Thanksgiving 2020: History Repeats Itself
This is the second time a pandemic has hampered holiday plans
We may not be gathering in big groups around a large table, eating turkey and drinking wine to our hearts’ content, but in my house, Thanksgiving is still a go. Of course, it will be a small group – just our household – but all our favorite Thanksgiving dishes will still be on the table. I’ll be making this macaroni and cheese, this sweet potato pie, and this cranberry sauce, among the other turkey day staples.
Not on the menu is the family get together, cousin playdates, and seeing my out of town relatives, because.. pandemic. But it’s worth it. Better to have a small Thanksgiving this year than getting exposed and maybe not seeing Thanksgiving next year.
And I was surprised to find out that this is not the first Thanksgiving semi-cancelled by a pandemic. Mental Floss’ Michelle Debczak wrote about Thanksgiving celebrations in 1918, which was toward the end of World War I. Food shortages and the Spanish Flu impacted the U.S.; people tried out new recipes to accommodate the lack of ingredients and soldiers wrote home prior to their return in the hopes of finding out that their families were spared by the first and second waves of the deadly flu.
When the soldiers did come home, there were celebrations in their honor and - despite warnings - plenty of public gatherings, as people thought that the war and the pandemic were finally behind them. Of course, that wasn't the case, and there was a third wave of infections after the holidays.
But some cities encouraged social distancing. Brandon Specktor of LiveScience.com writes that “When public gatherings were banned in Richmond, Indiana, shortly before Thanksgiving 1918, a reporter at the local newspaper characterized the imminent holiday as a ‘pleasant Thanksgiving with nothing to do.’ Hopefully that’s the worst that can be said about Thanksgiving 2020, as well.”
I second that. Happy Thanksgiving! Stay safe.
More articles on Thanksgiving during the 1918 Pandemic, if you're interested: