This Thanksgiving is not a usual one for many people. There were those who found themselves on their own, due to Covid restrictions—possibly for the first time ever.
I was also on my own this year, but it wasn’t the first time. In the years immediately following my mother’s death, I would take advantage of the long Thanksgiving weekends to fly to Paris to see friends. At that time, none of my Paris friends were American, so I didn’t celebrate the day. And it didn’t bother me. In fact, it helped me to forget that I wasn’t celebrating with Ma.
Those Un-Thanksgivings in Paris created another kind of tradition, other memories, like filming my episode of House Hunters International, which we shot over Thanksgiving Weekend 2013. Although a snow storm delayed my Wednesday flight by a day, giving me a chance to celebrate at least a few hours of Thanksgiving with a childhood friend and his family, who lived not far from Newark airport. Another unconventional, but equally memorable, holiday.
This year, some people decided to ignore confinement rules and host people (or go to) Thanksgiving dinners. The expat Facebook forums were full of heated discussion on the subject. One person hosted 19 people in direct defiance of the law. Still, many more stayed home and made the most of it. “It’s one year,” a friend posted on Facebook, complaining about those who seemed unwilling to do their part. That was my frame of mind, too. One year. And not my first un-Thanksgiving in Paris. I would survive.
In the end, I did more than survive. I thrived. I spent the day doing only things that made me happy—took a walk, wrote, talked with family. And I focused on a single idea: gratitude. That’s what the day is about, right? That and pilgrims, of course.
I know for a lot of expats, Thanksgiving becomes really important, a chance to feel less homesick, and unapologetically American.
But for me, I’m not normally the sort to cling firmly to American traditions while in France. I don’t understand when someone in an expat chat group asks where to find Velveeta. In the Mecca of Cheese? What?
Then again, I’ve never lived here one year straight; I’ve traveled back and forth, got my fix of home whenever I needed it. This year is different. It will be over a year that I will have been away by the time I make it back. And being far from my family during a pandemic has never made me miss home more. I’m not going to buy Velveeta, but I have taken to watching reruns of Friends on Netflix. To each her own vice.
Some Reasons to Be Grateful, Courtesy of Monsieur Macron
Here in France, numbers are down after a month of lockdown, and they are relaxing confinement a bit to open shops and allow travel—more relaxed compared to our EU neighbors. The rest of the EU is wary of provoking a holiday surge in cases, but France seems less cautious. I can only assume they are anticipating a post-holiday uptick, unless they are totally incompetent, which I do not want to believe. It comes down to calculated risks in order to balance the economy with the mental and physical wellbeing of the people. I don’t envy Macron his job even a little.
What’s ahead for us? Macron rolled out his three-stage plan:
Stage 1—Starting November 28
- Easing of the month-long lockdown, beginning Saturday, with the reopening of “non-essential” businesses (hairdressers, clothing stores), which will have to observe strict distancing rules, and close at 9pm.
- Restaurants and bars will remained closed
- Churches and some cultural venues will be able to reopen starting December 1, with a maximum of 30 people
- Freedom move about within a 20km (12-mile) radius of our homes (vs. 1km) for up to three hours (vs. 1 hour)
- Documents will still be needed to leave home during this time
Stage 2—Starting December 15
- If number of new cases continues to fall (to about 5,000 daily cases), lockdown will be formally lifted, allowing holiday travel (it’s important to note that Finland is locking down after just 400+ new cases)
- A curfew will replace lockdown: 9pm-7am (with the exception of the 24th and 31st of December)
- All private gatherings would be expected to observe strict distancing rules (good luck enforcing that one)
- Cinemas, theaters, and museums can reopen
- Bars and restaurants will remain closed (I guess their small business lobby isn’t as strong as that of the entertainment industry)
Stage 3—Starting January 20
- If numbers continue to fall, restaurants will be allowed to open (no news on bars)
- Gyms will also be able to open
Okay. Enough about that. Here’s some pie.
How did you spend your Thanksgiving? Let me know in the comments!