On the eve of yet another holiday that in many places will look markedly different in this, the most challenging year many have ever faced, I took a look back at the first of the holidays this year that was forced to change its appearance.
If you’ll recall, last March, just about the time so many were preparing to don the green for a few days and pack the pubs to hoist a few frosty ones as an homage to the Irish, the pandemic drumbeats were so audibly distinct that most St. Patrick’s Day parades were canceled, including some of our most noteworthy. From South Boston to New York City to New Orleans and on to my birth city of Chicago, the latter of which always includes the dyeing of the Chicago River, there were no floats, no marching bands and surely no leprechauns.
As for the origin of those pandemic drumbeats, they were traced to a city, shamefully, thanks to a less than full tank of world-geography knowledge, I’d never heard of — Wuhan, China, some 7,500 miles away from my postage stamp of real estate. You would think a city of over 11 million people, to put that number in perspective, more than the populations of New York City and Chicago combined, would have been one with which I had at least some familiarity.
Of course, the bar and restaurant industry especially were heavily impacted by the different look of that first holiday in our viral times, especially when the industry was dealt a double whammy, as in far less St. Patrick’s Day traffic and the cancelation of all that March Madness basketball involving both the high school and college tournaments, which always fills sports bars up to the brim.
As a former part-time ‘tender that worked many a St. Patrick’s Day and Irish Day Parade and many a March Madness shift during my 40 years of moonlighting serving ‘em up, I’ve seen how much the bar and restaurant industry counts on March revenues.
As the calendar progressed, slowly for many who were compelled to shelter in place, other holidays also took on far different looks, from Memorial Day to The Fourth of July and on through Halloween, and for kiddos, the latter is sad to bite-size Snickers say!
As for tomorrow’s holiday, it’s a favorite for so many because, unlike the Christmas that sticks his head up just over the next horizon, there are no presents over which to fret. That’s the constant. However, the holiday surely will have its differences as well.
Of course, the large-group Thanksgiving meals offered in so many communities for those whose life circumstances aren’t nearly as fortunate as those who’ll celebrate in traditional home environments will look different in terms of how the food will be served and how the seating will be arranged.
As for the home celebrations and the rest of the weekend that, for many, lengthens Thanksgiving, there are those who have offered their holiday advice.
Of course, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is always willing to toss in their couple of cents’ worth as to what we should and shouldn’t be doing this extended weekend. The organization made it known that those who will travel today and tomorrow morning to get to a loved one’s home for the big feed will assume heightened risks in exposing themselves to the coronavirus as well as increasing the risks of spreading it to others.
However, my guess is that that admonishment isn’t going to reduce by much the number of cars you’ll see in driveways and off the curbs in front of houses by late morning tomorrow. I just think the longer this goes, the more people release a little more caution to the wind as they search for the normalcy that has always lent such comfort to their daily rhythms, regardless of the dire pronouncements of others.
As for the in-home dinners that are the centerpieces of the holiday, the CDC recommends smaller ones with only people who live inside the home. As for the other family and close friends outside that would normally attend, the agency suggests a traditional family recipe be made by the cook and then delivered in a noncontact fashion.
Another long-time tradition associated with this weekend, of course, is Black Friday when, mostly women, especially moms and daughters, have paired up and stood shoulder to shoulder shrouded in darkness in parking lots for time immemorial outside big-box stores awaiting the unlocking of those doors before making those mad dashes for door-buster deals.
This year, however, those holiday killjoys at the CDC are saying that shopping online is the wise substitute for those all-day Black Friday shop-till-you-drop extravaganzas.
Despite whatever the different looks tomorrow and the rest of the weekend may bring, perhaps it’s best to keep our focus on all of what the Good Lord has provided. And, when we gather around our tables tomorrow, even if those tables may have a few less chairs than in past years, it still should again be pretty easy for us before that first forkful of fowl to raise our eyes above and with all the sincerity we can muster, mouth two of the easiest words there are to lip-read, which are, of course,
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.