Holiday season, from a distance

Updated: Jan 25, 2021

by Frank White IV

Photo: Getty Images.

When we first went back into lockdown back in March, few of us would have believed that we would still be seeing record numbers of Covid cases over Thanksgiving and into December. But if Americans could still find pride in July, and spirit in October, then nothing would stop us from being thankful in November.

The fourth Thursday in November is a day of communion for Americans, whether it be with family, friends, or anyone that you love. But how did the CDC recommend we celebrate this day of togetherness when it became dangerous and irresponsible to be with the ones that we love? As cases surged in states all around the US, the CDC advised that Thanksgiving gatherings be limited to the members of one’s immediate household, especially if you planned on eating indoors. Responsible alternatives included outdoor eating with friends or family within your social bubble, or my personal favorite: one all inclusive “Zoomsgiving” where everyone and anyone was invited to spread love around a virtual table.

But regardless of these alternatives and safety suggestions, Americans around the country have inevitably planned to travel to family throughout this holiday season. In order to get a sense of how local families have planned to do this safely, I caught up with a few Northwood students who have traveled or plan to travel.

Jon Dennis, a senior at Northwood, headed to Virginia Beach this Thanksgiving to see his grandmother. “I'm traveling to my grandmother's house this Thanksgiving. She’s getting up there in age so to be as safe as possible we plan to isolate in a hotel room, avoid any pit stops on the drive there, and wear masks during our visit [which will be strictly outdoors].” Jon and his family were well aware of the risks the trip imposed, but all parties were in agreement to minimize these risks as much as possible. He completely understood why health officials advised families to stay home; but with this he recognized that it is not togetherness on its own that causes diffusion, but rather irresponsible togetherness and dangerous ignorance.

Dylan Emsfled graduated from Northwood just last year and now attends the University of Vermont in person and on campus due to their successful and strict Covid safety precautions and procedures. Dylan is no stranger to the sacrifices that must be made for the safety of those around him; he had a devastating family emergency just last month but was unable to come home due to the inability to return to campus. Now UVM made plans to send all students home for an extended holiday break beginning on November 20 and lasting until January 20. On that day, students will remain on campus for the remainder of the second semester.

“I was thrilled to find out I would be able to come home for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, especially since it looks like we are headed straight to another lockdown.” Dylan and his family did not plan on traveling for Thanksgiving, but both he and his sister had to return to Maryland as safely as possible during one of the busiest travel weeks of the year.

Ultimately, Thanksgiving is one of the few moments in the year we get to slow down and graciously appreciate the lives we are blessed to live each day. We get it: life still felt far from normal this Thanksgiving, and we all wish to return to normalcy. But if you must travel or see your extended family this holiday season, be like Jon and Dylan, and remind yourself that if it is love that brings you together, that same love should empower you to keep you and your family safe.


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