New Mexicans find new ways to celebrate Thanksgiving during COVID-19 pandemic

Coronavirus New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the state’s current public health order, which closes stores, bans mass gatherings, and encourages everyone to stay home this Thanksgiving, are making this year’s holiday anything but traditional.

Big box stores typically open on Thanksgiving, like Target and Walmart, are closed for the holiday. Big department stores that usually have people lined up outside waiting for the major Black Friday sales to start, are completely empty. They’re shut down for at least a few more days due to the state’s current public health order. So, you can find many families, like Sahana Maji’s, playing a game of catch as a new way to spend the day.

“I don’t think I’d say it’s a typical Thanksgiving day event but, you know, since social distancing, you have to do something fun but doesn’t affect anyone’s safety,” said Maji, an Albuquerque local. With retail stores closed to in-person shoppers, Maji isn’t doing any Black Friday shopping this year.

“It would be nice to go shopping but, you know, it’s not safe right now. So, we’re just staying home, doing some online shopping if anything,” said Maji.

With people discouraged from traveling this year, many people like Emmanuel Catanzariti are doing Zoom Thanksgivings by talk and eating together, virtually. “It’ll be different for sure,” the Albuquerque resident said. “Hopefully, everyone’s wifi connection will be strong. You know, no one’s freezing with their mouth open while they’re chewing food or something like that.”

He said normally, his family would meet up in Boston to celebrate Thanksgiving together, and having a virtual celebration wasn’t an easy decision to make.

“As we came closer to the holiday, we realized it probably wouldn’t be an option to see one another this year,” Catanzariti said. “My parents are getting a little bit older. So, we just want to make sure that we’re keeping them safe and keeping each other safe and um, not moving anything around state lines.”

While it’s a new type of celebration, he said the family is still thinking of cooking something up to feel like they’re together. “My father’s lasagna that’s always a big deal,” Catanzariti said. “I think we’ll all kind of, hopefully, make a dish apart, you know, that we would make together…If you have those smells of your childhood home and your family and things like that it sort of brings you back.”

For Catanzariti, a different, virtual Thanksgiving can also be a great one. “You know, it’s not the same, we all understand that. But I think like, if you sort of try and make the moment special, a lot of time, the memory might become that as well,” he said.

Though this is not the Thanksgiving anyone imagined, people say they are still thankful for technology and being able to connect with family even if they’re not physically together. While New Mexico’s two-week reset is set to end on Monday, restrictions on travel have been in place since March. It’s not clear when retail stores may reopen.

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