How to Host a Socially Distant Thanksgiving

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It’s hard to keep family and friends apart for the holidays, especially at Thanksgiving. If you decide that your family (or your pandemic pod) wants to do Thanksgiving in person this year, here are some suggestions for ways to host a socially distant Thanksgiving. 

  • Take it Outdoors: If you live in a warmer climate or don’t mind bundling up for colder weather, it probably makes sense to host Thanksgiving outdoors (in your backyard, at a campground, on the porch, etc.). For warmer weather climates, consider pop-up tents for shade as well as the time of day for your dinner. For cold weather climates, explore the addition of a fire pit, portable outdoor heaters, blankets, and hot drinks to keep your guests warm. To ensure a comfortable environment for all guests, set up multiple tables for each individual family to sit separately. Also, don’t be afraid to get out your tape measure to ensure that tables and/or seats are six feet apart!  

  • Personalize Invitations: There are a couple of new trends for Thanksgiving this year, including Thanksgiving Porch Potlucks and Six Feet Apart Friendsgivings. Whatever type of socially distant Thanksgiving gathering you plan, make sure to send online Thanksgiving invitations in advance. Digital invitations serve a few purposes: 1) it give you accurate RSVP counts which is critical for Thanksgiving preparations, 2) it gives your guests an idea of who else plans to attend so they can decide if they feel comfortable dining in person, and 3) it gives you an opportunity to lay out your house rules (more on that below).

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  • Communicate Expectations: Thanksgiving is different this year and that means you may want to share a few rules or guidelines with guests about what they can expect and what will be expected of them. This includes your preference around mask-wearing (for example, “please wear a mask if you go indoors to use the bathroom”). It may include a ban on talk of politics on this day of giving thanks. Make sure guests know these “house rules” in advance by including them with your invitation or in an announcement to guests a few days ahead of your event.   

  • Have a Single Server: The days of passing food around the table may be on hold this year but it doesn’t mean that guests can’t have a full serving. Instead of bringing food outdoors, take orders and prepare plates in the kitchen. This serves two purposes: 1) it minimizes the number of people who touch the serving trays and utensils, and 2) you can keep your dishes warmer longer when you keep them inside (especially if you plan to host Thanksgiving outdoors in a cooler climate). Bonus: you don’t need to use fancy serving dishes - since no one will see it, you can serve your dishes directly from the pots and pans in which everything was cooked! Another option for Thanksgiving is to forgo the traditional meal and cook turkey burgers on the grill instead. You won’t miss any of the action outside and you can easily serve guests individually. 

  • Provide Activities: Have fun and get creative with Thanksgiving day activities. Thanksgiving in the backyard doesn’t have to feel like you’re compromising or giving up. Make the best of it by leaning into some backyard activities like corn hole or badminton. You could also project the big game onto the side of the house so everyone can still cheer for your team. Some hosts have taken this advice to heart with Thanksgiving Luaus, Thanksgiving Camping Trips, and Thanksgiving Bonfires. 

Regardless of the theme for your Thanksgiving, there are plenty of options to celebrate safely while social distancing. If you can’t be with all of your friends and family this year, be sure to send Thanksgiving eCards to wish them a Happy Thanksgiving! 

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