Home for the Holidays: “A Thanksgiving Meal Sans the Extended Family”
As health experts worry about a surge in coronavirus cases this holiday season, members of our Hopkins community have adapted traditions to hold onto valuable family time that usually comes with the Thanksgiving and winter breaks.
Hopkins English teacher Rebecca Marcus, unable to have a large family gathering in New Jersey due to the pandemic, explained her plans for break. “I read, and [did] some curricular planning for my second semester elective, which is Dangerous Books, so I [was] doing a little bit of work over the break. I [tried] a couple new recipes for Thanksgiving because I love cooking and baking, and I [did] not go anywhere because of Covid-19.”
One idea Marcus had to stay connected with family was scrapped due to the general uncertainty that the pandemic has sown. “I had an idea for a new Thanksgiving tradition which was to make a t-shirt for the five members of my family that will be here, but I got scared and thought that was tempting fate if I ordered t-shirts, and then the pandemic prevented us from getting together.” When asked about what solutions to this uncertainty her family employed, Marcus said, “We Zoomed in with the rest of my family, and we’ll see what traditions arise anew out of the situation we’re all working around.” .
Despite Covid-19 disrupting plans, Hilltoppers like Shriya Sakalkale ’24 have found ways to hold on to the traditions of Thanksgiving break that are most important to them. Sakalkale detailed her family’s choice to go virtual with the Thanksgiving celebrations this year, “I [was] at home, hanging with my family and Facetiming friends. Normally, we’d probably invite some family members over and get together and have Thanksgiving dinner, but we clearly [didn’t] do that this year because of Covid-19.” Ramey Harper-Mangels ’21 also usually spends his Thanksgiving breaks with family at his grandparents’ house in Massachusetts or in Chicago. This year, Harper-Mangels enjoyed turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie from home while working on college essays, which he referred to as “A Thanksgiving meal sans the extended family.”
Pearl Miller ’22 stayed home and cooked Thanksgiving dishes with her parents and sister all day, as they do each year. After the meal, her family usually goes Black Friday shopping which they were unable to do because of the pandemic. “It made the day feel a little bland after we had finished eating and were done cleaning up” Miller said.
Harper-Mangels, meanwhile, is working on ways to maintain winter break traditions. His family always makes lots of baked goods and munches on popovers for breakfast on Christmas Day. After breakfast, Harper-Mangels heads up to his grandparents’ house which he said is up in the air this year. While it’s likely his family will stay home, Harper-Mangels said they might be able to do the annual visit if they decide to quarantine first.
Even with family quarantines and testing, many Hilltoppers are urging their peers and colleagues to stay home for the holidays this year. Miller said that while it’s hard to miss out on family gatherings, it is imperative that people refrain from traveling. “Especially since a vaccine is just on the horizon, we need to bunker down for just a little while longer and hold on. Even if you are still going to travel, follow all the guidelines and make sure you are as safe as possible.”
Marcus thinks it is necessary for people to stay home this holiday season. “I think this year it’s important for people to stay home because if we’re doing our best to limit the spread of disease, we can’t make others vulnerable, even in our own families, and none of us can be sure that we will not contract it traveling to other people’s houses.” Marcus added that one of her friends has experienced false negatives with Covid-19 testing, and thus believes it’s also key to keep those with sensitive health conditions isolated. “If we’re going to keep people safe, it’s really important to treat ourselves as potential vectors, even over being [with] people.”
To limit exposure, Rob Lawler ’22 believes people should embrace spending time with their immediate family. “If you are with anyone, enjoy their presence and experience the holidays with them.” He added that people should also feel free to express their frustrations about plans changing due to Covid-19. “Don’t leave yourself angry until you explode. Feel upset and angry, but then set up plans to allow yourself to be happy, and safe.”
This holiday season, Lawler is most looking forward to seeing his uncle, who was recently diagnosed with cancer and is undergoing treatment. “It will be great to see him and his young kids to see how they are doing.” Marcus cherishes the time that she spends with her grandparents every year, but she said that this year there is one family member that she is most thankful to be reunited with. “I would say I’m grateful to see my grandfather, because he survived a really aggressive cancer this past year and Thanksgiving is his favorite holiday, so I loved [watching] his face light up when he [gave] his speech over Zoom.”
In terms of next year, Sakalkale is hopeful for a vaccine and expressed the wish to see her whole family reunited for Thanksgiving. “I think that the true spirit of Thanksgiving is just to be thankful for one another, for our families, for our friends, for our lives.”