When You Cannot Gather For the Holidays


This year is like no other when it comes time to celebrate for the Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Hannukah and related holidays.  In past years we asked what it would be like to reconnect sometimes with people we had not seen in several months or even several years.  We talked about pleasure at seeing new grandchildren or whether our parents were dealing with health crises.  We worried whether old rivalries or conflicts might resurface.  But mostly we wanted to know the world we were used to since we were kids had not changed.  We relaxed.  We renewed friendships.  We reconnected.  This year is likely to be vastly different for many of us in the way we celebrate although the same motivators apply.  We still want to connect.  It is a question of how and when.  It is a great time to be creative.

For some of us in person connections will wait – with good reason.  We will call, communicate with each other on zoom or facetime, have “virtual” Thanksgiving dinners and still laugh and tell stories.  We do not want a time of celebration to turn into a time of concern if that is what in person connection means.  Especially when connecting with our older relatives and friends we want to be very careful and sometimes that rules out seeing them in person at all for now.  With worries about COVID-19, the question is whether it makes sense to get together in person and some of us, myself including, will wait.  There will be other Thanksgivings.  We have not changed who we are.  Just the way we do it.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on November 19 issued a statement noting that more than 1 million COVID-19 cases were reported in the United States over the last 7 days and “as cases continue to increase rapidly across the United States, the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate at home with the people you live with…” https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays/thanksgiving.html .

CDC goes further and provides a list of questions to ask first in deciding whether to travel, then how everyone can make Thanksgiving safer.  They clearly want people first to consider staying home.

Suggestions for other Thanksgiving Activities include “host a virtual Thanksgiving meal with friends and family who don’t live with you.  Schedule a time to share a meal together virtually.  Have people share recipes…Watch television and play games with people in your household…” and shop on line, use contactless services, and shop in open air markets using all the practices so often described wearing a mask and practicing social distancing.

For myself, while I would love to see my sister Joanne in person as we usually do, she and her family and I and my daughter will celebrate a “virtual” Thanksgiving celebrating by zoom together.  My daughter, Alisa, who is vegan, has exercised her own creativity and designed a great vegan Thanksgiving dinner series of recipes with all the trimmings.  I can’t wait to check out the vegan pumpkin pie baked at home.

We have not changed.   We have adapted.

I wrote in a prior column at this time of year “if we decide to accept what is and deal with it, while not saying that it is easy or that it is what we want, we are likely to be happier and to look for and find meaning wherever it is and whatever it is.”  Sometimes it is hard but it is not impossible.

For all readers who are thinking of their elderly family members who live at a distance in a senior community or a nursing home, our thoughts are with you.  If you do travel, or even if you do not, stay safe!   We will get through this – together.  Happy Thanksgiving!

About the Author Janet Colliton

Esquire, Colliton Law Associates, P.C. Janet Colliton has practiced law for over 38 years, 37 of them in Chester County, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. Her practice, Colliton Law Associates, PC, is limited to elder law, Medicaid, including advice, applications and appeals, and other benefits planning including Veterans benefits, life care and special needs planning, guardianships, retirement, and estate planning and administration.

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