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Here we are, approaching another holiday during a pandemic. Many are undecided regarding how they will celebrate Thanksgiving this year. 

It’s one of those holidays that often happens without much planning, because … it’s surrounded in tradition. Aunt Louise always brings the green bean casserole. Grandma makes the rolls because nobody can do them like her. The men say, “Let’s wait for pie,” and watch football while the women clean up the mess – just in time to make more mess when the pie is served. 

It’s so steeped in tradition that this anything but traditional year makes it difficult for people to plan.

I polled friends and family asking them, “How will you be celebrating this year? Has COVID-19 or the economy caused you to alter your traditional plans?”

 Their answers ranged from depressed to hopeful.

Leslie Frederiksen from southwest Idaho complained, “Trashed our plans. It is what it is … no Frederiksen gathering this year. We haven’t been to eastern Idaho at all this year. We haven’t gone anywhere at all.”

From Cheri, a nurse, “Yeah ... we’re just having family over. If somebody is worrying about getting sick, they probably should stay home.”

From a friend who lives on the East Coast far from her immediate family came this response.

“We’ll be home, but not sure about our usual orphans’ dinner … We invite friends who don’t have family close by for dinner. Sometimes we’ve even had strangers who become friends. Anybody that needs a place to eat can come. Everyone gets sent home with leftovers. They’ve been so much fun. We’ve had Aussies, Italians, Spaniards, Muslims, and Christians at the same table, and it’s been wonderful.”

Locally, things are a bit more traditional. 

St. Francis Catholic Church of Valier will hold a 9 a.m. Mass on Thanksgiving Day. 

Andy Van Haur invited, “You can come to our place, always room for more.”

“We’re having a funeral for the turkey at baby brother’s house,” offered Trina Jo Bradley. 

Melissa Willis had some suggestions of ways to celebrate cautiously. “Growing up we would bake pies and leave them for neighbors with a chain letter to pass along pies to others. We have Thanksgiving with just us and video chat family to stay in touch and giggle at the chaos in each other’s homes.”

My oldest son is invited, but he is on work-related travel restrictions due to the pandemic. He asked, “How well do cookies do in the mail?”

Ron, an old friend, offered hope for the cookies. “My mom made Christmas cookies for me when I was on my mission. She took them to the church cannery and put in sealed cans with popcorn to cushion them. They made it to Thailand (on a boat for three months) in great shape.”

A few ways to connect while maintaining distance that might require a little learning and preparation are Google Meet, Zoom, Facetime, and Marco Polo. It’s not the same as in person, but friends and family can still meet face to face. 

So, what will you do? Will you mourn the loss of traditions, or make the most of an opportunity to try something new? 

Perhaps it’s time to begin a tradition of serving from afar by writing notes of gratitude and mailing or delivering goodies and gifts. After all, this tradition packed holiday is founded on gratitude. Even with the continual changes of 2020 there is still much for which to be grateful. 

Nadeen McCracken of Conrad has seen a lot of Thanksgivings come and go. She optimistically suggested, “We can look on the bright side, you can still smell food through a mask.”

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