few tips.
2. Picking Your Battles
The age of social media algorithms and bubbles has meant that our willingness to listen — and learn — from disparate viewpoints seems to be at an all-time low. Many families have just agreed not to talk about politics, and it might be best to save your ammunition for another day. If you are confronted with a holiday squabble, experts recommend you ask yourself questions like: “Do I need to have this conversation now?” “Am I trying to understand or just pick a fight?” “Will I actually change anyone’s mind?”
3. Finding Common Ground
Instead of rehashing tired arguments, seek new common ground. The Awareness, Courage and Love Global Project, a nonprofit dedicated to human connection, recommends that you get away from current events and ask the age-old questions instead: “How did your parents meet?” “Who was your hero when you were a kid?” “Did you have a teacher who made a difference in your life?”
4. Take a Deep Breath…
And if the holiday stress is still too much, there is an app for that. Calm offers guided meditations to take you out of your head and into the world of relaxation. The app offers “sleep stories” — short audio stories that slowly lead you into a peaceful slumber, narrated by the world’s most soothing voices, like English actor Stephen Fry. The app also has a “Calm Body” section, with videos showing you how to move and stretch your limbs to let go of stress and quiet your mind.
Don’t miss this ESPN legend’s most open interview yet. You may know Mike “Greeny” Greenberg for his hot takes in the sports world, but today he gets real with Carlos to discuss race in sports and the importance of vulnerability in discussions about mental health. You’ll never guess what the “Mike and Mike” host’s first dream job was.
In some cases, alcohol will be the only viable social lubricant for the holidays. So why not try the most viscous, teeth-achingly sweet, nutritionally bankrupt beverage you can possibly imbibe? Eggnog is child’s play compared to the Tom & Jerry. The ingredients for the “batter” could not be more elemental: eggs, white sugar, brown sugar, nutmeg and, for the adult version, your booze of choice. (Try it with equal parts rum and brandy.) After one or two, the adults will be relaxed and the kids swooning from the sugar high.
Has quarantine freed you from the tyranny of Thanksgiving turkey this year? Why not try something bold, beefy and British: the mighty Yorkshire pudding. Crispy and fluffy, carby and comforting, it has all the essentials: meat, potatoes, a handful of veg and lots and lots of gravy. Don’t let the word “pudding” throw you — this savory treat from England’s largest county is essentially a pancake that has risen up into the shape of a crispy cup.
Some people watch football on Thanksgiving, others revel in annual roving balloon inflations, and some of us enjoy a turkey-day tradition of watching Steve Martin and John Candy in the classic 1980s comedy Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Inspired by a delayed trip from Chicago to New York City, John Hughes (of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and The Breakfast Club fame) wrote, directed and produced the film, a buddy journey about two grown-ass traveling men trying to get home for turkey, thrown together by myriad mishaps that’ll make your holiday problems seem slight by comparison.