Saturday, November 21, 2020

A Very Covid Thanksgiving


Friends, I suspect that the upcoming holidays are going to be a challenge for many of us. With Covid cases at a sharp incline many places around the country, Thanksgiving is bound to feel different than in ordinary years. Whether or not we feel we can “celebrate” thanksgiving this year, I would encourage you to “observe” the holiday.

So much in our lives has been disrupted that it can be disorienting. Just this week, several people told me they missed meetings because they “forgot what day it was.” If we are sheltering at home most days, they all can begin to run together. I believe this is one of the reasons we have holidays- to orient us in the year, and to create a contrast to our strange new “ordinary” days.

My own family has decided we will not travel this season. We are going to observe the holiday in our own households. I have no small amount of sadness about that- but I know that we forego being together in person this year so that we can celebrate together next year. Surely this strange thanksgiving of 2020 will stand out in our memories in years to come. Since the holiday will not be usual, we can’t count on the usual landmarks of the day, whatever they may be for your family. So I encourage you to proactively make a plan for how you will observe this very strange Thanksgiving.

Fortunately, we can be creative with our observances- while we respect tradition, we know that humans created those traditions and so we are empowered to make new ones. Maybe you will still dress in your holiday finest and sit down to Turkey dinner for one, or however many are in your household. Perhaps you’ll set your phone or computer at the other end of the table and share pumpkin pie with a friend or relative through video magic. Doesn’t feel right? Perhaps instead you will stay in your pajamas all day, order a pizza and watch a Star Trek marathon, enjoy the autumn day walking outside, or fold 1000 paper cranes. Here are some usual parts of a holiday observance to consider:

  • Food: What food would feel special or comforting, decadent or healing?
  • Dress: Is there something fun you don’t usually wear that might be fun or meaningful?
  • Connecting: it is particularly important that we reach out to one another. Bring to mind folks who would make you feel better if you were sad, who would be fun to connect with if you were ready for fun. Bring to mind folks who might be lonely and would appreciate a call, text, video chat or letter from you.
  • Decorating: Is there some way you’d like to change the space where you will spend Thanksgiving? You could bring in leaves and pinecones from the outside, or get out Gramma’s special occasion tablecloth, or make a blanket fort in the living room.
  • Giving: Many observances are marked by finding ways to give. Donate money online or by check. Take a box of food to the local food pantry. Drop packages of pumpkin cookies on the porches of your neighbors and run away giggling.
  • History: the American Thanksgiving story we were taught in school does not acknowledge the painful and oppressive reality of the Indigenous peoples who lived on this land for thousands of years before colonists arrived. This day is observed as a Day of Mourning for many indigenous people. Consider taking some time to learn more about history, perhaps even joining into the UU Teach In on the subject.
  • Gratitude: Scientists tell us that taking just a few minutes to call to mind things you are grateful for is good for both physical and mental health. Start small- food to eat, a roof over your head,  people you care about who care about you…

When the holidays finally come, hold your plans loosely. Sometimes the thing we thought would make us giggle makes us sad. If you had meant to be solemn and mournful and find yourself giggling so be it. Give authority to the present moment. There are a lot of feelings to feel this year. Allow yourself permission to drop your plan and call a friend, take a walk, take a nap, and give yourself time to process whatever arises for you.

Blessings for your Holiday Observance.

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