In-person Thanksgiving celebrations return in Michigan, despite rise in cases


Courtesy / GVSU

Grace Smith, Staff Writer

Last Thanksgiving, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services had placed restrictions on gatherings both indoor and outdoor gatherings. Due to restrictions and surging COVID-19 cases across the state, many families opted for virtual holiday celebrations if they chose to celebrate at all. Following the widespread availability of COVID-19 vaccines in 2021, many families are returning to in-person celebrations. This year, the American Automobile Association estimated 53.4 million people traveled over the holiday weekend, which is a 13% increase from 2020. 

Grand Valley State University Student Natalie Belt said she was excited to celebrate with family this year after exposure to COVID-19 kept her from doing so last year. 

“Last year my roommates had COVID during thanksgiving so none of us got to see our families,” Belt said. “Thanksgiving is one of the only times I can take time off of work to see my family so I love it.”

GVSU student Rebecca Crawley said that for her, it was as simple as seeing relatives who weren’t able to attend the celebration in 2020 due to concerns over COVID-19. For Carlyn Homann, prepping the thanksgiving meal with her grandparents is an important tradition she’ll partake in again this year.

“The older members of the family, like grandparents, did not come last year due to COVID,” Crawley said.

Being unable to celebrate traditions as usual due to COVID-19 concerns, GVSU Skylar O’Berry said her family’s tradition of reflecting on what they are grateful for has taken on more meaning this year.

“Every year we write on cutouts of leaves what we are each thankful for and put them in a jar & after a few years we open them up and read them,” O’Berry said. 

Annual events like parades and marathons are also returning after cancellations due to COVID-19 in 2020. While the Grand Rapids Santa Parade was canceled again in West Michigan, America’s Thanksgiving Parade returned to Detroit in full force. 

GVSU student Raven Thomson said her family participates in a “Thanksgiving Road Rally,” which was online last year, and was excited to return to an in-person format.

“It’s basically like a big scavenger hunt the morning of Thanksgiving with a prize when it’s in person,” Thomson said. “Last year it was virtual because of COVID, so each team just submitted photos to a Facebook page and the prize was bragging rights.”

While many returned to celebrating in person, COVID-19 cases are still on the rise across the state. GVSU’s Virus Action Team (VAT) encouraged students to celebrate safely, following a rise in reported cases following Fall Break in October. While cases are overall lower than last fall, the VAT echoed recommendations to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and booster, wash hands frequently and wear masks. Additionally, the VAT said that students should monitor COVID-19 data and the spread of the virus in the communities they return home to over the holidays.