Whether they’re carving turkeys on outdoor picnic tables, connecting with family through video calls, or eating stuffing in the break room of a hospital coronavirus ward, Many Americans have found themselves marking this Thanksgiving in ways they could hardly have anticipated a year ago.
The holes that Covid-19 tore so viciously into millions of lives were glaring on Thursday: homes were quiet, dinner tables were nearly empty, even Macy’s parade route in New York was nearly devoid of spectators. And in too many cases loved ones were irrevocably missing.
Still, the laughs and the holidays spilled out behind many masks or through boxes on digital screens. In Mississippi, the hunting tradition of one brother and one sister has continued. Houston nurses ate from paper plates between shifts to keep patients with the virus breathing.
And a 93-year-old retired toy maker in California seemed to speak for many when he described his pandemic-altered Thanksgiving: “We’re adapting.
– Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs
LOS ANGELES – Edgar Burns, 93, has long been used to a big family dinner on Thanksgiving surrounded by 13 parents. But it wasn’t going to work this year.
Born in Germany, Mr. Burns survived the Holocaust, immigrated to the United States in 1947, and had a long career designing toys for Mattel. In retirement, he led an active life of writing, gardening and exercising. Although he lives alone, he feels lucky that his three children live nearby; before the pandemic, he typically saw one every day.
“Family is everything,” he says.
To stay safe this year, instead of a big dinner for the holidays, the family opted for a socially distant breakfast on the patio at the home of Mr. Burns’ son, Ken. Mr. Burns wondered what Thanksgiving would look like in broad daylight, rather than under artificial light bulbs at night. But the change did not worry him.
“I’m pretty malleable,” he says. “We adapt.”
Mr. Burns later saw his two daughters and their children use Portal, a video device his grandson had recently installed for him. “Of course I would love to do more things with my grandchildren, but I can’t, so I don’t,” he says. “It’s just a few more months.”
– Isadora Kosofsky
HOUSTON – On a wall at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, there is a sign that indicates how many days the medical team has “fought Covid-19”. Thanksgiving was Battle Day 252.
Located on the north side of Houston, the hospital serves some of the city’s most vulnerable populations. Most of the patients are black or Hispanic, and many are uninsured. The hospital also recently began receiving virus infected patients transferred from El Paso, one of the hardest-hit cities in the country.
Many nurses and other hospital workers saw more patients on Thanksgiving Day than family or friends. During breaks between shifts, groups of three or four members of staff would sneak up to the employee rest area to inhale a paper plate filled with turkey and casserole and a slice of pumpkin pie.
Even though they fought to keep patients alive, this unconventional family still managed to crack jokes and lift themselves up between bites. Thursday was another busy day in the Covid-19 ward: one patient died early in the morning, two patients required percutaneous tracheostomy procedures to help them breathe, and by the end of the day two new patients had been admitted. Doctors and nurses seldom had time to look back; they were concentrated to arrive at day 253. – Christopher lee
LOS ANGELES – Ericke Tan, 30, spent the last Thanksgiving with her large extended family at her grandmother’s house, but this year they avoided a big gathering and came up with a different way to share a meal.
Ms. Tan, head of digital marketing, bought a lechón, a slow roasted suckling pig dish popular in the Philippines, and cut it in half. She delivered half of it to her parents and two younger siblings at their homes Thursday, and brought the other half to her studio in Los Angeles’ Koreatown neighborhood.
Later that night, she used FaceTime to chat with her four siblings; three live in the United States and one in the Philippines. – Rozette Rago
NATCHEZ, Miss. –Jimmy Riley and his sister, Alyce Riley-Reames, got up before dawn, loaded Mr. Riley’s Ford truck, and drove to the family’s 300 acres of forest south of Natchez to hunt.
“It’s not just about meat,” said Mr. Riley, manager of the Giles Island Hunting Club. “I can share something in common with my family.”
Siblings have been doing the same thing every Thanksgiving for over a decade. For everything that has changed this year, he says, “Covid has not closed this part of our life.”
Around 11 a.m., he lowered his bow from the wild pecan tree where he had been perched, and went to fetch his sister in her stead. They packed their gear and headed to their mother’s house for Thanksgiving dinner, where only five family members – instead of the usual 15 – gathered for the meal. Then they left to finish the day of hunting.
Neither sibling ended up killing a deer on Thursday, but that wasn’t the point.
“Hunting is not just about killing,” Mr. Riley said, returning to his car in the rain after sunset. “This is where I go to contemplate everything that is going on in my life.” – Annie Flanagan
DETROIT – Cherri Harris, 47, celebrated Thanksgiving with her daughter, Reanna Williams, 20, at her home in Detroit. They couldn’t hold the hands of extended family in a prayer circle like they usually do, but were joined by family and friends on a Zoom call in their kitchen.
The holidays were noticeably quieter without Ms Harris’ mother, Reverend Darla Swint, who died of Covid-19 in April, a month and a few days before her 70th birthday. Ms Harris, a former nurse, cared for her mother at home for almost two weeks after she fell ill, until she had to be admitted to hospital.
“It’s a little lonely, but I thank God my daughter came home from college to be there for me,” Ms. Harris said. “It meant more to me than she probably ever will realize. – Sylvia Jarrus
LUPTON, Arizona – The coronavirus has gripped the Navajo Nation and has shown no sign of letting go, as the number of cases and deaths continued to rise this week. Trying to stem the spread, the Navajo Nation vice president urged everyone to stay home for Thanksgiving, and his health director issued a stay-at-home order earlier this month that lasts until December 6, limiting trips out of the home to “Essential Activities.”
“We wish all of our Navajo happy Thanksgiving holidays and encourage you to stay home with your loved ones throughout the weekend,” Myron Lizer, vice president, said in a statement. “The safest place during this pandemic is at home here on the Navajo Nation.”
President Jonathan Nez urged people to stay home the day after Thanksgiving and forgo Black Friday shopping, saying, “The risks are far too high and not worth living.
Lorencita Murphy, an army veteran, cooked and baked for her family on Thursday and assembled take-out platters to distribute to parents in their cars outside her home, a celebration she described as ” very different ”from its usual festivities.
“A few family, friends and no buffet,” she says. “A bit sad.” – Sharon Chischilly
BENNINGTON, NEB. – Wrapped up in a sunny, windswept meadow, Barbi Hayes has found a safe way for her family to celebrate Thanksgiving together. Each household prepared meals and then exchanged the food in containers to be opened and eaten after the gathering.
Although family vacations typically have up to 40 people, this year there were only 10.
“You forget how important your immediate family is when trying to accommodate a lot of people,” Hayes said. “It really brought the family home.”
Outdoors, they enjoyed each other’s company and then embarked on a hike through the golden fields.
“You know, we have to be optimistic,” Ms. Hayes said. “And even in the darkest of times, you need hope. The year is almost over, which is good. “ – Calla kessler