During these times of Coronavirus, many governors have ordered that people avoid social gatherings of more than ten people. Oregon’s governor, for example, has made the following statement about social gatherings: “All non-essential social and recreational gatherings of individuals are prohibited immediately, regardless of size, if a distance of at least six feet between individuals cannot be maintained. Gatherings of members of the same residential household are permitted .” It is without question that the Night To Be Much Observed would be viewed as such a gathering. How, therefore, is it to be kept in such times while obeying the laws, especially as numerous states have similar restrictions. The question is, how can social distance be maintained in such a gathering?
The first, and probably the simplest option, would be for people of the same residential household to eat the Night To Be Much Observed together, since no social distancing is required in such a circumstance. One can simply engage in what would be a normal gathering on a small household scale. For quite a few people this will be the most obvious solution to questions of how they will keep the Night To Be Much Observed this year.
Other people, however, will wish to invite others from outside of their household to eat with them and may wonder how to do so in keeping with rules about social distance that are in place in many areas. While having everyone sit around a dining table may be too close, it is possible to spread things out depending on the layout of one’s home. For example, where there is an open layout it would be possible to invite a few people in and have them seated at various places around a combined living room and dining room area, where the food is prepared by the hosts and people fill their plates family style and converse over the space that separates them from their fellow guests. Those who are a part of the same household could be seated together so that the host family perhaps sits around the table while a husband and wife who are guests sit on a couch together while bachelor guests have a loveseat to themselves, for example.
If this option is chosen, it should be noted that the maintenance of six feet of social distance would not be enough to eliminate the chance of contagion. One is always running the risk, for example, that the host or one of the guests may be contagious and if reports are true that the virus can live in droplets for several hours that would be enough for everyone to be vulnerable to catching something over the course of a lengthy dinner conversation even when one is more than six feet apart.
Inviting people to your house or traveling to someone else’s house is an act of trust, and those people who by virtue of age or health conditions make them more susceptible to this virus as it has presented itself so far will need to take this into consideration. Where and with whom we keep the Night To Be Much Observed has always been a matter of personal choice and voluntary consent, and it remains so even under these circumstances. However you choose to keep it this year, let us hope that you stay safe and well and reflect upon these times and how we may better understand and cope with them.