Not so merry: 60% of Americans fear they won’t see loved ones at all this holiday season

NEW YORK — As many in the United States fear COVID-19 will bring a “dark winter,” many families are already preparing for a lonely holiday season. A new survey finds four in every 10 American baby boomers may not get to see their families for Thanksgiving or any other holidays in 2020.

Holiday gatherings
(Credit: SWNS)

The poll of 2,000 Americans reveals nearly half (48%) of people over the age of 56 think it’s unlikely that they’ll see their loved ones at any point during this holiday season. That number grows to 60 percent across all age groups in the OnePoll survey. Nearly nine in 10 (86%) Americans say that keeping their family safe and healthy is their top priority during the holidays.

As a result, 41 percent of respondents are already planning to skip their usual gatherings with extended family in 2020. The top reason, of course, being the ongoing threat of contracting the virus. Fifty-seven percent said that this would be the first time they’ve ever missed out on a family holiday gathering.

The survey, commissioned by Omaha Steaks, also suggests that virtual hangouts are beginning to lose their appeal. Only one-third of those polled are planning a Thanksgiving video call. A quarter of Americans don’t even know what their plans are yet.

Smaller Thanksgiving dinner not the only change

There is a silver lining for some families: more freedom in the kitchen. Nearly six in 10 (59%) think they’ll be able to get more creative with Thanksgiving dinner this year as a direct result of not gathering with extended family.

Thanksgiving dinner options
(Credit: SWNS)

While half of the respondents said they’ll still have a turkey on their table this year, 32 percent would rather opt for a prime rib. One in four say they’d like a nice steak instead. Others are considering less elaborate main courses including fried chicken, pizza, Cornish hens, burgers, and even spaghetti.

“The results showed us that Thanksgiving and the entire holiday season will look very different this year in America. In prior years, many people gathered with extended family so it was easier for the host when guests could help by making a side dish or dessert. Now, with their immediate-family-only gatherings, one family will need to make the whole meal themselves. While half of Americans plan on having turkey on the table, others are taking this opportunity to try something new,” Todd Simon, the fifth-generation family owner of Omaha Steaks says in a statement.

Fewer guests means less holiday stress

Ultimately, this year’s socially distant Thanksgiving may bring people together emotionally even as it separates them physically. Sixty percent believe that spending the holidays away from family this year will make them appreciate their family more moving forward. Another 62 percent are anticipating a more relaxed and less hectic affair in 2020.

Those who’ve canceled plans are already feeling the pressure lifting off their shoulders. Seven in ten already expect this holiday season to be less stressful than previous ones.

“While not everybody can be with family this year, it’s still important to show you’re thinking about them. With people staying at home more, sending a gift of food delivered to your loved one is a thoughtful and practical way to share the love this holiday season. In fact, one in three Americans plans to send their family a food gift to enjoy a special at-home meal experience over the holidays. While other experiences like a spa day or travel aren’t as feasible this year, food certainly is,” Simon adds.

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About the Author

Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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