Many of us in our socially starved, COVID-weary existence will be struggling with how to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas this year.

With the pandemic spiking, schools returning to distance learning and new restrictions put on some businesses, most people are likely to face the conundrum of whether to shun gatherings with their kids, grandkids and other relatives or try to move ahead with a more COVID-safe get together.

One survey found that because so many people will be doing small household-only Thanksgiving dinners this year about 60% of those preparing a turkey will be doing it for the first time.

Those turkey cooking hotlines put on by Butterball and others better bring on extra staff.

Whole Foods even got some marketing mileage out of the phenomena of so many new cooks by offering “turkey insurance” on birds you buy from them. If you burn, dry out or implode your turkey, you can post your receipt, a description of what went wrong and a picture of your turkey fail on their website and they will send you a $35 Whole Foods gift card.

About 40 million turkeys are eaten over the Thanksgiving holiday annually, according to the National Turkey Federation. The group does not expect that figure to change much this year, but they are expecting more small turkeys to be sold.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has all manner of advice for people on hosting a safe Thanksgiving and Christmas. The lowest risk is to just celebrate with people in your own household. Makes sense, but it’s kind of a downer for people who live alone or just with their spouse. If my wife and I celebrate Christmas alone, there won’t be much drama in wondering who my Secret Santa is.

The CDC says you can have virtual get-togethers on Zoom. I guess it would work but would be sort of strange. And my grandkids would just put me on mute every time I started telling them one of my jokes that they’ve heard at every gathering we’ve ever had. What’s the fun in that?

Do I really want to deprive the young ones of my dynamite joke: “I want to die peacefully in my sleep like my grandpa. Not screaming in terror like the passengers in his car.”

If you do have a party with others from outside your household, you’re supposed to limit the number, wear masks and stay at least 6 feet apart at all times.

People with a small house like ours would face challenges. I’d have to send people to other rooms — a couple in the study standing at opposite corners, a couple in the spare bedroom — and we could shout back and forth.

It would be kind of fun deciding who gets sent where if the grandkids get on my nerves: “Jake, the CDC says you have to go to my shop in the basement. Take a turkey leg and some stuffing with you. And you might as well clean up the shop while you’re down there.”

They also say you should increase ventilation by opening windows and doors. But that would prevent me from asking, “Were you born in a barn?” every time one of the kids leaves the door open.

Health experts say gatherings that last longer pose more risk. “Being within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more greatly increases the risk.”

That advice would be useful when you want to get out quickly from gatherings with relatives you really don’t like that much. Go in, grab some food and a drink, say Merry Christmas or Happy Thanksgiving, then look at your watch and say, “Sorry, it’s been 15 minutes. Dr. Fauchi says we have to go now.”

They also say you should lay off the booze at your parties as it leads to bad safety behaviors. This at the time when sales of alcohol for in-home use has risen as people aren’t going out as much. Online sales of alcohol are skyrocketing, as are boxed wine sales, which have jumped 40% or more this year.

Everyone will have to make their own decisions about the upcoming holidays. Keep it to your own household. Make it a bit bigger but be more careful. Or maybe just order your box of wine, lock the doors, watch “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”

Maybe take a nap and then start planning some big celebrations for next year.

Tim Krohn can be contacted at or 507-344-6383.

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