One thing is for sure about Thanksgiving 2020: This year will be unlike any Thanksgiving in recent memory. While we usually think of big family get-togethers for the holidays, social distancing demands we have only small gatherings this year. While this might seem to take the fun out of the holiday, there are ways to make this year meaningful and joyful, while still protecting ourselves and our loved ones from COVID-19.
We’ve been through a lot this year, all of us. While sometimes it might seem hard to find reasons to be thankful, when you stop and think about it, there are always things to be grateful for. What’s interesting is that research shows that practicing the art of gratitude can actually improve our disposition and outlook. Researchers have found that keeping a regular, written record of things we are thankful for makes us happier, while keeping score of what irritates us does the opposite. And delivering a letter of gratitude to someone we appreciate delivers an extra dose of good feelings.
Perhaps this year for Thanksgiving, encourage your family to take the gratitude challenge. For the week leading up to Thanksgiving, (or longer!) suggest that each family member write down a sentence each day describing something he or she is thankful for. It can be as simple as enjoying a delicious food one day, or seeing a beautiful flower another day, or receiving an act of kindness from a neighbor. Whatever it is that makes you feel good, write down a sentence describing your gratitude.
On Thanksgiving Day, encourage everyone to share their favorite journal entry at Thanksgiving dinner, either in person or, via Facetime or Zoom. Giving everyone time to prepare in advance eliminates putting people on the spot and catching them off-guard.
As an extra challenge, encourage each family member to write and send a hand-written letter to someone who has done something special for them. Make sure to mail the letter in plenty of time to get to the recipient by Thanksgiving! Hand-written letters are a rarity these days and a precious gift. Even little children can participate; if they can’t write a letter, they can draw a picture.
This can be especially meaningful to our older relatives. How many of us have wished we took the time to thank our parents or grandparents for teaching us a special skill or making a sacrifice for us, only to miss out on that opportunity once that relative has passed on? Take advantage of the “living years’’ and write that note now.
For those who are coming to your home for Thanksgiving dinner, or if you are going to someone else’s home, remember to keep the gathering small and follow these safety precautions:
While Thanksgiving may feel different this year, you can still make it meaningful by focusing on the people and things we are most grateful for.