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Thanksgiving: This traditional day will be like no other

This article was published 2 year(s) and 10 month(s) ago.

Thanks to COVID-19, Thanksgiving is different in 2020 and, if you don’t think so, just ask Ann Pendexter, Ashley McMahon and Vincent Inglese. 

Pendexter of Lynn won’t see her father in Swampscott. Marblehead resident McMahon won’t visit family in New York City, and Lynnfield’s Vincent Inglese is going to miss the Lynnfield High School-North Reading football game for the first time in almost 30 years. 

“I’ll see if I can find a small turkey breast and a movie to watch and maybe go out for a walk,” Pendexter said. 

Just 29 percent of consumers said they plan to host or attend a Thanksgiving meal with family they don’t live with this season, down from 48 percent last year, according to Chicago-based market research firm IRI. 

More than a third — like Pendexter — said they will prepare a meal just for themselves or their household, up from 27 percent last year. A median of five people will attend, while last year it was eight.

In past years, Pendexter spent holidays at Swampscott’s Bertram House where her father, Abe Babbitt, lives. COVID-19 precautions ended those visits, but Pendexter and her relatives will gather via Zoom on Sunday after Thanksgiving to enjoy a virtual holiday. 

McMahon will have to do the same with her family in New York. Married in July, she will walk with husband, Tom, down the street to her mother-in-law’s home on Thanksgiving Day. 

“It’s definitely different,” McMahon said.

That’s an understatement when it comes to Inglese’s family. With his son and daughter both active during high school in Lynnfield sports, the annual Lynnfield-North Reading football rivalry has been an Inglese family tradition followed by a feast for 30 family members.

There will be eight people at the most around the family table on Thursday. With reduced attendance around dinner tables across the country this Thanksgiving, food businesses are scrambling to guess what that downsizing means for dinner tables on what is traditionally the biggest eating event of the year.

Farmers face higher demand for smaller turkeys. High-end restaurants are introducing Thanksgiving feasts to go. Grocers are keeping lobster at the ready in case the unusual year elicits unusual ideas for main courses.

The more intimate affairs don’t portend lower sales. In fact, Thanksgiving 2020 — or Zoomsgiving, for those making it virtual — is likely to be bountiful for the food industry as smaller, more dispersed gatherings translate to more meals overall.

Reduced attendance around the Inglese family table won’t diminish the sense of gratitude. 

“It’s being present that is more meaningful now than ever,” Inglese said. 

Even though 2020 has been a momentous year for her, McMahon will spend part of her Thanksgiving grateful for “the small things that matter most.” 

Material from the Chicago Tribune was used in this report.

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