Every Thanksgiving morning when I was a child, I’d come down stairs to see my mom making stuffing and talking with my grandmother, who was doing the exact same thing in her own kitchen, 1,200 miles away. The early morning chat with Grandma became as much of a Thanksgiving tradition as turkey or football, despite the fact that I never actually shared a holiday with her.
This year, families around the country are grappling with what to do about the holidays. With coronavirus cases surging, many people don’t want to risk contributing to the spread. At the same time, the idea of holidays without extended family can be heartbreaking.
But I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be that way. I grew up celebrating Thanksgiving with just my immediate family, far from my large extended family. When I got married and had kids, I smiled when Thanksgiving quickly became my immigrant husband’s favorite holidays — but except for one year we’ve never been able to share our celebrations in person with his family on the other side of the globe.
Despite that, we always feel connected to our far-flung family during the holidays. Whether you’re separated by continents or just social distance and respect for this scary virus, you can still connect with your family from afar this Thanksgiving. Here’s how we’re doing it.
Catch Up During Early-Morning Food Prep
Anyone who has helped cook a Thanksgiving meal knows that the real magic of the day happens in the kitchen, not around the dining table. Prepping and cooking a meal with the people you just fills your heart.
It’s also the perfect time to catch up with far-off loved ones, without the hustle and bustle of the rest of the day. Now that I host Thanksgiving, I’m up early cooking, but I still make time for that early-morning phone call with my grandma: one of us in New Hampshire, one of us in Illinois, both chopping and dicing. These days, we also reach out to my daughters’ Australian Grandparents. Even though they don’t celebrate the holiday, we want them to know we’re thinking of them.
Share A Dish
So much of Thanksgiving tradition is wrapped up in the familiar smells and tastes. If you’re not able to get together with your family in person, making a well-loved dish is quite literally a taste of home. It’s even better if you can know that somewhere out there, the people you love are eating the same food.
Glancing down my Thanksgiving table, I can tell you exactly where — and who — every dish comes from. There is, of course, Grandma’s stuffing; green beans and brussels sprouts cooked the way my aunt always did; my kids’ grandmother’s potato salad; and my mother-in-law’s sticky date pudding. None of those people are at the table with us, but their love is, evidenced in the recipes they shared.
Do Something Together, Apart
No, I’m not talking about a socially-distanced activity in the pandemic sense. I’m talking about a good old fashioned activity shared over distance. Especially for my children, there’s something lovely about knowing that the people they care about are doing the very same thing they are, right now.
There are loads of options for this one: you can eat dinner at the same time as your family, or run a virtual 5k together. You can watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade or a football game at the same time. It doesn’t have to be complex — my daughters love talking our dog for a walk when my in-laws are also headed out with their pooch. When you can’t be together, doing things together, apart is the next-best option.
Talk About The Holiday
Most of us don’t take enough time to tell our loved ones how much we appreciate them. But Thanksgiving presents the perfect chance. In my house, the kids love the change to teach their Australian family about why we celebrate Thanksgiving. That’s a perfect segue into talking about why we’re grateful for them, and the love we have for them.
This year, the holidays are going to look very different for many of us. And while there’s no substitute for sitting close to your family, passing dishes and sharing hugs, it’s still possible to connect with the people you love, even from far away.
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