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Jay Simpson, a former Champaign Central High School and Purdue basketball standout, writes for The News-Gazette. He can be reached at jsimpson@news-gazette.com.

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With everyone urged to keep Thanksgiving gatherings to a minimum this year due to COVID-19, I can only assume it will be a little different.

People are so used to the traditional holiday that consists of lots of family, love and good vibes that anything other than that may not be the same.

Thanksgiving for me as a kid was the best. It was always my second-favorite holiday — besides Christmas, of course. I got to spend quality time with family and friends the whole day and eat some of the best food ever. I loved it; it was a win-win situation for me every time.

As I got older, I started to cherish those times even more because I realized how wicked the real world is and how blessed we are to be able to gather as a family.

My family and I all go through our own tough times, and we all fight our own battles individually, but on this day, none of that matters, and we all come together and love one another. The feeling is unmatched, which is why I love the holiday the way I do.

With all of the music playing, aunties singing and dancing, uncles slamming dominoes on the table and kids running around may seem like ruckus to some, for us, it is a way of life. This is a strong part of our culture, and this is how we have been enjoying ourselves way before me or my parents were born; we are just carrying on the tradition that we all love.

Now that I have children of my own, it’s amusing seeing them enjoy it the same way I did. They get to hang out with family and friends they don’t see often, and we all know how it is when you see your favorite cousin — nonstop laughter and jokes. They even meet family they have never met before, which is always good for children so they can know who their people are.

It is going to be different this year not being able to be around the full family, but I know we all will make the best of it. We can still Facetime and call to check in, but there is nothing like being there physically.

I really hope this pandemic is over soon. This hasn’t been my favorite year to say the least, but it was an eye-opener for sure. Don’t be down this holiday season. I know that is easier said than done, but keep in mind we are still blessed, so let’s make the best out of what we’ve got.

Happy holidays to all.

Jay Simpson writes for The News-Gazette. His column appears Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. He can be reached at jsimpson@news-gazette.com.

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