Ah, Thanksgiving. A holiday known for family gatherings and decadent food. As the warmth of countless ovens pervade an equal number of houses, the rich smells of holiday feasts come wafting with it. The tables are set for lavish dinners, and the spirit of thanks and generosity abounds.
That is, until the political talk starts.
Along with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and a spread of homemade treats, Thanksgiving is often associated with the stress and tension that can result from family members broaching sensitive political and social topics.
This phenomenon is true for many of Miami’s students, and in a year when issues like a hotly-contested election and a once-in-a-century pandemic are floating around, it stands to reason that dinner tables might get pretty heated this year.
Kyle Hunt, a junior economics major, is concerned that his family’s Thanksgiving celebration will be marred by arguments and bickering.
“[My family] doesn’t agree on political issues on the best of years, and God knows this isn’t the best of years,” Hunt said.
Hunt said he knows his family won’t be able to resist bringing up the subjects of the election and COVID-19, and once they’re brought up, things might get nasty.
“My uncle and my mom in particular really don’t see eye to eye politically,” Hunt said. “So who knows how mad they’ll get at each other this year. I just want to focus on the food, man.”
And while hot-button topics are bound to create tension in some cases, in others, it looks like the constraints brought about by COVID-19 are actually set to reduce familial squabbling.
Liz Browning, a sophomore creative writing and professional writing double-major, said her family is one such case.
“Thanksgiving is kinda canceled, to be honest,” Browning said in reference to how concerns about COVID-19 have caused her family to limit their dinner to just her, her brother and her parents. “But I do know that if COVID wasn’t going on right now, Thanksgiving would be tense no matter what.”
Browning said members of her extended family differ in their political opinions and that large gatherings have the potential to get heated. This year, because no one aside from her immediate family will be present, that isn’t a concern.
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In fact, Browning said she’s looking forward to the holiday more than usual this year.
“I can honestly take or leave Thanksgiving most years, but I’m excited for the chance to see my family this year,” Browning said. “I really haven’t gotten to see my parents or the rest of my family much because of safety reasons, so even if it’s just in passing to say hi or drop something off, seeing family will be nice.”
But not everyone is in a position similar to Browning’s. So for those concerned about Thanksgiving dinner becoming a political minefield, here are a few bits of advice to (hopefully) make the evening a little less stressful.
If possible, just don’t bring politics up.
Especially for more left-leaning individuals, I know it might be tempting to want to gloat a little about recent political developments. Don’t. Uncle Marty didn’t make the journey all the way from the next state over just to have his face rubbed in this political topic or the other.
In the words of Kyle Hunt, just “focus on the food, man.”
I promise that mashed potatoes, crescent rolls and pumpkin pie are far more enjoyable things to center your attention on than the state of American politics or mounting COVID-19 statistics. We can all talk about those things any day of the year. Only on the last Thursday of November, however, does this tasty feast grace our tables.
Find common ground.
If political agreement cannot be achieved, find something else to bond with your family over. Be it sports, TV shows, celebrity gossip or some other topic, there’s bound to be something to discuss that everyone can enjoy. For example, I just got some of my extended family to start watching “Survivor,” and it’s far more fun to talk about than the U.S. House of Representatives.
If all else fails, maybe just don’t go.
If you truly don’t think you can avoid things getting out of hand this Thanksgiving, maybe settle for a smaller celebration. Social distancing and COVID safety are easier to achieve in smaller crowds anyway, and food tastes just as good at a small dinner as it does in a huge one.
This year is unprecedented in more ways than one, and Thanksgiving will likely be different than usual, too. Despite that, hopefully at least some of the spirit of family togetherness and being thankful can endure.
And hey, in this polarizing time, maybe what we need is a common enemy to really bring us together. If you agree, check out my previous Thanksgiving article on a certain foodstuff’s undeserved hype.