Handling the Thanksgiving holiday away from home


Zach Gilbert

One Nebraskan shares her personal experience with altering her family’s typical Thanksgiving activities around COVID-19. Photo courtesy of Pexels.

In response to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommendations on how to adapt typical Thanksgiving activities around the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, families across the country made massive changes to their usual holiday plans this year.

Because the CDC continually warned against crowded in-person gatherings, many families opted to either cancel Thanksgiving festivities altogether or get creative with how to stay connected from afar through technology or food delivery services.

One Nebraskan, Abby Whalen, spoke on how she and her family personally made adjustments to their common holiday customs in light of the CDC’s recommendations.

“In a typical year, I [would’ve eaten] a midday meal with my parents, my sister, my brother-in-law and their children,” Whalen said. “However, we all came to the conclusion independently that we would [need to] spend the day separately this year due to COVID-19.”

Like many Americans, members of Whalen’s family have health conditions that rendered a safe in-person gathering impossible. In addition, some – including Whalen, a local educator at Elkhorn High School – had jobs that might put others in danger.

“My parents are both in their sixties and diabetic,” Whalen said. “My sister’s kids are physically in school, as am I. Even with school masking politics, the risk to my parents’ health was not worth it.”

Regardless, Whalen and her family were able to cultivate some form of familial connection on Thanksgiving Day, due to alternative means of interaction and communication.

“I first made sure to FaceTime with my sister and her kids,” Whalen said. “And later, my parents brought me cheesecake and left the plate on my porch while we talked from a twenty-foot distance for a while.”

For the rest of the day, even though Whalen was apart from her loved ones, she thought of much to be grateful for and found comfort in creating a feast for herself.

“I prepared food I like rather than the typical Thanksgiving meal,” Whalen said. “That meant I replaced turkey with a thick-cut ribeye, although I did still make myself a few deviled eggs, a traditional side in my family. I then ate at my dining room table and felt thankful for a delicious dinner and for my health.”

Though others still may feel forlorn at missing out on quality family time, Whalen has come to look at Thanksgiving as a luxury and not a guarantee due to multiple missed celebrations over the years.

“I worked retail for six years, so I [had to skip] many Thanksgivings for ‘Gray Thursday’ sales, including one year when I had to be at work at 1:30 p.m.,” Whalen said. “Having Thanksgiving as a day for family is a privilege I have not always had, so that left me emotionally prepared for this year.”

Going forward, the CDC will continue to warn all Americans against additional holiday gatherings in the coming weeks, including those centered around Christmas or New Year’s Eve.

“The safest way to celebrate [a holiday] is to celebrate at home with the people you live with,” the CDC states on their website. “Gatherings with friends and family who do not live with you can increase [your] chances of getting or spreading COVID-19.”