Annual Thanksgiving meal continues despite COVID-19

Thanksgiving is a time when we are supposed to come together, share a meal and talk about what we are thankful for. In other words, Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity to spread COVID-19. Concordia College’s Dining Services are taking steps to make sure their annual Thanksgiving meal on November 12 is as safe as possible. 

The Thanksgiving meal will look much different than it has in the past. Precautions taken to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 have allowed the tradition to continue, but without some of the sense of community from previous years.

Jason Giffey, the assistant director of Dining Services, said the tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas with a meal in DS stretches back before his time at Concordia, which spans nearly 20 years. And even then, the traditions were already well established. 

As to the purpose of celebrating holidays with meals in DS, Giffey said, “Thanksgiving, Christmas and theme meals have been celebrated in the past to bring together the campus community and do something special.” 

But, much like any other event this year, Covid has made it necessary for modifications to be made. A variety of changes and sacrifices were made by DS in order for Concordia to be able to celebrate Thanksgiving with a meal at all. 

 “Covid has changed every aspect from menu selection, décor, seating and serving.”

Anderson Commons, where the annual Thanksgiving meal is held | Grant Klevgaard

One of the most impactful changes to the celebration Giffey mentioned, which many students are sure to notice, is the decision to forego the tradition of having guest carvers this year. In years past, members of the Concordia community from the homecoming royalty, faculty members and even president Craft took part in carving ham and turkey for hungry Cobbers.

Carly Erickson, Concordia alumna and 2019 homecoming queen, was a guest carver for the Thanksgiving celebration last year. 

“I was asked last year to be a guest carver for Turkey Dinner, and it was such a blast. The best part of the night was a toss up between getting ham juice in my eye and getting to serve my family a Thanksgiving meal in Dining Services,” Erickson said. 

But for Erickson, what she remembers most from her night as a guest carver was not the thrill of wielding an electric knife for the first time, but the spirit of Thanksgiving.

“One thing that really sticks out in my mind is the feeling of gratitude throughout Dining Services during Thanksgiving dinner. Gratitude for the food we’re eating, gratitude toward the individuals who prepared it, and gratitude that we’re surrounded by our friends and family. There is such a sense of friendship, love, and happiness that is so ever present in Dining Services on nights like Thanksgiving Dinner.”

Erickson recalled the joy she felt serving members of her Concordia family and having countless short conversations with each person. 

But that sense of gratitude and community may not be as apparent this year due to limited seating in the dining center. Giffey said in order to accommodate students who will have to take orders to go due to limited seating, many items will be portioned ahead of time in order to speed up the serving process. Typically, DS sees a 25-35% increase in activity on holiday meals, but it is uncertain whether those numbers will hold true this year. 

With classes moving fully online after the Thanksgiving break, there will not be a Christmas meal like there were in the past and this may be one of the last opportunities for students to possibly feel a sense of community on campus in the final weeks of the semester. Typically, students, their families and alumni would come together and forge a bond that spans longer than just the four years most students are here. 

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