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Thanksgiving in a pandemic



HVParent readers share their plans for the upcoming holidays

Readers share their plans for the upcoming holidays


The Coronavirus Pandemic has drastically altered and even halted much of life, but it can’t stop Thanksgiving from coming. People are still asking, “What are you doing for Thanksgiving?” 

Although in many cases the answers are quite different from what they’ve been in the past, Hudson Valley families are still planning to celebrate however they can. Eight months into this thing, we’ve all gotten pretty good at pivoting. Have Zoom, will (not) travel.

A big difference will be the size of gatherings. Only 60% of respondents to a HVP survey said they’d be enjoying the company of extended family. (At this writing, while our numbers are still relatively good, the region is seeing an uptick in Covid-19 cases, so that percentage is likely to fall.)


We will celebrate the holidays in our own home and keep things just to the four of us,” says Krista, of Carmel. She and her thirteen-year-old and six-year-old plan to “make phone calls and, in some cases have a Zoom call that will incorporate grandparents. We also plan to make a trip to drop gifts to them and along the drive see some holiday lights.”

With exasperation, but resignation, Lee, of Kingston, mother of a one-year-old and a three-year-old, says, “As a New York Times article stated: ‘if you care about your family, stay away from them.’ We'll be distancing to keep immune compromised grandparents safe.”

“We will not be going to my in-laws for a traditional five-course Thanksgiving meal for forty people,” says Jessica, of Newburgh, mother of a seven and an eight-year-old. “The host has serious health issues. We will not be visiting Santa at the mall. I will be hosting both Thanksgiving and Christmas and close extended family will be included.” 

Samy, of Fishkill, mother of a nine-year-old and a fourteen-year-old, is philosophical. “On the outside, it will appear to be much more lonely and different than other years,” she says. “On the inside, we’re still grateful to have our immediate family.”

READ MORE: Easy Ways to Keep Kids Entertained at Thanksgiving

As difficult as it is to accept the need to alter long-held, annual plans, it’s worth noting that Thanksgiving, more then most American holidays, has gone through many permutations since “the First Thanksgiving” of 1621.

 The commemoration of that post-harvest feast shared by Pilgrims and indigenous Wampanoag was on-again, off-again until Abraham Lincoln. He officially proclaimed it a national day of "Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” Ulysses S. Grant made it a federal holiday. FDR made the “fourth Thursday in November” date ironclad.

It’s only in modern times that stores put out Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving. For decades, to do so was considered “bad taste.” Imagine that.

As eras passed, traditions coalesced into our now familiar national customs. First and foremost is the Thanksgiving tradition of gathering with families and friends of all faiths (or no faith) to express gratitude.

On the downside, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving has long been one of the heaviest travel days, causing automobile traffic and flight delays of epic proportions. (Remember that?) Then there’s “Black Friday,” the day after Thanksgiving, often the biggest shopping day of the year, with sales, crammed malls, and shoppers hell-bent on getting the most holiday gifts for their dollar. And who could forget football?

Needless to say, 2020 will be different. NFL Football is still on (three games!), as is a socially-distanced, small-scale Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, but, due to strict limits on capacity no visitors will be allowed on the parade route and there will be no swarms of Black Friday shoppers. For bargain-hunters, this might be a welcome change, but for business owners, not so much. Many have long come to regard Black Friday as a retail windfall, the day they go “in the black,” financially speaking. (Amazon will continue to thrive.) Yet, businesses will press on, and no doubt they will be grateful for your socially distanced dollars.

Air travel is dramatically reduced, and, at this writing, Governor Cuomo has issued a mandatory 14-day quarantine on anyone entering New York from 41 states, as well as all but 31 countries. Although the state-to-state travel quarantine is technically hard to enforce, it will certainly cause more travel cancellations.

While a lesser percentage of respondents to our survey are not considering altering many plans, most are taking the pandemic quite seriously, and resignedly.

“Not all of us will be able to get together,” Edwina, of Pine Bush, mother of two adult children, says. “We have vulnerable age groups and illnesses, and we will miss not having everyone. Safety is more important.”

READ MORE: 30 days, 30 ways to give thanks

Jean, Northport mother of a seven-year-old, says, “We will have a smaller group. One grandparent has a condition that keeps him isolated, so he and his wife will not be joining us.”

Despite all of these and other unpleasant changes the pandemic has forced upon us, some Hudson Valley parents are making lemonade from lemons by creating new traditions.

“Unfortunately, we won’t be able to see extended family,” Sarah, Beacon mother of a twenty-month-old, a six-year-old, and an eight-year-old, says. “So we plan to incorporate new traditions with our kids – sending Holiday cards with a photo to family members. We’re going to get plenty of time outdoors to jump in the snow, make snowmen, and angels!”

“It is my daughter’s first Thanksgiving,” says Kristin, of Campbell Hall. “It will be with the grandparents at our home and Zoom with extended family.”

Julie, of Warwick, mother of a two, six, and an eight-year-old, plans to pay tribute to faraway loved ones with cherished recipes. “We are only having immediate family,” she says. “But we will make all the family tradition recipes that each family member would bring so it feels like all the family is with us.”

Lori, Newburgh mother of a nine-year-old, says that even though it’ll be just her husband and their child, “We are going to have a great holiday as a family. We will use Zoom to connect with other family and friends.”

While the pandemic has taken away so much, it has also clarified a few things, like the importance of maintaining and protecting health – both ours and others’ – and the preciousness of loved ones, particularly elders. For many, in a world of growing uncertainty, knowing your family is with you in some way can bear you up through these difficult times. Connecting, whether “in real life,” or via Zoom, is a top priority, and thankfully more possible through technology. Shopping, football, and feasting are great, but now more than ever, nothing compares to the abiding love of family. For that, we give the deepest thanks, and celebrate however possible.

Happy Thanksgiving from HVP!



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