But it’s still possible to navigate these conflicts gracefully, Emily Esfahani Smith, a doctoral student in clinical psychology, argues in The Times. After you have the vaccine conversation, banish politics from the table if you know it could lead to a blowup. And perhaps even more effective than avoiding politics, she says, is extending grace to one another.
“This means assuming good faith, despite how annoying or passive-aggressive family members are acting,” she writes. “Though the pandemic has increased tensions within families, it has also created an opening. Now more than ever, people are recognizing the importance of being together — and how precious and fleeting life can be.”
If you anticipate unavoidable, intolerable conflict — or if you’re simply not feeling up to the occasion — skipping Thanksgiving is also an option. “Things are still shaken up, and a lot of us (me, for instance) still feel fragile,” Elazar Sontag writes in Eater. “This could, then, be the perfect year to politely decline the invitations, rain check the family reunions, and do something for ourselves. Why not take a trip?”
Depending on whose invitation you’re declining, though, it may not be a decision to take lightly. “Understand that not showing up is likely to have consequences for your relationships,” says Peter T. Coleman, a professor of psychology and education at Columbia. “If you decide to stay away, I would recommend informing people beforehand in as clear and respectful a way as possible.”
How to feast in the time of coronavirus
As the Times Food columnist Melissa Clark wrote last year, perhaps a little mournfully, “The whole point of Thanksgiving is to go big: a huge turkey surrounded by a bevy of sides and what’s never too many pies, all devoured by relatives who may or may not be under the influence of free-flowing wine.”
That this cornucopian fantasy was out of reach for so many last November is, for some menu planners, all the more reason to recommit now to the bit, to cook, as The Times’s Sam Sifton is planning, “with abandon and joy.”