A Different Thanksgiving for Giving Thanks

The Park family together from afar for Thanksgiving 2020.
The Park family together from afar for Thanksgiving 2020.

Thanksgiving Day starts the season that some people call the “gift-giving season.” Others who are more cynical call it the “gift-shopping season.”

But Thanksgiving really is a day to celebrate the gift nobody can buy – the gift we are to each other. It’s the gift of loved ones and friends coming together. So, this year – the 399th celebration of this festive day – Thanksgiving comes with a new ingredient.

The first Thanksgiving in 1621 was said to feature ingredients like lobster, seal, swans, and probably a few wild turkey, the uniquely North American bird Pilgrims had never seen before. By 1863, however, when Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday, turkey had become the main course.

But 2020 will go down in history for its own new ingredient: togetherness of a different kind.

The Jamestown Gazette offers the following examples of creativity and resilience to inspire everyone in finding new ways to enjoy and celebrate.

New Kinds of Togetherness

Local families and businesses are finding new ways this year to celebrate the grand traditions of Thanksgiving.

Concerning families, last Thursday, November 19, 2020, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told New Yorkers, “It’s your family, it’s your home, it’s your table, these are all environments where you feel safe, and that is the beauty of Thanksgiving…This year, if you love someone…” simply find a new way to be together.

This week, the Jamestown Gazette serves up some new Thanksgiving recipes for holiday togetherness, gathered from local residents, visitors from distant places, and even a Jamestown couple away on business in Europe.

1. At Home

One local family plans to invite more than 20 guests from across the region to their traditional Thanksgiving reunion. Each individual and family will enjoy their own favorite dishes together, but nobody will travel farther than their own dining room table. A place will be set at each table for a computer where everybody Zooms, or Skypes, or Facetimes in and enjoys their meals together.

“We’re going to make it fun,” said Skip Park, a long-time Jamestown resident, by now quite comfortable in staying in face-to-face touch with family and friends electronically. “We can even all watch the same sports events on TV together. Different? Sure! But it’s unique and we’ll never forget this Thanksgiving”

Skip’s wife Kimberly added, “And nobody has to risk getting sick or making a more vulnerable family member ill, either.”

Cross Country Traveler

“I loved the question about what I will do differently for Thanksgiving this year,” Suellen S. told the Gazette. She had come from Covid-plagued Minnesota to visit an ailing family member in Chautauqua County just before the holiday, but wore her mask and avoided public contacts at home for two weeks first.

“I think I’ll just find a way to do a kindness or a favor for each of my neighbors this year on Thanksgiving instead of gathering everybody together,” Suellen answered. “I have really great neighbors and I want to do something even better for each of them than one great big meal.”

Thanksgiving Abroad

A Jamestown couple, Kurt and Emily D. have lived in the Netherlands for two years for work. With Dutch temporary residence cards they also travel to Bulgaria. “But navigating Covid isn’t easy,” Kurt said, “especially because we will visit our son, a U.S. soldier in Germany, for Thanksgiving. We couldn’t do that on just our U.S. passports. Too much Covid in the USA!”

U.S. Thanksgiving is mostly unknown in Europe, but celebrating on a U.S. military base where Covid compliance is “the order of the day” seems a likely chance to safely enjoy their time together.

At Risk

A Frewsburg couple, seniors – one of whom is recovering from major surgery, Don and Marianna, answered the Gazette’s question about how they are making this a unique Thanksgiving by simply answering, “We’re alone and we’re loving it!”

“Our best friends, kids, and grand kids feel just fine about keeping us safe by staying away. We’ll phone, Skype, Zoom, or whatever, and the holiday will be complete. “Besides,” Marianna added, clearly amused, “one of the children lives in London and would have to quarantine for two weeks on each end of the trip. That’s too much trouble for a drumstick and a slice of pumpkin pie.”

DIY Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving 2020 has become a “Make your own celebration” challenge that will work best if taken as an opportunity to create a new kind of togetherness – a togetherness of the heart when in-person togetherness simply won’t work.

2. Around the Community

Thanksgiving started as a community celebration. This year, however, the local business community is finding Thanksgiving as challenging as it is for families. Some local businesses have experienced as much as an 80 percent drop in customers.

Without customers, businesses close. Safe shopping, on the other hand – customers wearing masks, keeping a social distance, hand-washing – will help every local merchant, especially those owned and operated by local residents, have a Thanksgiving worth celebrating, starting with Black Friday.

Black Friday

This relatively new shopping spree celebration arrived in the last few decades on the coattails of Thanksgiving. It’s all about the “black ink” – meaning the profitability – of businesses that serve the public.

This year, because shopping crowds no longer seem a good idea, Black Friday has been stretched out to become something more like “Black Ink November” or even “Black Ink Holiday Shopping Month(s).” This newly popular shopping-day extension gives everyone more opportunities to help, support, and appreciate the local merchant of the community.

3. A Historic Opportunity

The last worldwide pandemic, the great flu pandemic of 1918, saw at least 50 million deaths worldwide. About 675,000 of those were in the United States.

Health experts see the possibility of the upcoming holiday season causing a new spike in Covid infections and deaths if citizens do not take reasonable precautions that are already known and well understood.

Thanksgiving 2020 can become a historic milestone for giving thanks if everyone does it right The Jamestown Gazette wishes all of our readers a safe, happy, and uniquely creative Thanksgiving.