Families modify Thanksgiving traditions in light of Covid


Eileen Tran

Illustration by Eileen Tran

Jasmine Castillo, Feature Editor

Thanksgiving is usually a time dedicated to family, feasting and fun — but during the Covid-19 pandemic, a new ingredient will be added: fear.

Infographic by Jasmine Castillo.

With the release of new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the California Department of Public Health, families may find celebrating the holidays this year even more stressful than listening to Uncle Joe’s fishing tales for the umpteenth time.

On November 12, the CDC issued precautions families should take to remain healthy during the holiday season.  The CDC advises that individuals who attend gatherings on Thanksgiving should bring their own food, wear masks, avoid places where food is being prepared in the household and use single-use items such as plates and condiment packets. 

These new protocols have led many families to re-evaluate their traditional holiday plans.

We decided to keep the gathering really small,” freshman Sophia Montes De Oca said about her upcoming celebration.  “Family who traditionally make the trip will not be attending this year.  We advised family at higher risk of catching Covid to stay home and that a plate would be dropped off instead.  We also will be dividing tables based on family since masks would be off then.” 

Similarly, the CDPH updated its guidelines for private gatherings on November 13.  The CDPH recommends limiting gatherings to no more than three families,  gathering outdoors, wearing a mask, reducing the duration of gatherings and discouraging singing activities among other precautions.

“It will just be us, my parents and sisters, and we’ll just make food at home and probably not even have a turkey if [stores] are too busy,” senior Laura Zamora said.

Those who host a Thanksgiving gathering are faced with more responsibilities this year as well.  Both the CDC and the CDPH suggest that in addition to limiting the size of the outdoor gathering, the host should also frequently sanitize areas that have been touched often.  Recognizing that the new guidelines may be difficult to follow, the CDC and the CDPH have stated that if gatherings are held indoors, windows should be open and if food is shared, only one person should serve the food. 

We plan on having it outside and adding more tables so each family can be separated,” junior Trinity Altamirano said.  “Most of my family members have really bad asthma and [we] don’t want to chance anything when we can just change up the usual routine.”

Another big concern this holiday season is travel.  Many families have members who fly in for Thanksgiving, but this year more families are opting to drive instead or cancel their plans altogether. According to AAA NewsRoom, “AAA anticipates Thanksgiving air travel volume will be down by nearly half of prior years – to 2.4 million travelers.”

“My uncle and grandpa aren’t coming,” senior Calvin Khoonsrivong-Huynh said.  “They live together and my uncle is a clean freak and he doesn’t want my grandpa flying on a plane with other people.  Plus it is a pretty long flight from Singapore.  They have concerns….it’s very difficult for my grandpa now because he is old.”

Although gatherings are a Thanksgiving tradition for most families, the CDC recommends alternatives such as virtual gatherings and only spending time with people in your household. 

“We decided to not have Thanksgiving….we don’t want to risk getting sick,” senior Jonni Fenton said.  “We are going to cook dinner just for my house and watch Harry Potter movies and play games.”

With the number of Covid-19 related hospitalizations in California surpassing 5,000 according to the CDPH, many understand why the new guidelines and precautions are necessary. 

Recently someone really close to me had a relative of theirs get Covid, and they can’t visit them,” Zamora said.  “It really made me think, what’s the point of getting together in such a large group just so we raise the chances of having to distance and be in pain of being sick after?”

Some family members of essential workers acknowledge the high risks of these gatherings and are inclined to adjust their plans.  Oca explains why she believes being cautious during this holiday is more important than ever.

“My mom, being a nurse, understands just how bad the cases … have been getting especially during winter,” Oca said.  “It’s a mutual understanding for my family, as we have also seen close family friends pass due to the virus.” 

Butterball: frozen turkeys sit at the grocery store waiting to be picked up by Thanksgiving shoppers. Photo by Micaela Lopez.

Others, however, have still chosen to hold a traditional Thanksgiving despite the recommendations and precautions. 

We always have a tradition for family football in the morning,” senior Anthony Pantoja said. “Then we hang out and eat. Then we play big family games.” Pantoja admits his family has continued to get together during the quarantine, so the holiday season doesn’t change or interfere with those plans.

Some families, regardless of the uncertainty of the pandemic, plan to host an even larger Thanksgiving gathering than in previous years with or without the fear of Covid. 

“We’re going to have my close family come over for Thanksgiving, my aunt, cousins grandma ect and celebrate me and my grandma’s birthday along with Thanksgiving,” junior Ysela Aguas said.  “It kind of surprised me myself hearing we were going to eat with so many family members. I’m excited to see my family but then again our area has moved up to the purple tier, which does lead to some concerns.”

Contributors: Benjamin Tran, Cheyenne Taylor, Micaela Lopez and Eileen Tran.