My longtime friend Christine grew up in the Chicago and most of her large extended family are still firmly rooted in the Midwest. Thanksgiving has always been the time her family gathered. Much more than Christmas, this is the time for tradition—the same favorite recipes—no deviation, ever. Annual walks along the shores of Lake Michigan, holiday shopping along the magnificent mile. As long as I can remember, she braved long lines, colds and flu, pregnancy, snowstorms and airport closures to be with her family at Thanksgiving.
They’ve been frantically emailing and texting for the last few months. Time has taken its toll. Many family members are now in the high-risk group—older, with conditions that make them vulnerable to infection. One nephew has asthma, an uncle recently had a kidney transplant. They’ve considered gathering as usual, but excluding those who are high-risk. But for those who need to fly to the Midwest for the holiday, there is too much resistance. This family will put off their traditional Thanksgiving for the first time in more than 50 years.
“I’m not going to tell people not to have a family gathering, because mental health is important,” says epidemiologist Saskia Popescu, PhD, an assistant professor at George Mason University. “But I can’t in good conscience say, ‘Yeah, it’s okay to have a big celebration.’ There is no 100% safe way for two households to get together for the holidays in any area where Covid is circulating, which currently includes the entire United States.”
Airplanes have good ventilation and air filtering, but you can’t control who sits near you. If one of those passengers is shedding virus, your risk rises.
We’re all on edge. The chaos of the campaign and the election. An uncertain economy, the insecurity of our jobs—the added responsibility for schooling our kids. Covid adds another layer of ambiguity and fear.
“If you’re the person who’s ready to walk through the door at Aunt Jen’s house, know that your siblings, cousins, and other family members may not be comfortable joining you. We suffer a lot because we are waiting for things to change, as opposed to accepting what is,” says Karen Dobkins, Ph.D, a professor of psychology at UC San Diego. The holidays will be different this year, and there’s no use crying over the loss. Once you’ve accepted the insanity that is 2020, you’re ready to take the next important step.”
Rather than fighting the inevitable change and mourning the loss of your traditional holiday, create a new tradition.
Being together, being grateful for what you have. It’s been a tough year. Celebrate!
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