20 Ways to Celebrate a Socially-Distant Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Christmas season but there is something special to me about Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving deserves it’s time to shine during the holiday season, even during a year where getting together in person may prove to be challenging. Chances are your big day celebration might be a bit smaller so here are 20 ways to celebrate and spread thankfulness and gratitude during 2020.

Create a Cozy Thanksgiving at Home

Give your home a spruce up before Thanksgiving. Hang a wreath on the front door, add some autumnal décor items, display pumpkins, and add pillows and blankets to make spaces cozier. Light some fall scented candles or diffuse a blend of oils that remind you of your favorite autumn smells. Changing up the spaces in your home will refresh you and give you a new vibe for the colder months ahead.

Neighborhood Spot-a-Turkey

Taking a walk around the neighborhood is great for a variety of reasons. Fresh air, exercise, sunshine, change of scenery all help to lift your mood and clear your mind if the holidays are stressing you out. Encourage people in your neighborhood (Facebook and Nextdoor are good resources to use for this.) to hang up colorful turkey pictures in their windows so when you take your kids on a walk, they can see how many turkeys they can find. During the stay at home orders, many neighborhoods did this with teddy bears in the windows. My kids loved going for walks to see how many bears they could find.

Gratitude Gifts for Essential Workers

Essential workers need to be thanked every year, but especially this year. Healthcare workers, custodial and janitorial staff, first responders, and essential business employees have worked tirelessly through some pretty demanding conditions. A small gift to show your gratitude can really go a long way to let these hard working people know they are being appreciated.

Send a hospital unit a gift card for lunch or offer to have something catered in. Drop off packaged snacks to the reception desk that can be safely distributed. You could also grab a stack of preloaded gift cards and pass them out to essential workers as you see them out and about. An unexpected gesture can mean so much.

Baking Day

Kids love to get in the kitchen and help with the cooking. Plan a pumpkin baking day to make some fun fall treats. Let them take the lead and search for recipe ideas on Pinterest. Allow the kids to measure, pour, and stir. Once things are baked, have a taste testing session to rank the treats from best to worst.

If you are comfortable sharing extras with close friends and family, drop off some of the extras for a fun Thanksgiving treat. For recipe ideas, check out this article on all things pumpkin.

Thank You Cards

Grab your art supplies (paper, markers, stickers, paint sticks) and get creative with a thank you card making session with your kids! A one-of-a-kind kid drawn thank you card is sure to put a small on someone’s face. The thank you cards can be given to so many different people as well: teachers, coaches, mail workers, tutors, nurses, police officers, janitors, firefighters–the list can go on and on.

Thankfulness can be a hard concept to teach little children. By making cards to give to others, you can show your kids a concrete way to show someone you care about them and the sacrifices they give on a day to day basis.

Chalk the Walk with Gratitude

The sidewalk in front of your house can be a great place to spread Thanksgiving joy. Chalk the Walk in front of your home with positive messages about gratitude and thankfulness. Make lists of things to be thankful for, write out funny Thanksgiving jokes for kids, or draw some cute turkey pictures. Get in the kids in on the action and have them add their own ideas.

You’ve Been Gobbled

Sometimes, you just want to give a friend a surprise gift. You may have seen the You’ve Been Booed article during Halloween. This is the same sort of idea. Put together a small gift and drop it off at a friend, family member, or neighbor’s house without letting them know. It will be a fun surprise for them to discover! It lets them know that you are thinking of them even if you aren’t meeting together face to face much during the pandemic.

Thanksgiving Parade

Watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade is a staple in my household. While the event will be virtual this year, some fun can still be had with it. Pioneer a new tradition in your neighborhood and organize a Thanksgiving Day parade down your own streets. Vehicles can be transformed into floats, fun music can be played, treats and candy can be passed out if desired and on lookers can watch from their own yards. This can be a creative way to add some fun to the day!

Thankfulness Turkeys

In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, start a project with your kids. Cut out a turkey body and some colorful construction paper feathers. Have children tell you what they are thankful for each day and add a feather with that written to the turkey. By the big day, your turkey will be filled with feathers describing all of the things your kids are thankful for this year.

Virtual Thanksgiving Meal

2020 has shown us that finding unconventional ways to be together is important. There have been virtual double dates, Zoom baby and bridal showers, and live streamed weddings. Thanksgiving can be one of these times as well. Set up a time to have a Zoom meeting with family on Thanksgiving. Decide if you will all eat at the same time and Zoom during that or if you will wait until later in the day to all get on the meeting. Seeing each other’s faces will make everyone happier and will allow you a time to catch up on life. You can even set up a Thanksgiving meal trade to be sure your favorite sides are made by your favorite people!

Outdoor Dining

It is unlikely that the weather will be warm on Thanksgiving but with Indiana weather you never know. The beginning on November showed us temperatures of almost 80 degrees. If the weather is decent on Thanksgiving, plan to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner outside.  Your family can get together in larger numbers if meeting outdoors. If temps are a bit chilly invest in a couple patio heaters to heat up the space and make it more comfortable.

Give Back on Thanksgiving

A wonderful way to start the day on Thanksgiving is to think of others. Register for the Drumstick Dash, where all proceeds go to Wheeler Mission. This year there are options of a 4.6 mile or 2.75 miles run/walk and a virtual option as well. Go to www.drumstickdash.org for more information. Other ideas are to put together food sacks to hand out to the homeless or drop off canned goods and non-perishable items to the local food pantry.

Start the Christmas Decorations

In the evening, after the meal, the nap, and mandatory football watching, break out the Christmas decorations and get the family into the decorating spirit. Put on some Christmas music and let the kids pick where to put the Christmas knick-knacks.

Sponsor a Family

By hosting a smaller Thanksgiving, some families may spend less on the Thanksgiving feast than in years past. If your family finds itself with a few extra dollars this season, consider sponsoring another family’s meal. Teach your kids about finding an organization that distributes Thanksgiving meals. Older kids can be put in charge of contacting the organization and learning how to give their donation. This gives kids a meaningful life experience of helping others.

New Thanksgiving Menu

I was nervous the entire time I made my first Thanksgiving meal. Roasting a turkey, making a plethora of sides, and a buffet of desserts can be daunting for an experienced cook, let alone a new cook. And, is that really how you want to spend your Thanksgiving? Consider trying a different menu! Break away from the traditional and create a surf-and-turf dinner at home or a cuisine from another part of the world.

Pie Baking Contest

Pies can easily be made a day or two before Thanksgiving and still be excellent for the big meal. Make a plan with the family on a few pies to bake. Adults and teenagers can be in charge of the overall process and pair off with the younger kids to bake the pies. Vote on favorite pies after trying them all on Thanksgiving or another day of your choosing.

Fall Family Hike and Scavenger Hunt

Fresh air does a body good. Get the family out and moving by taking a fall hike. Search for big piles of leaves for kids to jump in. Bring along a nature scavenger hunt for the kids to complete. Check out this list of great places to hike in and near Indianapolis.

Family Movie Night After the Big Meal

After all of the cooking and eating, it is time for relaxing. A family movie night is a great way to snuggle up with the kids and spouse and be thankful that you are all together. This can be a great time to start the Christmas movie season. Light snacks like popcorn and cider or leftovers from the day can be enjoyed during this time.

Porch Decorating Contest

If your family has decided to not get together as a big group this year, you may be searching for ways to still feel together. This is a fun and easy contest to do. Decorate your front porch for Thanksgiving and take a picture of it. Make sure all of your family does the same. Upload all of the photos to a private Facebook group, group messaging, or in an email. Family should vote on their favorites but not vote for themselves.

The winner could be sent a gift card or just earn bragging rights. Either way, it can bring out the competitive edge in your family and help bring you together.

Sharing Family Recipes

Over the years, I always look forward to having certain dishes during Thanksgiving. I have learned the recipe for some of these but this year, I am hoping to add a few more. My grandmother is approaching 90 years old and with COVID-19 cases on the rise, we don’t want to risk her health.

I do, however, want to call her and learn her secrets for how she makes her amazing pies. I want to hear stories of what it was like for her as a young mom making Thanksgiving dinner for her family. I want to find ways to connect with her even if I can’t be with her face to face. Sharing family recipes is important, special, and brings added connection between family members. 

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