DEAR DR. JENN,
With COVID-19 numbers rising and health experts in my parent’s state recommending people not celebrate Thanksgiving with those who don’t live in their own home, we have chosen to stay home. My man and I are going to be celebrating the holiday together but attempting to do a zoom with his parents, his sister, my parents, my brother, and both our grandparents. How do we make this bizarre pandemic holiday celebration connected and special? Right now it just feels depressing that we can't physically be together. —Covid Holiday Blues
DEAR COVID HOLIDAY BLUES,
You are making a very smart but difficult choice to forgo this year’s in-person celebration for the greater good and to protect the health of those that you love. These sacrifices are tough — but worth it. As one woman who recently lost a parent to Covid said, “You are lucky to be able to forgo one holiday in order to have many more in the future.”
1. Cook together in advance of the meal.
I have taken a few cooking classes via Zoom during the pandemic and it can be a nice way to have family members teach you how to cook a dish, have some company while you are cooking, and connect while spending a long time in the kitchen. (The good news is, Zoom has lifted their usual 40-minute time limit on Thanksgiving to allow people to connect with their families as long as they'd like.)
2. Don’t Zoom with everybody the entire time.
Break it down into courses. Do hors d’oeuvres with your boyfriend's parents, starter course with the siblings, the main course with the parents, and dessert with everyone. Having too many people on a zoom call makes it too chaotic and prevents conversations from being heard.
3. Designate a host for the event.
For all of the group interactions, have one fun outgoing person who takes charge. It can also be helpful to have one relative who handles all of the technology questions and helps people work through problems. (Most families know who the tech genius is off the bat.)
4. Coordinate at least one recipe with everyone.
Either have someone share a family recipe that you usually have during Thanksgiving, or make a plan to try cooking or baking something in advance that you all agree on. This way you can all share the taste experience from afar.
5. Get dressed up and decorate.
One of the things that make holidays so fun is that they are different than a regular dinner. Even though you are far from your loved ones, get into the spirit by decorating using Thanksgiving colors, and put on your Thanksgiving best.
6. Make sure to talk about what you are thankful for.
When we're going through a tough patch, it's easy to forget to be grateful. Thanksgiving is a nice reminder that we still have so much to be grateful for despite the hard times.
7. Make a donation to a meaningful cause.
If you can afford to, make a donation to a charity that is meaningful to you and your family in all of your names. For example, every year my family who does not eat meat donates to Farm Sanctuary to save a turkey from slaughter. There are so many people who are down on their luck right now and so many great organizations. Even if you are not rolling in dough, it can make you feel really good to donate a few dollars to help someone in need.
8. Share some music.
Create a shared playlist to use as background music that will get you in the holiday spirit.
9. Make sure to take a family photo of your Zoom memory.
As tragic and frustrating a time as it is right now, it's a unique memory that you will want to look back on one day. We'll all undoubtedly be telling our children and grandchildren about the Thanksgiving where we were all quarantined.