Here in the U.S., we are heading to one of our biggest feasting holidays—Thanksgiving. As those of us who follow the science know, COVID super-spreader events usually involve food and drink. People remove their masks, eat and drink and laugh and talk and sit around for hours, and then someone—or many someones—get ill.
As a result, all of the experts, as well as government officials, are asking (begging, really) that people do not gather over the holidays. Or if you’re going to have a holiday celebration, you do it with the people in your immediate household. Meaning if your adult children live across town, then you should have your celebration via Zoom, not in person.
For this year only.
Doing so ensures that everyone can gather in 2021. Not doing so will risk the most vulnerable among you.
I know, I know. The holidays are special. And we all have family traditions that we adore, traditions that we don’t want to give up.
But we need to alter them this year throughout the season.
So, as a person whose health forced her to give up so many of my family traditions more than a decade ago, let me give you some advice on how to get through a holiday like this one.
The key is your attitude. You can look at all you’ve lost—the usual gathering, Aunt Susie’s cranberry salad, the football games, the Black Friday shopping—or you can make the holidays strange and special.
Instead of looking at what you’ve lost, create something new. Look forward. Decide that this year, you’ll learn how to make pie crusts from scratch. Or you’ll binge-watch all of the holiday programs you loved as a kid. Or write the definitive holiday story yourself.
Go see the holiday lights in your hometown—from the safety of your car. Figure out something special to do on the day or days of your holiday, something you would not normally do in any given year.
One of my best memories comes not from the time I was sick or even the times I spent with friends and family, but on a cold and snowy New Year’s Eve. My ex-husband and I had no money at all. We couldn’t buy champagne or even a special meal.
But we both had ice skates. And we lived near a park with a free outdoor ice rink (really, a pond). We were the only people there. We sat on ice-covered benches, put on our skates, and skated (badly in my case) under a full moon. What could have been a diminished New Year’s Eve turned into one of the best.
I’ve had that experience a lot. In Lincoln City, when I was so sick, I took the time to learn how to make my mother’s kuchen. The recipe is old and has very few modern instructions (not even measurements or oven temperatures). The key to the kuchen is to knead it for an hour or more. I tried a bread maker one year, and it didn’t really work. The key was kneading by hand.
I would sit, every year, in front of the TV, watch a favorite movie, and knead kuchen. Then Dean and I would have it for breakfast for the week between Christmas and New Year. It was lovely.
I also make pies every Thanksgiving, because my grandmother asked me to one diminished Thanksgiving, when I couldn’t see my extended family. I went to my grandmother’s—and she assigned me pies.
She couldn’t cook, but she sure could bake. But she was slowing down, and so she honored me with the pies. (I’m sure she thought I was going to go to a bakery.) Ever since, I have made pies. The recipe changed as my health changed, but I make them, and think of her.
That’s a tradition unique to me. Not even to me and Dean. Just me.
Don’t forgo something you love because you’ll be by yourself this year. Figure out how to do it for yourself.
You’re special. Yes, we’re in a difficult time, and we’re going to have strange holidays.
But figure out how to make them special for you and yours. Don’t think about what’s missing. Figure out something you can add, something you can look forward to.
If you do that, you’ll experience the season in a new and enjoyable way.
© Can Stock Photo / skypicsstudio