A Socially-Distant Thanksgiving Bites, But That isn’t Stopping Us from #WeavingCommunity

by Jaclyn Clark

Thanksgiving is huge for my extended family. We start planning the next one even before we finish the leftovers from this one.

My family usually makes a week-long festivity of the American Thanksgiving holiday. We start on Tuesday with an intimate dinner with out-of-towners. The festivities grow each night, with Friday night holding the largest family celebration of around 50, exceeding the capacity of any of the family homes and requiring us to rent a private room at a favorite bar and restaurant.

Jaclyn with her cousins during Thanksgiving last year
Jaclyn with her cousins during Thanksgiving last year

Like for so many families, 2020 has created a devastatingly less festive Thanksgiving for us. When we realized we wouldn’t be able to celebrate in our usual way, it was very emotional for everyone. But we quickly wiped the tears and did everything we could to plan a Thanksgiving that would at least give us a taste of what we had before.

Our goal was to continue #WeavingCommunity, even in a year of disconnection, so our plan had three parts:

  1. The annual Thanksgiving Toast…via email. Our tradition is to give a well thought out toast that incorporates humor to recap the last year – my sister and I write it and perform it at our mother’s house Thursday evening before dinner. My sister came up with the brilliant idea of crafting an email, not with a reflection of the year, but instead a recognition of our feelings and emotions this year, capped with a list of streaming shows and movies our family should add to their lists to help us get through these emotions during the long winter months ahead.
  2. Same meal, different rooms. We all love the staples of our Thanksgiving buffet every year and how each household brings their traditional dishes. We decided to continue that tradition, with a twist. Each family will make their dish and portion it out for each household. I’m responsible for cookies, so I made my many batches and put each portion in a plastic bag. For those who were able to strictly quarantine for 2 weeks, we’ll meet at my mom’s house, take our portions and eat inside but at separate tables. For those of us unable to strictly quarantine, we will pick up our portions at the door, take them home, and Zoom in to the gathering. Of course, that doesn’t work for all the out-of-towners who live hundreds of miles away, so we had to add one more element.

    Jaclyn's mother teaching family how to cook appetizers over a Zoom video all
    Jaclyn’s mother teaching family how to cook appetizers over a Zoom call
  3. Zoom cooking tutorials. For example, each year, my mom owns preparing the appetizers. So she created a Zoom session two days before Thanksgiving to show our far-flung family how to make her traditional appetizers themselves. (That’s what you are seeing in the photo.)

This year may be very different and, in many ways, more emotional than before. But we are doing the best we can to be honest about our feelings of loss and thanks, create a bit of normalcy across the physical distancing, and still enjoy the comfort food we love and need now more than ever.

How are you #WeavingCommunity this Thanksgiving? Post your story to social media and share with friends to help us all celebrate our creative celebrations this year.

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