The holidays of 2021 will be a lot different from last year. There is much more likelihood that you’ll catch and spread the disease. COVID-19It was extremely high.
We have now got vaccines. Many have had the booster already. Americans love to travel, and AAA Travel has predicted that Americans will be traveling with more gusto for the holiday season. 53.4 million Americans will travelThis Thanksgiving is a 13% increase over 2020.
Even Anthony Fauci, the White House’s chief medical adviser, said it’s fine to gather if you and your family members are fully vaccinated. (That’s what he said he plans to do(This Thanksgiving.
“If you get vaccinated and your family’s vaccinated, you can feel good about enjoying a typical Thanksgiving, Christmas with your family and close friends,” Fauci, who is also director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview last weekHosting by the Bipartisan Political Center.
Of course, everyone is different when it comes to what they’re comfortable doing. If you’re feeling uneasy about hosting or going to someone’s home because you or someone you’re close to is immunocompromised, or because you’re unsure of someone’s vaccination status, it’s your prerogative to hang back.
Even if you’re fully vaccinated, you might be worried about coming into contact with those who aren’t, and people who have received COVID-19 shots are still able to spread COVID, after all.
The truth is that, nearly two years after the pandemic began, many people still do risk assessments prior to going outside. And that’s OK, said psychotherapist Andrea Wachter.
“These are complex times and now, more than ever, it’s essential to honor your truth if you get a holiday invite,” she wrote to HuffPost.
“I’ve learned that unless I’m willing to be flexible, I will be miserable. We humans need to get better at writing our plans in pencil instead of Sharpie … ditch our fantasy of how things ‘should’ be and, instead, make the best of what is.”
If you give it some thought and feel comfortable “giving yourself the green light to go, there’s your answer ― go,” Wachter said. “Hopefully you can follow your needs regarding masks and distancing.”
Likewise, if you get a red light and would rather stay home, “hopefully you will honor that and be honest with the host,” she said. “I would hope that anyone who cares about you would want you to be true to yourself.”
And if you’re not sure about going ― yellow light! ― try imagining attending and see how you feel about it. You can then imagine yourself not going, and notice your physical and mental reactions. Wachter stated that sometimes one option will be more pleasant than the other.
“The bottom line is, it’s always important to be true to yourself but nowadays, it’s essential,” she wrote. (Wachter’s plans? “My general plans are mostly to cozy up at home with my husband but I have always preferred that to socializing! We have one holiday invite and after the host told me we would be eating outside and that any non-vaccinated people would need to be tested, I accepted.”)
Which are your plans? Below are 15 readers sharing their plans for holiday gatherings during these still-weird periods.
For clarity and style, the responses were edited.
1. “For my family, communication has been the key. Instead of making assumptions or just doing what makes me personally comfortable, I’ve had numerous conversations with various members of the family (individually, so that it doesn’t turn into a big argument among people who disagree with each other’s points of view), asking each what they were comfortable with as far as gathering for the holidays, what concerns they had and whether there were any extra precautions we could take to make them feel safer. This was especially important with older relatives who already have health concerns, and though vaccinated, don’t want to risk getting COVID.
It has brought about animosity, division, and discord among family members and friends. This has been the worst thing that happened in the past year. Holidays are supposed to be about coming together and focusing on love and joy and gratitude, but it’s impossible to do that without open, respectful communication. While we are still working out the details, there will be a number of smaller events instead. Instead of looking at it as a bad thing, I’m seeing it as a way to celebrate (and enjoy delicious meals) on multiple days instead of just one, and reducing stress and worry for family members who aren’t comfortable with big gatherings. I’ve learned that unless I’m willing to be flexible, I will be miserable. We humans need to get better at writing our plans in pencil instead of Sharpie, and to choose to ditch our fantasy of how things ‘should’ be and, instead, make the best of what is. (Even if ‘what is’ is completely different than how it’s always been.)” ― Author Kristina Kuzmic
2. “My daughter is doing Thanksgiving at her house. Some of the people who will be there are not vaccinated, so my partner and I ― we’re both in our 70s ― will be doing a drive-by and pick up food, but we’re not going into the house.” ― Jean, Arkansas
3. “This holiday season will be our first family gathering inside four walls. We are enjoying al fresco dining and there isn’t a warm breeze that assures us all we are fine. Instead, I’ll be sitting across from two family members who refuse to get vaccinated. It might bring out the New Yorker in me, and I’ll have to do all I can not to stand up and yell, ‘Are you both morons?’ Or, perhaps the two decades living on the opposite coast might soften me to smile at them and say, ‘Dudes, the virus will find you, man.’ Either way, I’ll be sitting at a table with people I love. People I respect … for the most part.” ― Andrea TateCalifornia writer,
4. “I’m an epidemiologist. Our family will be doing another ‘immediate family only’ Thanksgiving this year because the younger kids in our family are not yet fully vaccinated. There are also some family members with immunocompromised conditions so we’re doing our best to make sure everyone stays safe while we wait for everyone else to be fully vaccinated. The COVID-19 vaccines are only available to children aged 5-11 years on Nov. 2, 2021. This means that they will not fully vaccinate them by Thanksgiving. The child must have two doses of the COVID-19 vaccines in order to be fully vaccinated. Two more shots are required after that. A period of at least two weeks is needed for the second shot. Family members should not feel secure that only one shot is enough to protect their children. For those who have missed the opportunity, there will be a holiday party where everyone is fully vaccinated.
Some advice if you are gathering this year: Think of layers of protection from COVID like layers of Swiss cheese — each individual layer has holes in it and is not 100% effective by itself. If you combine layers, (i.e. The layers can be combined (i.e., masks + outdoor + distancing) and are very effective. Families should keep this concept in mind when they are bringing their unvaccinated or partially vaccinated children to gatherings.” ― Katrine WallaceDr. Judith, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Illinois Chicago
5. “I’m the one traveling. I’ll be flying home from the East Coast to the Midwest. I’m fully vaxxed and boosted, I always wear a mask and I telework. I don’t know if I’ll go so far as to wear an N95 on the planes like I did last year, but I’ll still be double-masking. I’m only going home to my immediate family and staying within our household while I’m home. My whole family is vaxxed and they know I’m immunocompromised, so both parents will be boosted by the time I’m home. If I’m feeling unsure after my flight (i.e. If the people who are at the airport wearing masks and such.I will likely do as I did last year: wear a mask in my home until I get a COVID testing. I feel much better about going home this holiday than I did in 2020.” ― Sarah, Maryland
6. “We will be skipping again for the second year in a row. My mom is also immunocompromised. They are our number one priority. We are all blessed to share a home, and since I don’t know the status of others, we will not be visiting anyone this year.” ― LeDonna, Illinois
7. “We’re having family together who have mixed private medical statuses but who do not treat the other like less worthy members of society. I would much rather enjoy my time with loved ones every chance I get than to live with regrets of not seeing them.” ― Erica, Ontario Canada
8. “For holidays, I will stay home mostly and pick a day to go out with friends (all are vaccinated) for outdoor dining. We have made a decision together that we will not fly to visit family unless it is absolutely necessary. This decision was largely inspired by my past difficult experiences. It was necessary to travel out of the country to visit a relative who suffered from serious health issues. My schedule was disrupted when I had to wait at different airports. There were many flight cancellations and delays. The same arrangement applies to travel to relatives in the U.S. We agree that we will only fly when there are emergency situations. It’s not what we prefer, but it seems like we will have to make peace with the situation. Our families have elderly individuals, and young people have to be mindful about their health as well.” — Jagdish Khubchandani,New Mexico State University professor of public and community health
9. “I am hosting Thanksgiving this year. The gathering will only be about 10 people. Each person has been given a booster if they are eligible. While there can never be 100% safety, I believe in the balance of risk and reward. Family time is worth it.” ― Stacey FreemanNew Jersey author,
10. “This Thanksgiving will be the first time we’ve seen all of our grandchildren and children together since Thanksgiving 2019. We will be having 16 people share Thanksgiving. They range in age from 2 years old to 82. Before arriving, everyone has signed up to have a COVID quick test. We’ve all been vaccinated, other than the 2-year-old. We want everybody to stay as healthy and safe as possible. I am grateful that our family is all in agreement on what it takes to stay safe.” ― Michelle CombsThe Midwest is home to a man named.
“I’ll be sitting across from two family members who refuse to get vaccinated. It might bring out the New Yorker in me, and I’ll have to do all I can not to stand up and yell, ‘Are you both morons?’”
11. “We were so excited this year that we would finally be able to spend the holiday with family. My husband’s family lives in Michigan. New York is where we live. Every child 12 and older is fully immunized. All those who qualify have received the booster. These two young children, aged 6 and 7, received their first booster dose last week.
All were vaccinated to the fullest extent possible. Everyone has been doing social-distancing, masking, and was being vaccinated. To limit our exposure to others, we drove instead of flying. Recently, we were informed of concerning information about one Michigan family member’s health. Since long, she has been COVID. Every Michigan family member had COVID by the end of 2020. They’ve been laxer about precautions than us.
Last Thursday was the day that my youngest child arrived home from school. I received a call five minutes prior to her bus leaving. Three days earlier, she had been either exposed on the bus or in school. The quarantine period is for 10 days. No travel. Our entire household was tested. All of us are negative but we still need to quarantine the youngest. My husband ran off to buy a Thanksgiving turkey and some other foods, as well as the normal groceries.
As last year, we will celebrate Thanksgiving with our own turkey, all the trimmings, in our home. We’ll only be seeing family via Zoom. The rules were followed. The rules have been followed by our entire family. But we still can’t go see our Michigan family because they haven’t followed the rules designed to protect them and others. It’s all about them. They have no idea what it’s like to hold a sobbing 6-year-old while she cries about missing school and her grandparents, thinking it’s her fault.” ― Elizabeth, New York
12. “We are treating this holiday season very similar to how we treated holidays before COVID. However, holiday interactions are limited to our immediate families. I got together with my family for the holidays last year, but there was a lot more anxiety around planning and making sure we’re being safe. This year, it feels like everyone’s stress level is lower. I was able to see how anxiety levels had changed from last year during the planning phase. My family will only be present for Thanksgiving. I do feel safe about this because I will know everyone I come in contact with, and I know they have all been vaccinated.” ― Rebecca LeslieGeorgia
13. “Five of us are vaccinated, but there is a 5-month-old baby, so dinner will be outside on the deck in the cold to protect her. To keep the food warm, we have an outside heater. We are also using the large heating plate from our grill to heat up the food. Everyone will be wearing many layers to keep warm.” ―Terri, Washington state
14. “Our large Hispanic family is 95% vaccinated. We will be spending Thanksgiving with the unvaccinated children, who have been around one another quite often. All seems fine. We will request that family members who are not feeling well be allowed to remain home if necessary. It’s not offensive; everyone understands that we will be together again soon.” ― Sandra (New Jersey)
15. “About 11 years ago, my husband and I blended our families, my four and his two, who today range in age from 19 to 29. All of our children, except for our Marine, will be home with us during the holiday season. We have decided that I will be the healthiest person and everyone else will receive their booster shots before we gather. All flying passengers will be required to have a COVID check before taking off. We are still cautious and follow Washington state’s guidelines, which remain fairly strict.” — Elise Buie is a Seattle divorce and family attorney