Safe Thanksgiving Plans for 2020

Photo by Craig Adderley on

Thanksgiving is only a few weeks away but with infection rates increasing, it’s time to make some decisions about the safest way to celebrate the holiday.

Family gatherings have been the most significant source of super spreader events in 2020. To host a large, indoor family gathering in 2020 is not advisable. There are two approaches people can take:

  1. They can limit their Thanksgiving celebrations to include solely members of their households or hold virtual Thanksgiving celebrations.
  2. They can include others in a way that reducess (but does not eliminate) risks.

Solitary or Household-Only Thanksgiving

It is possible to have a meaningful Thanksgiving celebration by yourself — I have been doing it for years. If you are accustomed to large family gatherings, however, you may feel bereft and sad this year, and that’s understandable. Maybe it’s important to let yourself feel those feelings and experience that sense of loss now so you can move through it and make the best of things. Some ideas…

Photo by RODNAE Productions on

  • Focus on the advantages. Not everything about Thanksgiving is great. Be grateful this year that you won’t have to deal with packing a suitcase and packing the car, traffic congestion, fllght delays, hangovers, family arguments, pet arrangements and political arguments, not to mention the challenge of togetherness with social distancing and masks. Be grateful for the money you’ll save and having more time to relax, sleep late in your own bed and eat only what you want to eat, when you want to eat.
  • Make everything about Thanksgiving different this year — For just one year, have an un-Thanksgiving. For example, just enjoy your favorite foods instead of cooking a large, traditional meal. You could invent Turkey Pad Thai! 🙂  or turkey enchiladas. Serve a gluten-free, dairy-free, fat-free cranberry sorbet instead of pie. Or have your main meal be a big breakfast you share together. Or you could spend make this Thanksgiving a day for fasting and reflection.
  • Scale back your Thanksgiving meal for a smaller number of participants — purchase a smaller turkey, a turkey breast or even just a chicken. Have a meatless Thanksgiving. Reduce the number of side dishes you usually serve to two. Have just one pie. Or pick up plated meals to-go from restaurants like Bob Evans and Boston Market. You’ll save money and time!
  • Rent a cabin or go camping.
  • Donate the money you would have otherwise spent on Thanksgiving and Black Friday shopping to a good cause. Or save the money for Christmas gifts or the vacation fund.
  • Plan plenty of things to do so you’ll be too busy to be sad. Make it a self-care day. Take out or purchase some board games or card games to enjoy as a family. Make a Gratitude Vision Board. Do a guided meditation on gratitude. Purchase craft activities for the kids. Get a new library book or audio book. Be active most of the day. Whatever you decide to do, make it an enjoyable day.

Host a Virtual Thanksgiving

If it is important to you to include extended family and friends in your Thanksgiving Day celebration, you can celebrate virtually! It does not even have to be for the whole day, either. Here are some ideas.

  • Coordinate the scheduling of your meal, including grace.
  • Zoom just one part of the dinner, like dessert.
  • Set a place at the table for the laptop, tablet or smartphone.
  • Watch the Macy’s Day Parade, Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, Miracle on 34th Street, Friends Thanksgiving episodes or football games together.
  • Put a relative who doesn’t have a computer on speaker phone.
  • Share photos and greetings on Facebook.

If you still want to gather…

I have read a lot of articles about how you can minimize your risks during a family gathering by having people self-isolate for 2 weeks, wearing masks, eating outdoors, spreading out tables, limiting to only people in your community, excluding all elderly people and high risk people (people with diabetes, obesity, asthma, etc.). There is a hole in every one of those safeguards, because people are imperfect.

Your risks would be reduced but not eliminated under these conditions …

  • No one traveled in a plane or train.
  • Your gathering is small.
  • You spend great portions of it outdoors.
  • One person serves food (so multiple people are not touching the serving utensils).
  • Your indoor space is well ventilated with fresh air and contains an air purifier.
  • Everyone gets tested (be aware about false negative rates).
  • Your guests have received flu shots.
  • Your guests have quarantined for two weeks prior.
  • Your guests have had no to minimal social contact with others.
  • Your guests are healthy and do not smoke.
  • No one shouts during the football game.
  • Your guests are religous about wearing masks and washing hands.
  • No one is working or going to school outside of the home.
  • No one is shopping outside of the home.
  • Children are not included.
  • You do not serve alcohol (lowers inhibitions).

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