Treats, Turkey Legs, and Gift Giving in a New Normal

October 6, 2020

By Duke Fanelli, CMO at the ANA


The other day I was imagining what the remaining 2020 holidays will look like and it got me thinking. St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, the Fourth of July, the dog days of summer, Labor Day, and countless birthdays all went by in a blur of sheltering in place and virtual conversations. So, let’s consider what’s coming our way over the next three months.

First, there’s Halloween. Will there be trick-or-treating? Will children be permitted to stop at homes in their neighborhoods? Will neighbors be welcoming? What if the people behind the door aren’t wearing protective masks? Will there be “Don’t Stop Here” and “Go Away” signs to deter youngsters from knocking on doors? Opinions are mixed.

However, according to Insights to Action, a research consulting firm, “2020 could stack up to be the biggest Halloween year in recent history, despite concerns with social distancing,” especially since Halloween 2020 falls on a Saturday. Hershey’s is reportedly seeing increased sales as families prepare for the holiday.

Conversely, a Morning Consult story reported that only 7 percent of adults said they or their children plan to trick-or-treat the same way they usually do, and only about a quarter of adults said they plan to purchase candy for trick-or-treaters this year, compared to about half last year.

Those who are trick-or-treating have come up with inventive ways to distribute treats. Some are using PVC pipe as a conduit to drop candy from a safe distance. Some are organizing neighborhood trick-or-treating, where six to eight families gather outside their homes to hand out candy. Others are doing family parties with their own treats and a fun Halloween movie. Of course, there is always the option of leaving a basket of treats outside your front door. The L.A. County Department of Public Health wants families to celebrate the holiday with “as little contact as possible with non-household members.”

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has not banned traditional Halloween house visits, but he did cancel New York City’s 47th annual Greenwich Village Halloween Parade, which typically attracts hundreds of thousands of revelers.

Moving on to the most American of holidays, Thanksgiving will present its own set of issues. Coveted tasks such as who carves the turkey may not be as desirable as in years past. Will surgical gloves be required so no part of the bird is touched by anyone other than the intended recipient? Who hasn’t walked by a perfectly cooked turkey and reached in for just a taste? I especially love appetizers, so I guess the idea of an Italian antipasto, cheese platter, or bowl of shrimp cocktail won’t make this year’s menu. Will there be one designated server taking requests? Thanksgiving is all about sharing with family and friends. Communal eating doesn’t seem like it will make the list.

The one bright spot may be less stress. Or will anxiety over making the first COVID-induced, socially distanced, major family gathering be overwhelming? My vote is for overwhelming. Here are a few pertinent questions for consideration:

  • Do you purchase or create face masks featuring Thanksgiving scenes? (I’m sure someone will be selling them.)
  • Do you purchase infrared forehead or oral thermometers?
  • Who is the designated temperature checker at the front door? How do you turn grandma or a favorite uncle away if they record a temperature of 99-plus? If turned away, do they get a Thanksgiving-themed to-go bag? No one wants to leave empty handed.
  • Will leftovers be shared with guests, or will there be a smaller turkey and less trimmings to keep leftovers to a minimum?
  • Will Xanax be discretely available to each adult?

Finally, what can we expect for Christmas, my favorite holiday? Early reports are not encouraging. Less buying of food and alcohol, less spending on gifts, and a decline in travel that will keep families further isolated seem to be on the horizon.

What will December look like this year? The Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center will be lit in 2020, but there may be some rules in place to manage the crowds. The window scenes of Christmas at iconic department stores such as Macy’s, Saks 5th Ave., and others will be on display, giving residents and tourists alike a reason to venture out. At the same time, the holidays are expected to be very different from past years. Less traveling, smaller group gatherings, virtual meals with extended families. According to a survey conducted by Morning Consult, 68 percent of Americans will be traveling less this holiday season than usual, and more than half of Americans (54 percent) know someone who will be traveling less this year, or who has even canceled their holiday travel plans altogether.

For many, gift buying is also predicted to shrink in the wake of the pandemic and the unstable economy. The same Morning Consult report said a substantial share of shoppers (62 percent or higher) plan to spend less on key categories this holiday season, from alcohol and other beverages to holiday snacks and other food. Additionally, the study noted, nearly half (47 percent) of Americans plan to do most of their holiday shopping online, with 48 percent of those that do citing safety concerns as the primary reason why. Spending is also expected to shrink. The share of U.S. adults planning to spend $300 or less on holiday gifts is up by 9 percent while the share planning to spend more than $400 has declined by 8 percent, Morning Consult said. According to, U.S. household holiday retail sales averaged $511 on Christmas gifts and gift cards in 2019.

No one knows for sure how our lives will continue to change. Some of the retail stores I grew up with, including Lord & Taylor, Century 21, and J.C. Penny, are shuttering completely, or closing a significant number of stores. Others retail stalwarts are dramatically changing their business model.

I, for one, already yearn for the way life was less than eight months ago. Unfortunately, those days are likely gone forever. As we look to 2021, the new normal will include more mask wearing indoors and out on the street. Elbow bumps or hand waves will replace warn handshakes and hugs. A kiss on the cheek when greeting a relative or close friend will be a distant memory, and certainly feel less intimate while wearing a hospital-grade mask.

I worry about my four grandchildren, and what their lives will be like in the future. Our four-year-old granddaughter and three-year-old grandson from the East Coast and Midwest, respectively, are already well versed in mask wearing and the impact of COVID-19 on their daily lives.

If there is a glimmer of optimism, it’s that equity, equality, and tolerance of people and cultures have taken center stage with an urgency and commitment never seen before. As we embrace our new self-awareness around respect and understanding for all, it gives me hope for a world my grandchildren and future generations can thrive in. Hate will be replaced with caring and tolerance, and understanding will be the hallmark.

Happy holidays to all!

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