Traditional Thanksgiving Events Canceled Due to COVID-19

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A big part of this year’s COVID-19 impacted holiday is not what we see, but what we used to see on Thanksgiving. Some big traditional events have either been reworked, or disappeared altogether, leaving a physical and emotional void.

Described as “Ice Skating Under the Palms,” the San Jose Fremont Plaza now only has palm trees. The popular Kristi Yamaguchi Ice Rink opened just before Thanksgiving for 16 years, until this season.

“It was something to do just to get into the Christmas spirit, you know, you were surrounded by people, you could grab a hot cocoa,” said Ashley Guidace of San Jose. “And there was always something to do for people out here, and it’s really, really sad that they’re not doing it this year.

Thanksgiving 2020 is unlike any other. Families have been asked not to get together. And as Sergio Quintana reports, many of the traditions celebrated as part of the holiday season have been postponed or scaled down.

The ice rink was part of the old Christmas in the Park downtown, now a colorful drive- thru event at History Park -- leaving downtown almost empty for the first time in four decades.

“Christmas in the Park was always a really special occasion,” said Vicky Huebner of San Jose. “To come down here and to see all the trees, see all the families, and really see people enjoying the holiday spirit.”

Another traditional event also got a makeover. The 16th annual Silicon Valley Turkey Trot went virtual Thursday with participants doing their 5K or 10K on their own.

But going virtual wasn’t an option at San José High School where the traditional Big Bone Game between San Jose and Lincoln High was interrupted after almost 80 years.

“It was a big deal, and a lot of people looked forward to it,” said San Jose High Alum Danny Bettencourt. “Everybody from being a student to being an alum. It was always nice to go back, it was kind of like our every year reunion if you will.”

A would-be tradition that just started was a free Thanksgiving feast at Saint James Park for people in need. Advocates say losing that community bonding event was a big blow.

“People are having mental breakdowns, people are getting real sad around the holidays,” said Jamie Fober, advocate for In Their Shoes. “So it’s nice to have the holiday cheer and this year we’re not seeing that.”

Though it’s hard to lose traditions, everyone managed to keep their holiday spirit saying we needed to make changes this year so we can all, hopefully, be around to enjoy them again next year. 

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