With COVID-19, they say we should not have family gatherings for Thanksgiving. But this is a big family holiday – so how do I make it memorable and faith-directed for my children, when they can’t go to “Grandma’s house” or any other relative’s?
This year has been filled with one life challenge after another, giving meaning to the often quoted phrase: “It is not what happens to you in life, it is how you respond.” The upcoming holiday season will be yet another opportunity for families to put into practice resilience and creativity, starting with this year’s Thanksgiving.
I found a quote online recently from an anonymous source which read: “Let the spirit of adventure begin, set the tone.” I loved this quote because it really speaks to the fact that whatever tone the parents set for the upcoming holidays is the bar the family will rise to.
For many families, celebrations of the holidays have largely revolved around family gatherings and traditions carried on for years. While traditions are special and something to enjoy, we now have an opportunity to set a new tone and change things up a bit. This may even be a way for families to see each other in a new light and create new traditions for years to come.
For instance, if your Thanksgiving holiday consisted of travelling to a relative’s house for a meal, host an online meet-up in its place. Instead of spending your time in a car, travelling, do something with your children that they would enjoy. Prepare a craft together like a table centerpiece, watch a movie or play a family board game – something that you may not have had time to do in years past. If your family enjoys watching sports on Thanksgiving, free yourself from the kitchen a bit to watch sports together, or play a short family football game outside. Bundle up and go on a family walk or a drive around town. Take time with each other at home to create a fun video message for grandparents/relatives so they can enjoy it, even if you can’t be together.
As you do some of these new activities, remember to “set the tone.”Don’t lament over what you cannot do this year, but focus on the unique things you can do together now and look for joy in the moment.
Many parishes will also offer Thanksgiving Day Mass which you may be able to attend in person or through livestream. Take time at the big meal to really talk about what you can be thankful for in spite of the craziness of this past year. One game that can be fun is to have everyone write a blessing (anonymously) on a piece of paper. Put the blessings into a jar and, at dinner, try and match up the blessing with the author. This can turn into a lot of conversation and laughter and become a great memory for everyone. Focusing on positive moments will lighten the sting of the challenges and help you to see God more in the moment.
This stretching of family time traditions with new creativity may have a positive outcome for the future. You may find that your simple presence with one another was the best gift of the year after all. Children tend to remember time spent together more than gifts received, so find a new tradition this Thanksgiving. The memories created will be the biggest blessing for your family for years to come.
Tremblay is director of marriage and life ministries for the Diocese of Green Bay.