A Time for Coming Together Could Mean Staying Apart

Lucy Samuels, Staff Writer

Dekalb County is dealing with some 350 new coronavirus cases every day, with recent Georgia cases ranging from 2000 to 6000 daily. Since October and the gradual rise of the holiday season, cases are climbing, making the risk of traveling for Thanksgiving even greater. But despite the lack of family time, CCHS students are keeping up with their holiday traditions and making the most out of this year’s Thanksgiving. 

This November, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the usual mask-wearing and social distancing regime, along with eating outside or over Zoom. But for those hoping to go forward with Thanksgiving plans, the threat of being around elderly and high-risk family members still poses a problem. Senior Claire Turney, who usually celebrates Thanksgiving with her maternal grandmother, is expecting a change of plan this year. 

“[My grandma] lives in a nursing home and she usually does Thanksgiving with us at our other grandparents’ house, but to keep the gathering small, she isn’t coming this year,” said Turney. “We’ll visit her ten feet away from us on our porch and just catch up […], and that’ll be her little Thanksgiving thing.”

Adhering to a traditional standpoint, Turney will continue to visit the rest of her family, albeit by setting up a ‘COVID bubble’ and getting swab-tested rigorously.

“The five members in my family and my [other] grandparents are doing Thanksgiving, and my grandparents have a lake house, and we’re going to go down there,” said Turney. “We’re all going to get tested, and we’re going to enter our grandparents’ bubble for Thanksgiving and spend five days at their lake house.”

Students like Turney are determined to make seeing family work, but some are taking the safest and easiest routestaying home. 

“We don’t want to make anyone sick, so we’re just staying in our household,” said senior Jaidyn Smith. “I plan to dedicate part of the day to ‘Friendsgiving’ online with Zoom. We’re just going to chill out, and we’re cooking the same [traditional] foods like macaroni and pumpkin pie. We’ll just be eating together and talking. It’s like FaceTime but with food.”

With the safety precautions of this year’s Thanksgiving comes the loss of face-to-face contact with family and loved ones. Nevertheless, students like Smith are trying their best to adjust. 

“It’s a lot different this time of year since I’m usually around friends and my whole family,” said Smith. “I’m definitely looking forward to Friendsgiving and stuff, but it’s not the same.”

Even without a conventional Thanksgiving, traditions still remain prevalent in students’ households. When it comes to junior Sam Sherman’s experience, her family’s cultural heritage still stands at the forefront. 

“For our Thanksgiving, we usually do something different, so we add more lamb to our dinners whereas everybody else does ham and turkey, and we also never have casseroles,” said Sherman. “We use spanakopita and more of a Greek salad and make sure to incorporate the Greek culture of our family. Everything is more spicy and colorful.”

But even keeping said traditions might require extra preparation and precaution this year. 

“When you’re buying [Greek] food [like] lamb and spanakopita […], grabbing all those materials is kinda hard right now because of COVID, and things might not be in stock,” said Sherman.

On the other hand, some traditions remain consistent. 

“We have a tradition of weighing ourselves before the Thanksgiving meal, after the Thanksgiving meal, and after the first Thanksgiving poop, and my mom hates it, but it’s fun, and it’s crazy,” said Turney. 

With the virus already turning Thanksgiving planning into a hassle, the results of the recent American election can also complicate the situation. Arguments can spark at the dinner table with family, especially during times of political tension as the US is in right now. Whether or not it adds to the conversation or ruins the meal, many students have dealt with this one way or another. Sherman, in particular, takes the opportunity to better her time with her family. 

“There is so much tension. My mother and my grandmother have never had a good relationship,” she said “Some beliefs are mostly the same. Just some minor arguments happen with other members. I’m usually the glue that holds them together so they stop arguing. I’m like, ‘Everybody stay calm! Look at this amazing food!’”

Smith has had the same problem, specifically with opposing political views. 

“There’s always tension with politics and people believing in many different things, but we try to put it aside as much as possible… I remember everyone was arguing over the election in 2016,” said Smith.

But sometimes, a simple dismissal does not suffice: for some families, political arguments and tension are inevitable.

“Someone’s gonna bring it up. Every Thanksgiving, my aunt always brings up politics. She won’t be there [this year], but it will still 100 percent get brought up,” said Turney. “Our family was so relieved and excited for Georgia turning blue and everything, and I know someone’s gonna bring [a dissenting viewpoint] up. It’s not awkward or vicious when it gets brought up, it’s just like, ‘Wow, you’re saying things that I hate.’”

Despite the impending arguments and hustle and bustle of gathering ingredients and greeting family members in a pandemic, the core of Thanksgiving lies in expressing gratitude. And considering how hectic 2020 has been, this is a time many students are using for reflection.

“I’m very thankful for how the whole world is coping right now because so many things have happened this year, and I think a lot of people have been coping with it very well,” said Sherman

Turney, meanwhile, finds solace in any semblance of consistency.

“I’m thankful for the things in my life that have stayed consistent because corona just turned everything on its head,” said Turney. “I do a lot of stuff with my church, like choir and youth groups, and all of that has held constant. A lot of it’s online now, but it’s still happening. My family is still nice to me, so I think just things that have remained are bringing me comfort, and that’s what I’m thankful for.”