From 1621 when Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast for the Pilgrims and their Native American allies to commemorate their first successful corn harvest, Americans have celebrated Thanksgiving in various forms. Often seen as the kick-off to the festive holiday season, families and friends come together to eat, drink and be merry. But like pretty much everything else in 2020, Thanksgiving will be different this year. 

There will still be turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie and all the fixings, but there will be fewer people around the table. The streets of New York City won’t see throngs of tourists lining the sidewalks to watch the giant balloons for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Airports will be less crowded the Wednesday before the holiday. Thanksgiving Day football games will be played with fewer fans in the stands. On the bright side, maybe we’ll skip those tacky Black Friday fistfights between Walmart shoppers. Welcome to Thanksgiving COVID style.

Macys Parade. Credit: Getty
Macys Parade. Credit: Getty

In a year plagued with misfortune, being thankful doesn’t always come to mind. With forced lockdowns, travel restrictions, rampant unemployment and a host of other COVID-related problems, finding gratitude takes a little extra effort. Let’s make that effort, shall we?

Give Thanks for Travel

As Catherine Pulsifer said, “Give thanks not just on Thanksgiving Day, but every day of your life. Appreciate and never take for granted all that you have.” I must admit, before 2020 I took travel for granted. As a travel writer, my calendar has always been filled with trips. If a destination intrigued me, I booked a plane ticket and checked it out. When COVID lockdowns intervened, my world was flipped upside down. But, you can’t keep a good traveler down. I changed my focus and returned to my original means of travel—road trips. Yes, I miss international travel. And when it returns, I know I will never again take it for granted. But for now, I’ll continue to hit the open road in search of unique discoveries close to home.

Road trip photo taken by Terri Marshall
Road trip photo taken by Terri Marshall

Give Thanks for Nature

While I’ve always appreciated nature, my admiration for it multiplied exponentially in 2020. Honestly, I believe it saved my sanity during this long COVID affair. Every weekend for the past seven months, my husband and I have either hiked or biked in nature. We’ve witnessed the seasons move from late winter to spring to summer and now autumn. We spent time in state parks close to home and road tripped to national parks further afield. For every minute we spent in nature, we were rewarded with a sense of peace. I’ll certainly never take nature for granted again. 

Photo of author hiking in nature courtesy of Terri Marshall
Photo of author hiking in nature courtesy of Terri Marshall

Give Thanks for Holidays Past

We’ve all had to absorb numerous changes this year. It seems unfair that we should have to change our holiday traditions too. But all is not lost. Spend some time this Thanksgiving sharing stories of your favorite holiday celebrations over the year. Relive those experiences through old photographs. Jump on a FaceTime call with friends and family and laugh about that overcooked turkey you made when you first cooked Thanksgiving dinner. While you’re at it, remember to be grateful for that pumpkin pie you burned—oh wait, that was me.

Pumpkin Pie

Give Thanks for Zoom and Internet Connections

Yes, I’m thankful for Zoom. This never before thought about tool gives us the ability to virtually connect with friends and family no matter how far away they may be. You’ve used it for happy hours and pants free work conferences, why not use it for Thanksgiving? Cook that turkey, make that macaroni and cheese and set the table. Have your usual Thanksgiving friends and family do the same then virtually enjoy your feast together. And while you’re enjoying your Thanksgiving meal, remember to give thanks for your internet connection. Oh, and don’t forget to put your pants on.

Give Thanks for Online Shopping

Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of Black Friday and the crazed shoppers who line up after midnight on Thanksgiving to get gifts no one really needs. But to each his own. Of course, with COVID restrictions, those lines will be spaced for social distancing and those shoppers will be masked. As for me, I’ll be shopping online. And I’ll be grateful for having that as an option.

Give Thanks for Making it All the Way to November 2020

If there has ever been a year when we should be thankful for making it to the holidays, it’s 2020. Sadly, hundreds of thousands of other souls did not. If you’re here and reading this, you should be thankful. As a COVID survivor, I’m extremely grateful for making it through this year. Every day is a gift and none of us should ever forget that.

Give thanks