Cautiously celebrate Thanksgiving face-to-face


Sabrina Wolfson

When celebrating Thanksgiving this November, gathering in larger groups is possible, if the appropriate precautions are taken to ensure the safety of those around us.

Sabrina Wolfson, Opinion Editor

For the last four centuries, the final Thursday of November has meant an abundance of food, family, and parties of all kinds, in celebration of Thanksgiving. This year traditional gatherings could be dangerous and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) is urging the nation to remember the precautions that have been put in place and to stay safe throughout the upcoming festivities. However, many of us who look forward to this day every year do not want to give up the little joys that make the season exceptionally special. Is it possible to celebrate Thanksgiving around others and remain safe?

As a student with a large family that takes the tradition seriously, the answer is clear to me: yes. Spending time with family or loved ones this Thanksgiving is feasible, as long as we can adapt our rituals accordingly.

In light of the tremendous hardship that many have faced this year as a direct result of COVID-19, it is vital that we take the time to appreciate family and all that we as a country have endured to reach this point in 2020. This celebration presents us with an opportunity for gratitude and reflection, where we can take a moment to thank people in our life for the small acts of kindness that they make a priority on any given day.

As I have learned after transitioning from virtual to in-person learning in a school environment, our ability to focus and actively engage in a discussion is extremely impaired when it takes place on a zoom call, compared to an in-person environment. If we celebrate Thanksgiving remotely, its meaning and importance will fade beneath the worry of internet connection issues, and repeatedly muting and unmuting participants in order to hear one another. Additionally, Thanksgiving dinner tables often allow for many contrasting conversations so that you are able to jump from one topic to another, while Zoom calls trap everyone in one big topic. This leaves people that are less interested in the matter to be more likely to be on their phone or leave the Zoom altogether. 

However, should we celebrate in person, it will be vital to adapt a large portion of our Thanksgiving practices, in order to keep those around us safe. Wearing masks and the absence of physical affection between group members (hugging, shaking hands), will be especially important. Gathering in an outside space instead of a confined room or house will be imperative, as it will put the least amount of people at risk for spreading the virus. Although it may be colder outside, this is one of our last opportunities to use fresh air as a means of gathering safely before the harsh chill of winter sets in.

Food and drink, which are at the heart of the celebration, should be set up differently at gatherings than they have been in the past. As of Oct. 19, the CDC published a list of precautions to take while celebrating this holiday specifically. They outline that although there is no specific evidence to suggest that the virus spreads through food, a person can become infected by touching surfaces that contain the virus. For this reason, the CDC recommends that in lieu of buffet-style gatherings, guests should bring their own meal and that if not possible, one person should serve all food to limit multiple people handling the serving utensils.

While eating, people should abstain from the sharing of utensils, glasses, or even chairs, as that could spread the virus. However, they can take off masks for this period of time, as long as maintaining distance between themself and others remains a top priority. 

Although these guidelines are a step in the right direction, it is impossible to completely discount the idea of spreading a virus to not only family but also one’s peers and significant others upon the return after the festivities. 

For this reason, the Masters School community has agreed to remain online a week after the holiday, to ensure the safety of the students before coming back to campus. During that week, students and faculty will be asked to drop off a COVID-19 test sample for pooled testing so that the results can be gathered before the return to in-person learning. Other schools should follow suit if they haven’t done so already. Educational institutions, especially those of middle and high school students, have a personal responsibility to those who are traveling during this time. Students and their guardians place trust in their school to make the right decision to keep students safe, and assuming this precaution greatly lessens the chances of the virus being spread after Thanksgiving. 

If these precautions are taken, especially when families are in larger group settings, there should be no reason why we can’t be in-person to celebrate this important holiday that we cherish annually as Americans.