In March of 2020, the thought of Covid persisting beyond a few months seemed unlikely.

We felt sad for our friends with March and April birthdays, until we realized we would all get a Covid birthday. Now in November, we are still limiting social interaction and getting groceries in our PPE. It’s without a doubt that we will be celebrating Thanksgiving much differently this year. This year, for Thanksgiving: Celebrate Small.

When we envision Thanksgiving, we imagine warm autumnal gatherings with mounds of comfort food and the buzz of the kitchen. We think of a home bursting with activity, noise, and heaps of family. Many of us look forward to visiting our seldom seen loved ones and watching family tradition unfold before us. Now, none of us are quite sure what our first pandemic-era Thanksgiving will look like.

Per Centers of Disease Control recommendations, Thanksgiving is going to look a lot different. The CDC recommends keeping your gathering local, small, shorter in duration, and, preferably, outdoors. Your far away relatives may have to join your meal via Facetime, perched at the end of your table on a laptop. You’ll have to celebrate with your closeby relatives and friends and keep the gathering small. No need to add a leaf to your dining room table – you won’t have to accommodate extra seating. After all, you may even be eating your turkey on the patio.

Silver Lining to a Small Thanksgiving

While the thought of your traditions taking pause may rob you of some joy, one must remember the silver lining of gathering small. By having more intimate gatherings, we are able to experience the seemingly impossible: a relaxing and calm holiday. Complete and total grocery store mayhem? Not as much. Picking up your in-laws from the airport with traffic to boot? Not a chance. Floor to ceiling dishes and kitchen mess? Probably, but not nearly as much.

In addition to the minimization of the less favorable parts of the holidays, with a smaller guest list, this year’s more intimate celebration may lend itself to more connection. Rather than having multiple short-lived conversations with your many relatives, you can delve deeper into conversation with a select few. You have the opportunity to get to know that local relative or friend more deeply. Perhaps you have roommates or tenants you will celebrate with, who normally wouldn’t make it to your Thanksgiving table. When we someday have a Covid-free holiday season, you might have new guests, new recipes, and a greater appreciation for relaxation and connection.

Though none of us can accurately predict when we will socialize without the worry of Covid, we all know for certain that human interaction and celebration has new meaning. With the absence of touch and closeness on a large scale, we have grown to appreciate time with people off-screen and the simple joy of hugging our loved ones like never before. When some semblance of normalcy someday returns and we are able to gather fully, what we took for granted will bring us more joy than it ever has. This Thanksgiving, what we miss may steer us towards a new depth of gratitude. In the meantime, take a pause to enjoy the relaxation and new connections.