Covid crisis: Why UK should learn from Thanksgiving tradition in the US – Stephen Jardine

How was Mad Friday for you? Normally it’s the biggest night of the year for the hospitality sector with bars and restaurants packed across the land.

Thanksgiving is an American tradition that has started to be adopted by other countries around the world (Picture: John Moore/Getty Images)
Thanksgiving is an American tradition that has started to be adopted by other countries around the world (Picture: John Moore/Getty Images)

In contrast last night’s affair was decidedly low key after concerns about the latest Covid variant led to a tidal wave of cancelled bookings.

In Scotland, the industry is estimated to have lost 40 per cent of reservations this week and about a billion pounds’ worth of business. That would be bad enough but it comes hard on the heels of lockdowns that bled the industry dry and left many relying on loans and other borrowings.

Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge this week warned restaurants “would crumble” in the light of the latest advice to restrict socialising. Here in Scotland chef Nick Nairn emphasised the mental health challenges of the latest blow to the industry, saying staff are “fraying at the edges”.

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The Scottish government has promised £100m in support but across a sector employing more 220,000 people here, that won’t go far. However we can all help. Instead of cancelling bookings for the next few days, we can postpone them until next month.

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Psychologically that makes a big difference to a business contemplating the dark days of January with debt and few bookings. Since July nearly 1,000 hospitality premises have closed for good. For those left, a little bit of hope would go a long way this Christmas.

This Christmas is not the one any of us wanted to see but it’s important to remember how far we have come. Last year you couldn’t even go to church on Christmas Day.

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This year shops and pubs are open and we can spend the big day with friends and family. On top of that, we are much better armed in the fight. Most people have had two vaccinations and the booster is available. I’m getting mine today.

Given all that, perhaps Covid gives us the chance to carve a new tradition besides the turkey.

Most of the time, we don’t have an awful lot to learn from America. We invented television and the chocolate bar and they managed to ruin both. If you don’t believe me, try watching the Kardashians while eating a Hershey Bar.

However on the fourth Thursday of November, Americans do something special. Thanksgiving is an annual opportunity to gather friends and family and share gratitude for the positive things in life. It’s such a good idea they do similar celebrations in Canada, St Lucia, Germany and Japan.

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In Britain we have plenty to preoccupy us. Covid is raging again, politics is in turmoil and social media is a bin fire. Young people are missing out on so much and the impact on our wider health of delayed treatments and operations is still to be seen.

Yet we are about to share another Christmas Day with those we love most. Our problems won’t go away but after another tough year, we deserve a proper celebration of the fact we will wake up next Saturday to see another Christmas morning.

And when we sit down to eat and drink good things that day, we should raise a glass and give thanks to the determination of the human spirit to battle on and find a way through whatever life throws at us. Happy Christmas.

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