Thanksgiving During a Pandemic

Thanksgiving During a Pandemic

Oh God, how we long for a traditional holiday table where many extended family and friends have gathered in the glowing warmth of a feast and holiday decorations.  We long for hugs, smiles, laughter and singing.  We long for fellowship and breaking bread together. Sadly, for most of us, this holiday season will not look like years past. Travel restrictions, state and community restrictions on businesses, restaurants and gathering places due to rising coronavirus cases will limit who we can physically be with and where.

It is OK to lament to God about what cannot be, give our fear and anger to God, cry, yell and stomp your feet if it feels good, God can take it.

Now that we have done that, let us also give thanks and praise for the blessings we have. We can get creative and try out some new traditions to remind us of the meaning and purpose of life. Loving one another is still at the core of our values. We feel it in our hearts, and extend it to others through small actions, simple words and thoughtful prayers.

So here are some ideas gathered from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Reopening Rhode island, Practical Resources for Churches, and Connecticut Children’s
The first consideration is always safety.  All activities require masks, frequent hand washing or hand sanitizing, maintaining social distancing, and staying home if you are at high risk or not feeling well. Paying close attention to the travel and gathering guidelines in your state and local community is also critical. If you are in an area experiencing a high positivity rate, the best advice is to limit gatherings to those that live in your household.
The CDC and State of Rhode Island have outlined activities by risk level:
  • Lower risk holiday gatherings limited to those in your household, making and delivering a meal in a contact free manner, and hosting a virtual meal with family and friends. 
  • Moderate risk activities might be a small dinner with a few neighbors or family members who live close-by, attending a small outdoor gathering, or picking apples at an orchard with precautions listed above.
  • High risk activities are obviously gathering with lots of people, in stores, crowded with holiday shoppers, attending indoor dinners with large numbers of people from multiple communities or state, hugging, singing, shouting and high contact sports.
Practical Resources for Churches offers the following to make Thanksgiving fun in spite of the restrictions:

Virtual Thanksgiving
  • Plan to share rituals from years past via Zoom, Facetime, Skype etc.
  • Ask for favorite recipes, connect to make them over Zoom
  • Send a care package, or deliver treats such as a hand-made matching centerpiece or a special recipe
  • Invite everyone to bring a toast, a joke, or a photo to share
  • Make a gratitude bowl, or paperchain, write things you are grateful for each day and pull out the slips of paper to share on thanksgiving
  • Talk about traditions you would like to add or continue next year
Connecticut Children’s suggests focusing on gratitude:
  • Write or draw Thanksgiving cards
  • Make " Thank calls, not Prank calls”
  • Decorate the yard with “Thank you” signs
  • Find a way to give back, a charity, a food drive, help someone in need
These ideas are just a few of the many ways we and our loved one’s can be creative, stay safe, keep each other healthy and focus on what is most important in life: Love of children, love of neighbor, and love of creation. May the cloak of God’s grace surround you and give you peace during these difficult days.


Deborah Ringen

Deborah Ringen MSN, RN-BC is a Faith Community Nurse and the Minister of Health and Wellness for the Southern New England Conference, UCC.

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