If this were any other Thanksgiving, we’d all be rushing off to see our families. Who’s bringing which dish? Who gets to sit next to Uncle Steve? For me, my Thanksgiving ritual is to drive up to Maine where most of the my extended family lives, see my five young cousins who struggle to pronounce my name, and eat apple pie for dinner. This gathering would typically have twenty-five people all stuffed into a dining room barely big enough for ten and, for obvious reasons, that’s not happening this year.

As of writing, over 12 million people have been infected by the virus and over 250,000 have died in the United States, meaning the usual traditions can’t happen this year. It’s a bummer not to see loved ones, but it’s also important to accept the realities of Covid and be conscious of safety and care for yourself as well as others.

The risk of infecting our loved ones and the human need for social contact are in conflict this holiday. As American cases continue to rise, it becomes apparent that this choice and this state of events didn’t have to be inevitable. 

I’m not talking about the people who refuse to wear masks or use slogans like “My Body, My Choice” in bad faith, but am trying to stress how inadequate the American response to the virus has been for millions of people. Unemployment shows us how many people are on the brink of total financial collapse with a government who would rather throw trillions of dollars towards major corporations than helping its own people.

If you are at all confused on what economics has to do with an airborne disease, know that it is the poorest among us most likely to catch Covid-19. We should live in a world where your ability to avoid a deadly virus is not tied to your wealth or ability to feed yourself, but this is the cruel reality we face today. Even if we didn’t choose to get into this mess, we are stuck in it.

Thanksgiving is here. With plans disrupted for many and safety a momentous concern, how can we make the best of a bad and unjust situation?

Thanksgiving for One:

A simple and straightforward way of not catching the virus is to not be in the same room as another person. While it may be a bit isolating, it’s worth stressing to people that having to do things differently this year is not necessarily a bad thing. If you are strong enough to be alone this Thanksgiving, more power to you. The global pandemic is not strong enough to knock you down and you should be proud of that! Even Dr. Fauci is spending the holiday away from his kids.

A suggestion for what to do this Thanksgiving alone? Get creative! Light some candles. Do a cleansing ritual. Go for a walk. Drink some wine. Write some poetry. Make a pie from scratch. Order a Turkey online or watch a YouTube video on proper preparation techniques. Better yet, don’t eat turkey. Make this a pizza-themed Thanksgiving or prepare something vegan for the first time. Maybe you could watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving like you did as a kid, or maybe you can pass the hours watching this seemingly awful movie called Thankskilling. I have never seen either of these movies, but that’s the point. There is a strange comfort to watching trash. Americans, and the world at large, have never experienced something like this before. There is no normal when the world is upside down. 

Thanksgiving Goes Online:

Even though not all of us have access to the internet, and the internet we do have kind of sucks, the worldwide web allows us to experience gatherings in ways we have never imagined before. While some people have Skyped into a family gathering in the past, Zoom presents us with a future where we are each able to appear on each other’s screens at the same time. No more trying to fit everyone into a single webcam like in the past, we live in the future now!

One family decided to get crazy with their Thanksgiving plans by holding a socially distanced potluck. In this case, each of the three families involved will prepare a few meals, then shuttle each family a new meal by car while holding their event over Zoom. Even without complex logistics, the greater need for technology to connect families this year may allow loved ones who traditionally live too far away to be part of the festivities. There is plenty of room to experiment with the internet at our disposal.

Thanksgiving in Person:

No matter what the experts suggest, there are still people who will be traveling this holiday. If you know one of these people, please remind them to use caution wherever they can as no matter how safe you think you are, there is no such thing as “too safe.” Ensure everyone has been tested, eat with the windows open, have seating arrangements that respect social distancing, and remember to isolate for 14 days when you come back. Follow the CDC’s guidelines for more details. The key to seeing loved ones next year is staying safe this year.

What Comes Next?

It can be hard to remember this after living with this virus for eight months, but the virus will not last forever. Vaccines are in development and there will be a time in the future where the things we did right now feel alien. This virus has raised questions about the way we live that must not be left unanswered when the new normal is established. Why did employers push for workers to return despite the safety concerns and why did they go largely unpunished? What traditions do we cherish and which need to be reconsidered? You can ask these questions until you run out of breath, but the point I am trying to make is that nothing in this world is definitive, or black and white. 

The pandemic does not have to be just a tragedy. We can come out of this crisis more critical of injustice, closer to our families, and more willing to imagine a future beyond the reality we live in now. The creativity we reap into our struggles now has the possibility of blooming into something really beautiful when this is all over, or things can return to a pre-Covid status quo. The future is a choice as much as it is a process. Stay safe, eat good food, and think about what tomorrow might look like. 

Happy Holidays!