A year ago, in this space, I wrote about the tips I had learned from Priya Parker in her book, The Art of Gathering, as we looked ahead to gathering with family and friends to celebrate all that we are thankful for. Since then, this invisible virus has tainted the idea of gathering itself, requiring us to weigh the merits of coming together in person against the health and safety of ourselves and those we love. So, what to make of this year's celebration? Knowing that it would break my parents' hearts, I nonetheless had to tell them that we'd rather be safe than sorry, and so we'll be apart this Thanksgiving. I have been giving considerable thought now to how we might recover what makes the holiday special, even from a distance.
Every tradition starts somewhere. As with the classroom experience, the pandemic has forced new and innovative ways of thinking about approaching the simple rituals and traditions that we celebrate year after year. That can be true for you and yours as you consider the holidays, too. Is this the year that far-away family members who usually cannot make the journey can join in the festivities via Zoom? Does that traditional family board game or puzzle have an online equivalent that could include more people than when playing in person?
There can still be a 'kid's table.' Trust me on this: if your children are old enough, if you ask them to set up a call with their cousins so that they can celebrate the holiday together, not only will they do it, but they will find joy in it. No one should read this and assume that I believe a digital connection is better than the real thing. Still, any connection is better than none, and—especially after the year they've already had—the children will connect without missing a beat. Encourage them to make space for this connection if that is an important part of your holiday traditions. They'll be grateful for the nudge in that direction.
Gratitude works remotely, too. This is the season of giving thanks, and while the opportunity to do so over a turkey leg is undoubtedly better in person, that doesn't mean that gratitude can't travel. So, back to Priya Parker's advice: be intentional about the gratitude you give—not just to whom you give it, but how. Have you considered the card you might send? Have you scheduled the family Zoom call? If not, I encourage you to do so. The absence of family and friends will feel especially pronounced during the holidays, so anything you can do with intention to connect will be welcome by all.
This, too, shall pass. I have been buoyed this week by the reports from Pfizer and Moderna. It would seem that the news we have all been craving—a viable vaccine that the venerable Dr. Fauci thinks may be available to the general public around April—has arrived, and for that, we should all be grateful. The pandemic is an unforgettable moment in time, and our children are primary sources that will be studied for years to come. I'm not advocating that anyone offer their turkey dinner as an anthropological study—even if your family's meal might make an excellent case! Instead, I suggest seeing the importance in your togetherness through this most difficult time, even if that 'togetherness' doesn't look the same as it usually might or will again.
The truth: this will be a different and likely a challenging holiday season for everyone. I hope that despite the challenges the pandemic has created that you will still find room for the spirit of the season to enter your home and your heart and enjoy it together, even as we have to be apart.