Making the most of Thanksgiving during the pandemic

November 20, 2020 Cary Conway

For many across the United States, the Thanksgiving holiday, like countless other things, will look very different this year. As infection and hospitalization rates continue to rise, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now recommending that Americans not travel — in addition to avoiding large and indoor gatherings for Thanksgiving — to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Par for 2020’s course, safely celebrating this holiday will require creativity and concessions. We think it will be helpful to offer some of the recommendations and ideas that we’ve come across.

Take it outside – If you still plan to spend the holiday with family, gather outdoors with a group of no more than 10 people. Practice social distancing, wear a mask when not eating, and have one masked and gloved person plate and serve the food to avoid everyone touching the serving utensils.

Keep it brief – Gather outdoors and masked with less than 10 people to briefly share what you’re thankful for, visit for a short while, and then go home to enjoy dinner.

Virtual exercise – For many, a well-loved tradition is participating in a turkey trot with family and friends to burn calories before the afternoon festivities. While in-person events are cancelled, there are many organizations participating in virtual races, walks and classes.

Family bakeoff – Many families are still planning their traditional dinners, either baking the secret family recipes together via Zoom, or each family making a dish that is then portioned per family. The group can then meet outdoors, pick up the food, and then safely celebrate at their respective homes. It’s even better if you share extra food and treats with those who may be celebrating alone.

Yes Day! – Everyone’s lives and routines have been disrupted this year. A fun approach – especially for those with children – is to schedule a day of yes. Pick a day, such as Black Friday, when anything goes, such as ice cream for breakfast or staying in one’s pajamas and watching movies all day.

 Practice gratitude – While we may have to reach a little farther to find it this year, research has shown that being grateful reduces anxiety and depression. Take the opportunity to think about things for which you are grateful. Reach out to friends and family to share with them how they have positively impacted your life. 

Do something for others – With so many in need, if you are in a financial position to donate a holiday meal or safely volunteer at your local foodbank, doing so can also benefit you. In addition to helping others, your own mental health and wellness can be positively impacted. In fact, the American Psychological Association has found that it can reduce stress as well as improve mood, self-esteem and happiness.

Check in on your people – As many will be missing the mother of all family dinners, loneliness and isolation will be exacerbated. Make a plan to reach out to those friends and family members who may be alone to wish them happy holidays and check on their well-being.

In addition to creatively celebrating, it may also help to keep in mind that the inability to gather for important events and holidays is only temporary. We are nearing a light at the end of the tunnel. Given the promise of vaccines, it’s more important now than ever that we all do our parts to remain cautious, considerate and vigilant to avoid getting infected or infecting others. Continue to stay the course: social distance, wear masks, wash your hands and avoid unnecessary trips or exposure so that in the fall of 2021, your table will once again be filled with family and friends around it as we celebrate our important traditions.

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