How to Safely Host Thanksgiving this Year

Tips for celebrating and hosting Thanksgiving during the pandemic

When it comes to the holidays, traditions are sacred. It may feel like Thanksgiving will be drastically different this year because of COVID-19, but it is comforting to remember that the holidays are always shifting. We are always adjusting to changes every time the holiday season rolls around. Perhaps the kid table disappears as the young ones grow up, chairs go empty when college kids are off on the other side of the country, or a sibling or cousin gets married and starts spending holidays with their spouse’s family.

Despite the COVID-19 changes to this holiday season, Thanksgiving can still be a unique time to be intentional about quality time. It can be a place to be joyfully festive, reflective, and grateful. It can be a reason to celebrate cherished traditions and to create new ones.

A twist on the traditional Thanksgiving

Read up on the CDC’s recommendations and guidelines on holiday celebrations during the coronavirus pandemic. It is recommended that you avoid traveling if possible since it increases the chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others. But don’t worry, hosting a gathering isn’t entirely off the table! You can host an indoor feast with family and friends that already live in your household, host outdoor festivities with a limited number of guests, or plan a virtual celebration. Here is some inspiration on how to host your Thanksgiving safely with beloved traditions and a few twists!

A small, but significant soiree

If you decide to keep it simple and safe this year, you can spend the day at home with a romantic Thanksgiving for two, or a fun day with the kids. One obvious, but often overlooked holiday touch is fall decorations. If you’ve been tucked away at home more than ever this year, decorating can spice up your space and brighten a room. It is also a fun activity for the whole family if you get the kids in the crafting spirit. While you prepare the meal, have the kids make paper bag turkeys, DIY handprint turkey hats for everyone or a colorful Thanksgiving wreath for the front door. Remember in your cooking preparations that less is more. You might have to adjust recipes or the entire turkey you usually cook to adjust to a smaller gathering. You don’t have to give up any favorite dishes, but you can adapt. Try making mini desserts instead of an entire pumpkin and pecan pie.

If you’re an essential worker or a busy full-time remote employee you may not have the time or energy to bake and cook all day. A great option is ordering a family-sized meal to-go from a local restaurant. You’ll be able to support your local community, save time, avoid the stress of preparing a huge meal.

Crisp fall air and outdoor festivities

If you live in a climate where the end of November will be perfectly crisp and cool, or even still carrying a slightly warm breeze, then why not celebrate outside? The CDC states that being outdoors reduces the risk of exposure to COVID-19, and the fall colors will make a lovely Thanksgiving backdrop. You can gather with a small group of friends and family for brunch or a picnic lunch so that you don’t have to worry about it getting too late, cold or dark outside. 

A backyard or deck space with tables and chairs is ideal to decorate with pumpkins, gourds, and special seasonal accents. Make sure to prepare by gathering blankets, whipping up warm or themed drinks, and even adding an outdoor heater or cozy fire pit. Entertain guests with some social distance-friendly games like bocce ball, croquet, badminton, and corn hole. Find out if anyone has access to a projector screen to watch the game, and be sure to check the entire football schedule for Thanksgiving 2020

Host the virtual Thanksgivings of all virtual Thanksgivings

If you live in a colder climate and can’t adapt a meal or celebration to be outdoors, or if you have family and friends spread across the country that can’t travel, take things to the virtual video world. This could actually be a special time to bond with family from afar that you don’t even usually get to see for the holiday. The nice thing about deciding to go virtual is that it eliminates any stress or question about safety. You can enjoy friends and family’s presence without questioning the risks.

Set up the time and details of your videochat ahead of time, and consider the best time for everyone to gather around the computer or sit back and pass the iPad around. Plan it out so that you’re not getting calls from family and friends when you’re cooking or eating and can’t have a nice conversation. A good time to virtually socialize might be after everyone eats, but before anyone starts napping or getting absorbed into the football game.

Just like you would hosting a holiday event in person at your house, you can take the lead with video call preparations for the group you invite. It is helpful to clearly organize timing and the video platform, and you can even arrange what you’d like to do together. Will the kids perform a silly skit for everyone? Will you watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade together from afar with made-up funny commentary and float descriptions? Will you do a Zoom cooking lesson for everyone with a foodie chef-level friend?

Make the day festive and make it your own

No matter what type of celebration makes sense for your family, make sure everyone is comfortable with the choice. Be sure to keep in touch, communication, and be clear about coronavirus precautions and protocol. You can find a way to safely spend quality time with loved ones near or far this Thanksgiving!

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