(Note: The behavior depicted in the photo above is not the etiquette about which I write below.) 🙂
Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds. ~ Theodore Roosevelt , who proclaimed Thanksgiving to be celebrated on the fourth day of November.
“Always have an attitude of gratitude.” ~ Sterling K. Brown
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” ~ Attributed to Charles Darwin
The world has been through many changes the past two years due to the pandemic. But as we approach Thanksgiving in America this year, we can give thanks to those who are working hard to lead us out of this devastating period: the medical professionals who worked so hard to save the lives of the nearly 50 million who contracted COVID-19 and its variants and who provided guidance on the best health and medical practices; the front line workers who kept our homeland moving as much as possible; the scientists who developed the vaccines; the government leaders who delivered the vaccines; and all those from various walks of life who have participated in getting vaccinated and following the guidance.
There is no doubt that the pandemic has altered our lives in so many ways, and we are still feeling the loss of more than 700,000 people — and, sadly, counting — in our nation. Yet, as more people become vaccinated, we are moving closer to ending the pandemic, which might help somewhat to ease supply chain and inflation issues. And more good change is coming through the infrastructure bill that Congress has passed, and the bill currently before Congress that will combat the climate crisis and expand critical social programs; both will uplift Americans across all spectrums.
So, as we look forward to Thanksgiving this year, let us remember that mask-wearing, good hygiene habits, social distancing practices and vaccinations have made it possible to celebrate much differently than last year. And to keep ourselves and our hosts and guests safe and well, etiquette for this year encompasses specific approaches to being a host or guest.
- Get Vaccinated / Boosted – First and foremost, anyone hosting Thanksgiving dinner should be vaccinated — and boosted if eligible in your state — as well as all other members of the household. This is the optimal way to protect yourselves and others, and show the respect and consideration for others that are the bedrocks of etiquette and good manners. (Note: Dr. Fauci recommends that everyone over the age of 18 should get a booster shot.)
- Keep It Small and Brief – If you have in the past had a large crowd at your house, consider keeping guests this year to under 10 people. If you are dining indoors, keep the air in your home circulating. If everyone in your home has been vaccinated and boosted, you might not need to wear masks throughout the day. However, this year it would be wise to keep the duration of the visit briefer than past celebrations; a couple of hours is optimal.
- Celebrate Outdoors – For those who live in warmer climates, consider gathering and dining outdoors. Of course, guests should be welcome come indoors to use the loo. Otherwise, dining and visiting outdoors is a very wise precaution, especially if you wish to invite a larger number of people.
- Communicate Clearly – When issuing invitations, as the host you are well within etiquette guidelines to specify that your Thanksgiving celebration is limited to vaccinated-only guests. This is not the time, nor the topic on which, to be wishy-washy; we are talking about a virus that takes lives. So, while you must be direct, you can also be gentle, compassionate and understanding. And because this is such a delicate subject, a person-to-person phone call, Face Time or Zoom visit should be the mode of invitation rather than a text or email — or even a snail mail invitation. You may be honest about how uncomfortable you feel about your request, but that you also feel strongly about protecting your family and guests, and would feel horrible if someone became ill as a result of your Thanksgiving gathering. Ditto regarding your testing or mask-wearing requirements (remember that children under two years old should not wear masks). Don’t respond in kind should you receive any blowback from invited guests; simply explain your position, how much you would love to have them attend and if they cannot comply that you hope to see them another, safer, time. Relationships are important, but keeping your family and other guests safe from serious illness, hospitalization and death are more so. Further, the best way to ensure the safety of children who have not yet been or who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated is to surround them by fully vaccinated / boosted adults.
- Invite People You Know Well and Trust – Applying restrictions such as vaccinations and mask-wearing won’t work unless you know and trust your invitees — i.e., those to whom you are closest so that you do not feel the need to ask for proof of vaccination, and who will cheerfully and with good humor adhere to mask-wearing if necessary (such as areas of high transmission).
- Plan Ahead – Being prepared and organized with regard to food prep, table setting and other arrangements, including who you will ask to help, will facilitate your freedom to enjoy your guests and the day without being harried and stuck in the kitchen. Be sure to have a supply of disposable masks on hand (just in case someone forgets or soils theirs). Hand sanitizer in the bathrooms next to the soap is a good idea, as well.
- Honor Your Guests – Whether you have restrictions or not, there might be guests who prefer to wear a mask, keep their distances, etc. Honor those guests’ preferences to play it safe, and do not allow other guests to tease or bully them. It is the host’s responsibility to set a tone of inclusion and acceptance.
- Respond Promptly and Kindly – If your host wishes you to be fully vaccinated or boosted, and asks that you bring along a mask to wear if needed, reply promptly and courteously either way. Remember that to be optimally protected, you will need a full two weeks after the second injection of Pfizer or Moderna and the single shot of Johnson & Johnson, as well as two weeks following a booster. If you wish to attend but cannot because you are not yet fully vaccinated, or if you are not vaccinated because you choose not to be, politely decline the invitation. Never argue with the person who has graciously invited you. If you wish to debate the issues surrounding COVID-19 best practices as advised by the medical community, save it for later; now is not the time.
- Be Candid About Your Status – Always be truthful about your vaccination / booster status. You may be longing to join family and friends this Thanksgiving, but don’t deceive others if you have not been vaccinated or boosted. No one will be thankful if you unintentionally infect them, which can happen even if you are asymptomatic.
- Follow Travel Rules – Since the September 11th attacks, Americans have been subjected to stricter travel rules and have become accustomed to restless crowds at airports, uncertainty, security check-in procedures and regular delays in departures and arrivals. Therefore, no one should be surprised at the travel restrictions imposed due to the pandemic. And with Americans itching to get out and have fun after so much isolation, not to mention the U.S. reopening international travel to its shores, it will be wise to be prepared. This holiday season, travel is expected to exceed pre-COVID-19 levels; make sure you understand testing and masking requirements, and be considerate of, courteous to and cooperative with law enforcement officials and airline personnel. Incidents of unruly passengers have increased and much of it has to do with scuffles over refusals to comply with mask-wearing regulations. Such horrific behavior has prompted airlines to take a zero-tolerance approach and impose hefty fines. As well, familiarize yourself with the CDC guidelines and local transportation requirements for traveling by rail or bus and auto.
Now, About the Turkey…
Because residual effects of the pandemic have disrupted supply chains and resulted in labor shortages, it might be more difficult and more expensive to have a turkey on your table this Thanksgiving. So what do you serve if there are no gobblers to gobble? This Food and Wine article has some interesting suggestions, including Cornish hens, ribs, chicken and seafood dishes. Or why not try one of these vegetarian dinners from Country Living? Sometimes having to make a change can result in an eye-opening and enjoyable experience. You can make this the year that Fido or Lady samples something other than turkey from your beautifully decorated and festive holiday table!
For those who are not hosting or visiting for Thanksgiving, an intimate and laid-back dinner of whatever makes you smile and feel really good should be on your menu. Hence, however you spend Thanksgiving this year, may you be happy, carefree, sated with delicious food and drink, surrounded by family and friends (or not), and feeling more normal than you have in a long time! Even if it’s just for a day! Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Until next time,
Previous Thanksgiving-related Posts: