Thanksgiving Plans Transformed by the Pandemic

As Thanksgiving quickly approaches, Winsor and Belmont Hill students are surely apprehensive about the schools’ plans after the holiday. Although you might not be celebrating the occasion surrounded by close relatives or loved ones, Thanksgiving provides us the opportunity to appreciate our health, a gift we may sometimes take for granted. Especially now, the holiday is the perfect chance to make new memories and reflect on the past harrowing months, so we found out how people aim to spend their vacation.
This year, the top priority for Winsor students is celebrating the occasion with their loved ones. Reah D. ’21 is excited to stay home and eat dinner with her immediate family. Every year, her family cooks “a random combination of each of [their] favorite foods,” including homemade Korean food, chicken parm with spaghetti, pancakes, and mashed potatoes because they “gotta have some Thanksgiving in there.” Also, many Winsor families have adjusted their annual Thanksgiving traditions for the pandemic. While Annisa P. ’23 usually travels to New York with her extended family, these plans are no longer possible with the state safety guidelines. Instead, Anissa will be connecting with her extended family “through Facetime,” and they are also “planning to cook Thanksgiving dinner for [their] family this year.”
Although 2020 has been a long year of endlessly-changing plans and unexpected challenges, Winsor students are still finding many things to be thankful for. Like many others, Paige G. ’24 states, “my family is happy and healthy, and hopefully I will get to see so much more of them now that my parents are working at home.” Similarly, Anissa said that “Although 2020 has been super rough so far, I definitely think that it helped me appreciate my friends and family so much more because I was apart from a lot of them for a long time.” Likewise, Reah shared that in the past, her family would eat their Thanksgiving meals “out of Tupperware containers” while visiting her sister, who lives away from home due to medical reasons. However, this year her sister is “finally back home again” so they can celebrate the holiday together in their house.
All of the Winsor students expressed their deep appreciation for the school’s efforts to make the academic year as engaging and community-centered as possible. Lyanne L. ’25 said, “At Winsor, I’m most grateful for my friends and teachers.” As a new Class V student this year, Paige also notes that “[she] is so happy that Winsor has [given] us the opportunity to be on campus.” She is thankful to be able to “make new friends and socialize in person.” Anissa thanked the administration for allowing students to go back to school physically.
As for many teenagers, it was “really difficult” for them to not see any friends for six months, and they are excited to be back in school and even playing on a sports team. Reah commended Winsor for making her senior year “as normal as possible” given the situation. Although the Class of 2021 cannot partake in traditions like Ring Day, the Junior retreat, or Prom, the faculty and staff are still making the seniors “feel special” by showering them with fancy perks such as “donuts and lemonade during homeroom, a Senior-only coffee machine, and a modified first day of school where seniors could still dress up.”
The Panel wanted to find out how the COVID-19 pandemic has altered the community’s Thanksgiving arrangements, so we sent out a school-wide survey to determine the community’s overall holiday plans. Considering the limitations and mantra surrounding travel and gatherings during the pandemic, we felt many members of the community would be hesitant to share their Thanksgiving plans publicly, which was a factor in our decision to keep responses anonymous. For reference, there were 148 respondents to the survey including approximately 25% of students and 50% of the faculty/staff.
According to the survey results, while 87% of respondents usually spend Thanksgiving with extended family or friends, only 35% will attempt to have a somewhat normal holiday this year. A student in the fifth form stated, “this was not the Thanksgiving I was hoping for, but of course, this was not a year I was hoping for either.” Also, approximately 21% of survey respondents will travel out of state for Thanksgiving. For more detail, we asked those who would be traveling for Thanksgiving where they will be visiting. 65% of those traveling stated that they would be remaining in a Massachusetts-approved state, while 3% reported they would be leaving the country.
To combat a rise in COVID-19 cases at Belmont Hill, the school administration released a plan in order to ensure a safe return from Thanksgiving break. Every member of the community will be tested on the first Monday back from vacation, and students will have virtual classes on Tuesday and Wednesday of that week. Approximately 80% of respondents think the plan is sufficient for a safe return to school.
Along with a change in travel plans, the tradition of the school-wide Turkey Drive through which families help provide Thanksgiving dinners for communities in the Boston area has been adapted. Instead of families bringing in the food themselves, families were asked to donate twenty dollar gift cards from Shaw’s or Stop & Shop. When asked about the changes, a faculty member stated, “It’s the best we can do… It’s not as hands-on for the students, but the bottom line is that families in need will be able to get the food for a Thanksgiving dinner… so it’s the right decision!” A student also responded, “I think that it is good that we can still help out families that need it the most, especially during these times.”
The winter holiday season is nearly upon us, but before we can jump into the festivities, Thanksgiving offers a great opportunity for us all to surround ourselves with loved ones and reflect upon ourselves and our community. Although some relatives may be distant due to the pandemic, we hope that it will not limit our appreciation and high spirits. The Panel and The Banner hope that everyone in the community uses Thanksgiving as a time to stay positive and give thanks. So wherever or with whomever you may be celebrating, we wish you all a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving.

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