Updated throughout November leading up to the holiday.
As we approach Thanksgiving, the number of COVID-19 cases across the country continues to increase drastically. Even our local area – where numbers have been much lower than most parts of the state – is seeing increases.
Recent clusters of new cases have been linked to indoor gatherings of family and friends, very similar to the way many of us usually celebrate Thanksgiving.
Wondering about gathering and traveling?
Multiple public health agencies and experts now recommend limiting any indoor gatherings to people within our household or a small, pre-existing COVID bubble.
Updated Guidance from the CDC on Holiday Celebrations and Small Gatherings includes a list of lower-risk, moderate-risk, and high-risk activities; considerations for gatherings; safety tips; and more! Dear Pandemic has answers to many questions related to holiday gathering, and you can search their posts here.
How do we celebrate safely this year?
It’s going to be different, and it’s helpful to fully acknowledge that. But there is a lot we CAN do!
Talking with community members, we heard that the two of the most important themes for Thanksgiving are connection and gratitude. Check out the ideas below about how to connect and give thanks without mixing households. Food is also important to many people, and it’s included too!
- Simple ways to connect with people you can’t be with in person: Acknowledge your feelings if it’s hard not to be together. Increase your feeling of connection to people who can’t be with you by putting photos of them on the table or nearby, making one of their favorite dishes, or doing something that reminds you of them, like a game you often play together. Let them know you are thinking about them.
- Craft Kits: Send or drop off a box with craft supplies for each household to create a holiday-themed craft. The results can be shared via Zoom (or other video chat), photos that are texted or emailed, or made into a jointly created holiday card.
- Each participating household creates several of the same holiday decoration and sends it to the other households ahead of time. This can be simple! Here are a few ideas:
42 Fun and Easy Thanksgiving Crafts for Kids (Many are quite simple, and some are great for adults too.)
18 Adorable DIY Thanksgiving Craft Ideas from We Are Teachers
- Online Thanksgiving Scavenger Hunt: give tasks one at a time and award points to the first person or household that finds the prompted object or completes the task. Examples of tasks – spell “cornucopia” out loud; say the birthday of someone participating who does not live with you; gobble like a turkey; find a pine cone; say who was there at the first Thanksgiving you remember…you get the idea. Write these up by hand or electronically and share your screen when it’s time to start!
- Thanksgiving Bingo: You can make your own sheet pretty quickly with squares such as “has seen a wild turkey in the last year”, “has been to a Friendsgiving”, “has volunteered at a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving” , “knows when Canadian Thanksgiving is”, etc. Think of ones that relate to your family or group. If you Google “Thanksgiving Bingo” there are options for kids’ and adults’ Bingo sheets, but some have stereotyped pictures of Native American people, which we avoid.
- Send a card in the mail with your appreciations of family or friends whom you normally see in person on Thanksgiving, or pick a few special people you appreciate in general.
- Share appreciations over video chat with a group of people as part of a virtual celebration. Appreciation can be for each other or other things in each person’s life that they are grateful for. Encourage kids to participate – write down what young children say or ask them to draw a picture of someone or something they appreciate.
- Create a gratitude board (a spot on the wall or a bulletin board to post gratitude notes leading up to Thanksgiving) or hang gratitude notes on a house plant or a tree outside.
- If you have the means (and especially if you usually volunteer and can’t this year), consider making a donation to a local organization that provides food or other essentials for people in need to show your gratitude.
Learn about Native American History, Cultures, and Land Acknowledgement
For many people living in the United States, Thanksgiving is a holiday about family, gratitude, food, and perhaps football, but we may also think about the story of Thanksgiving that many of us were taught as children. For a more accurate perspective on Native American history and culture, here are a few resources for learning, relevant any day of the year:
- The Institute for American Indian Studies website and Facebook
- Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian 360°
- Free radio story: This American Life Episode about two sisters (descendants of Cherokee people forced to be part of the Trail of Tears,) who go on a trip to learn more.
- Map of Native American Tribes by State and info on indigenous languages
- Info on Indigenous Land Acknowledgement from the Native Governance Center
How to share food without sitting together indoors
…With Nearby Neighbors, Friends, and Family
- Set up a Thanksgiving dessert station at end of driveway, with individually packaged pieces of pie, cookies, etc.
- Drop off perishable items the day before or on Thanksgiving Day. Frozen pies and other frozen foods can be dropped off in advance.
- Drop off baked goods or other less perishable items to each household a few days before.
- If the weather is good enough or you are a hardy group, share a hot beverage or dish outside with plenty of space between each household.
Need “To Go” Containers?
Inexpensive, eco-friendly “to go” containers are available online, including here.
…With family or friends who are farther away
- Send baked goods or other less perishable items to each household a few days before.
- Share a recipe ahead of time and make the same dish. Share photos or video of the way each household’s dish came out.
A Few Final Resources About Thanksgiving During COVID
There is a LOT of advice and information out there. These stuck out because they offer a different perspective than many others:
We like this episode of The Splendid Table, a public radio show. (No screen time required!) The show usually focuses on cooking, but this episode includes a section toward the end with Priya Parker, the author of The Art of Gathering. Priya offers insightful questions and ideas for staying connected when apart.
Covid means Thanksgiving and Christmas will be a bummer. Don’t make it worse by urging joy. This mental health-focused article from NBC reminds us that it can help to acknowledge that it’s hard being apart from loved ones and offers tips for coping. While we think there are ways for many of us to find ways to boost joy and connection this season, the reminder to be present with feelings – our own and others’ – is key for supporting mental health. (The video excerpt on the page focuses on other aspects of Thanksgiving and may change, so we can’t specifically recommend it.)