Our holidays are going to look really different this year, so that we can keep each other and our communities safe. For some, it might be difficult and lonely to think about heading into the holidays where we can’t see the loved ones we usually do. But it’s also an opportunity to get creative with technology, long-distance connection, and create new traditions! So we asked staff from Caring Across Generations and Hand in Hand how they’re navigating the holiday season this year. We hope that this can help spark ideas, and provide comfort that staying home really means we are in this together.
“Even though we moved across the country to be closer to family and friends and help support virtual school and the general caregiving needs of my partner’s sister, we won’t be spending Thanksgiving with anyone at all this year. Instead, we’ll do the finishing touches on our new home: hang art, roll out the rug, touch-up the paint on the windowsills. We’ll have a fire in the yard and yes, we’ll still eat delicious foods. We’ll take long walks to continue to discover our new home, and we’ll fill our time with books and radio, maybe a jigsaw puzzle or a movie. We’re all getting used to something new this year, and once our house is in good order, we’ll be ready, as soon as it’s safe, to fill it up with people we love.”
– Erika Sklar, National Organizer, Hand in Hand, Virginia
“I’m high-risk for COVID and I live alone, so I’ve spent the majority of this year really distanced from other people. I’ve seen my mom and sister most consistently because they live together, have been very careful, and have brought me groceries and other things. To be safe, we’re going to stay at our respective apartments so I’ll be alone (aside from my goofy dog) and we’re going to have a FaceTime dinner where we eat the same food and watch a movie. I’ve bought some taper candles and put up some twinkly lights to create a cozy atmosphere, and the day after Thanksgiving my entire family (there are a lot of us) are going to get on what will surely be a chaotic Zoom call to have some time together.”
– Katie O’Connell, Digital Director, Caring Across Generations, Virginia
“Honestly, my 5-year old, my partner and I were all really disappointed to cancel our plans to spend Thanksgiving with my parents, sisters and their families. But we’re starting to get into planning our ‘Tiny this-is-how-we-keep-our-community-safe Thanksgiving.’ We each picked a dish or two that we really want for the meal. Cranberry sauce, brussel sprouts, southern style mac n’ cheese, square fish (a dish we have never heard of or had for any meal, but my kid thinks should be on the menu so we’re making it!) The thing that I expect will really make the holiday fun is the brand new disco light we purchased for what promises to be epic nightly dance parties.”
– Tara Polansky, Digital Strategist, Hand in Hand, Maine
“My family has gotten lots of practice doing video calls even before the pandemic because my older sister is on the east coast, so it’ll be easy to hop on to check in and virtually share our household menus! I’m sure my younger sister will also lead us in a go around of appreciations – What we’re grateful for – like she’s done at previous gatherings. In terms of food, it’s also my partner’s birthday and so we’re making his favorite Japanese foods instead of turkey.”
– Stacy Kono, Executive Director, Hand in Hand, California
“Growing up, and even today, Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday because it meant time with my cousins, grandparents and aunties and uncles unencumbered by the stress of gift giving. (Learning about the ugly history this holiday has taken away any feelings of celebrating it as a national holiday, but hasn’t changed its importance in our family as a time to connect.) This was the one holiday where both sides of my family came together under one roof to be together. There was no stress about gifts or feelings getting hurt. Just people together for five hours eating delicious food, catching up, sharing stories (and often a contingent of people watching or checking the score of one of the many American football games being played that day).
So this year, when such a gathering isn’t possible, we’ve decided to gather just with my parents and my brother. We will be seven, when usually we are 27. We have gotten COVID tested but still plan to wear masks when not eating, keep the windows open, and wear coats and warm hats to stay warm while inside. And, we will be zooming in with the rest of the family. My expectations for the larger family zoom while eating our respective meals are pretty low, but I do look forward to seeing others that we normally connect with. I am grateful that I can be with my parents and brother and that my kids can be with their grandparents on this holiday. And I am grateful that we can afford to eat a big turkey dinner, when so many families cannot. I look forward to next year when hopefully we can be back in person with my entire family.”
– Lindsay Imai Hong, CA Director, Hand in Hand, California
“Since the early summer, my partner and I have been periodically quarantining and getting tested at least ten days in advance for weeklong visits to my brother and my mom, who is 78 and these days finding it harder to cook and care for the house. We actually bought a car (which as NY’ers thought we’d never do!) to see them without worrying we’d infect them, which I could never forgive myself for. Sensing things could get hairy by Thanksgiving, we visited in October when keeping windows open was doable, even though we haven’t changed our own behavior much since April – and will spend this holiday apart for the first time since I can remember. Honestly, I think my brother will be happy not to make the turkey 🙂 We’re hoping for a Christmas visit when things may be more shut down so the community spread is less, the pressures on the labs is less, the testing lines are shorter (though we always make the extra drive for drive-through testing for fear of getting sick in line or indoors at urgent care) – and we can enjoy more time as a family together. In the absence of federal coordination that could have gotten Covid under control and treated care as the truly shared responsibility that it is, it’s been constantly thinking ahead and individually weighing the risks. With all that said, I’m deeply grateful for my family’s overall health and well-being and that we can weather this storm.”
– Janet Kim, Communications Director, Caring Across Generations, New York