2020 has been a year like no other. And now we are entering the holiday season, one which we are not soon to forget. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year are times when people from all walks of life enjoy spending time together with family, friends, and loved ones, celebrating the season with food and drink, looking back on the year, and looking ahead with great hopefulness.
This year, however, might feel different.
The pandemic seems to have robbed many of us of our joy. We might not feel so thankful or feel like celebrating. We might feel like letting the holidays pass us by this year without any kind of recognition.
But we don’t have to. There are still ways to make this year a special one, even if some of our dearly held traditions have to change. This month, we celebrate Thanksgiving, a holiday whose sole purpose is for being thankful.What if we all committed to finding a way to search within ourselves for the good even in the midst of the pandemic and the uncertainty in our world and in our country? What if we were able to encourage our family, friends and loved ones to do the same?
How can we celebrate Thanksgiving in a meaningful way this year?
Focus on being thankful.
Take time to truly be thankful. Pull out a journal and write down things that you’re thankful for. During dinner one night, go around the table and have everyone give thanks for something in their life. As people come for the Thanksgiving meal, have them write down a word of thanks on a slip of paper and then read them before the meal begins. Let the kids write their thanksgiving memories on a special tablecloth and then share their thoughts with the family. Do what it takes to bring the good this year.
Invite the people who matter the most.
Smaller gatherings will be the norm at Thanksgiving tables this year. Think about who matters the most to you and make sure they’re invited. Maybe it means inviting someone who is dear to your heart and has nowhere else to go. Relationships can come first this year and expressing your love for people through an invitation to your family gathering will build bonds that will last even through the uncertainty of our times. Tell people you love them, that they’re important to you, and that you are glad you can spend time together.
Reach out to those you can’t see in person.
For those you can’t be physically with this year, be intentional about making a phone call or having a video chat. Many people will be lonely this year. Some may even have to celebrate Thanksgiving in isolation because of quarantines, compromised immune systems, or restrictions on travel. Make it a point to let people know you care by scheduling time with them in advance. Perhaps you could invite them to your Thanksgiving table virtually by setting up a video call to eat your meals together across the miles. Creating memories like this will last a lifetime and will grow the bonds of friendship and love.
Quarantine if necessary to protect the ones you love.
There are some people for whom we may want to make a big sacrifice this year. For those with compromised immune systems, susceptibility to illness or other mitigating factors that we are desperate to see for Thanksgiving, we might not want to risk their health by continuing with our usual careful daily activities like masking up while shopping and going to church or school. For these people, we can sacrifice 14 days of our lives to stay home and put our lives on hold so that we can enjoy the holidays with the ones we love. Think about it. Can you give up 14 days to show someone you care?
Find joy in a small celebration.
Think of all the ways that having a smaller Thanksgiving celebration will be a joy! Less food to cook…. Fewer dishes to wash… No one has to fight over the last piece of pie…. Less family drama! More time talking with each person who is present. Everyone can participate in family games after dinner. The event can be smaller, more intimate and more meaningful for each individual present. Many times, those who are more introverted in the gathering feel like they have to hide away to avoid the crowd. This year, they can relax and enjoy the few people who are present and not feel as if they are on display. The extroverts can feel free to tell stories and have a captive audience. Choose to enjoy the smallness of the day.
Find a way to serve others safely.
There will be many people who cannot have a Thanksgiving this year because of financial lack, illness, or travel restrictions. Find a way to serve people in need. Are you used to cooking a big meal? Cook that big meal and instead of freezing it and keeping it for later, package half of it up and deliver it to someone who won’t have a special meal that day. Deliver food, gift cards or coffee to people who have to work on the holiday. Invite college students or other lonely people to join you in your gathering. Find people who need to be loved and love on them. Be the hands and feet of Jesus. Know that your efforts will make a big impact in people’s lives.
It will be a holiday they’ll never forget and together we can all be so thankful.