How will you handle the 2020 holidays?
For years we have spent holidays with my mom’s side of the family. On Thanksgiving, the pasta course comes before the turkey. Christmas Eve is the feast of the seven fishes and Easter is a family egg hunt, even if the youngest cousins are now in college. This is my Italian side, so the conversations are fast paced, loud and filled with teasing and laughter. Every invitation is met with “What can I bring?” and even if the answer is “nothing,” you simply do not show up empty handed.
My heart hurt when my cousin asked this question. Easter was supposed to be at mom’s house this year, but in abundance of caution, we canceled and had a family Zoom call instead. It was not the same.
Like all families this year, we have a difficult decision to make. Do we spend time with extended family or keep strict COVID-19 protections in place?
I held back my knee jerk response of “Oh, we would love to.” Instead, I said “Let me talk to mom and see how she feels. I suspect that she will not feel comfortable.” I’ll be honest here. If it was just me, I would have said “yes” immediately. But mom is in the high-risk category and I wanted her to decide if she is comfortable in a large size gathering in someone’s home. We have not put ourselves in that situation since last Christmas Eve.
We had several intentional discussions about logistics this week. We discussed who would be attending, how they are currently living their lives and how long we would be at the family gathering. We talked through how we could socially distance by eating not at the family table, but at a separate table in an adjacent room.
Mom had valid concerns but could not seem to make up her mind. I finally said, “Mom, if you don’t feel comfortable with going, then we should not go.” She finally admitted that she felt bad that I could not go because of her. “Mom, of course I would love to go and I know you would as well. But I want you safe and to feel comfortable with the situation. Let’s tell Sue not this year.”
I love that my mother was honest with me about her reasons for not wanting to go and her reasons make absolute sense according to the CDC guidelines for the holidays.
- Many members of the extended family are back to work or, in one case, a college campus. We know they are taking precautions, but we can’t control the people they interact with on a daily basis.
- It would be a large gathering – 16 people – from multiple households and different areas of New Jersey.
- It would be impossible for every person attending to quarantine for 14 days prior to getting together. In addition, mom has an appointment within a couple of days after Thanksgiving, which means she cannot quarantine for 14 days after our visit.
- There is no guarantee the weather will allow us to keep windows open for ventilation.
- Cases of COVID-19 are on the rise across the country. Here in New Jersey the rise is slower but there is no way of knowing what the numbers will be at the end of November. Since my cousin had asked us to let her know as soon as possible, we didn’t want to say yes and then back out.
Like many families, our holidays will be very different this year, but they don’t have to feel awful. One of the lessons learned after dad died was that creating new holiday traditions or altering old ones can be healthy and healing. Click To Tweet
A COVID-19 Thanksgiving:
- “What can I bring?” In our family we all have specialties like “world’s best stuffing”, grandma’s carrot salad or a Limoncello cake. Consider making your specialty as if you will be together and then the day before Thanksgiving, drop off and pick up contributions to the separate celebrations.
- No holiday is the same without egg nog from a local dairy. I’ll be dropping that off to my cousins on the way to mom’s.
- Set up a video chat over the dessert course. You can catch up and compliment the various chefs.
- If a friendly college football rivalry is your family tradition, set up a group text and trash talk the other team while watching the game together.
- If a competitive game of monopoly is the way you end your day together, then consider these suggestions from Lifehacker for online games. You can play from the safety of your own home.
If you don’t live close to family like mom and I do, then adapt the suggestions above by sending a gift basket.
- Include copies of the same pictures for everyone and you can reminisce about past holidays or vacations.
- Send a family recipe for everyone to include in their holiday dinner and then give a prize for the best execution.
- There are great businesses that will deliver fruit or some type of dessert and you share dessert over zoom, catch up on family news and play a virtual game.
For CDC guidance on how to keep yourself safe through the holidays: Daily life coping with the holidays.
Disclaimer: The material in this blog is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace, nor does it replace, consulting with a physician, lawyer, accountant, financial planner or other qualified professional.
Deb is available as a caregiver consultant. She will answer the question: “Where do I start?” and find the resources to alleviate your stress. If you would like to invest a half hour to learn how she can help you, please contact her at this website:
Debra Hallisey Consulting.