How to Spend Thanksgiving Day during COVID-19

Studies show that doing this one thing will significantly affect your happiness.

Nina Wyckoff, Content Strategist

For a cynic,  the phrase “Thanksgiving Spirit” is a cliche in the best of times, and a punchline in 2020. With the status quo upended, it’s tempting to ignore the holiday altogether, after all, who could watch a crowdless Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade without getting slightly depressed? But rather than dwelling too much on the classic traditions unavailable this year, you can use unique circumstances to try something entirely different: handwritten letters of gratitude.

Okay, do not leave, hear me out before you post a scathing comment at my expense.

This could be a FANTASTIC form of escapism: Visualize yourself in a darkened room, the only light emanates from the blood-red candle you are tipping over an envelope, the wax dripping down on the cream cardstock, Tchaikovsky playing in the background as you artfully press your sigil into the cooling wax. Looking up to gaze into the middle distance, a single tear runs down your cheek. After a moment, you don a cloak black as midnight before getting in your Toyota Corolla and depositing your masterpiece into the care of the US Postal Service. See? Letters are fun.

If that description doesn’t convince you, perhaps science will. ~Studies~ consistently show that happiness is not derived from material gain. On the other hand, expressing gratitude for the people around you? Incredibly effective.

Take this article excerpt published by Harvard Health Publishing, “Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, tested the impact of various positive psychology interventions on 411 people, each compared with a control assignment of writing about early memories. When their week’s assignment was to write and personally deliver a letter of gratitude to someone who had never been properly thanked for his or her kindness, participants immediately exhibited a huge increase in happiness scores. This impact was greater than that from any other intervention, with benefits lasting for a month.” The article proceeds to directly suggest writing letters of gratitude at least monthly.

Research also indicates that novelty itself can bring joy, so have fun with it! There are a plethora of tutorials online that can instruct you in modern and old-fashioned calligraphy, wax seals, Shakespearean language (life is short), and of course anything and everything else you find interesting. The recipient will be so mesmerized by the luxurious cardstock envelope that they won’t even notice spelling mistakes.

There are, of course, other benefits worth mentioning. One could argue that a canceled Thanksgiving dinner allows you to appreciate your relatives more. It is easier to think of family members fondly because you don’t have to deal with them screwing up the cornbread (the CRUMB is too DRY how hard is it, Aunt Lydia). Additionally, sending out warm and fuzzy letters to relatives means you’ll easily win points and become their favorite. I mean, you COULD sign the letter for your whole family, but if you really want to maximize your holiday gifts this year, you’ll take the credit. It goes without saying that if you do receive better gifts than usual, I expect a 20% cut.


What did you do for Thanksgiving this year?

  • Celebrated with the people I live with. (57%, 8 Votes)
  • Celebrated with people in my bubble. (14%, 2 Votes)
  • Video-chatted with distant friends and family. (14%, 2 Votes)
  • Took Nina's advice. (14%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 14

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In all seriousness, Thanksgiving will be difficult this year, for some people more than others. Making an effort to “see the bright side” can seem futile and those are valid feelings. I implore you to express gratitude to the people who have made a difference in your life, because knowing that your honest words have made someone’s day better can get you through the day as well. if you take even just half an hour to give it meaning.