How to Celebrate Thanksgiving in the Time of Social Distancing

How to Celebrate Thanksgiving in the Time of Social Distancing

Does your family have a big, traditional Thanksgiving dinner, with extended family and tons of togetherness? Some families do! But this year, you may be counting up your in-laws and cousins and thinking an indoor feast for 30 is just not in the cards. Many chosen families put together a big “Friendsgiving” to celebrate and show gratitude for their connections, and that is a major support-system touchstone for the year. However, lots of friend groups are reconsidering if packing 18 people into an apartment for a potluck is safe right now. Perhaps you usually spend Thanksgiving in service of others, dishing up community dinners. But right now, you want to avoid crowds and don’t know what to do on the day of Thanksgiving.

You may feel frustrated, or sad, or even guilty for secretly being relieved that you don’t have to go to a big loud party. Let your feelings come to you, and know that you are not alone. Many, many people are dealing with these precise issues, and we are here to give you some ideas for celebrating Thanksgiving in the time of social distance. This Thanksgiving will definitely look and feel different, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a beautiful, joyful celebration of gratitude and generosity.

Social Distance vs. Physical Distance

The phrase “social distancing” may conjure feelings of isolation or loneliness, while the equally descriptive phrase “physical distancing” doesn’t, mentally or emotionally speaking, hinder your social life so drastically. Remember the importance of your social and emotional connections this Thanksgiving, and instead focus on everyone’s need for enhanced personal space. Concentrating on keeping each other safe physically is much easier than thinking about curbing the human interaction we all need. So, work on re-framing “social distancing” into “physical distancing” to reduce anxiety and dissatisfaction regarding your Thanksgiving plans.

Making Dinner Different

No giant get-together this year? Well, who do you see? Have you formed a pod or cohort out of necessity? Because those people could be your feasting friends! Re-think exactly whom you will spend Thanksgiving Day with because anyone you love or whose company you enjoy is fair game. Maybe this is the year that your work friends will finally do a pot-luck. Perhaps the two families you share a nanny with are your best choice for dining companions. It could be that your best option is to eat dinner as a nuclear family and join a big Zoom party with the whole family later in the day. The food part of a traditional American Thanksgiving celebration will most likely alter for many families, but that doesn’t have to be a sad development. Make all the foods you love even if you’re cooking for one, and remember that alternatives to the traditional meal abound.

Sharing Thanksgiving

What are some ways to share the joy and gratitude of Thanksgiving in a physically-distanced community? We have several ideas:

By re-framing our thinking and getting creative, we can celebrate Thanksgiving in the time of social distancing beautifully, joyously, and with generous hearts.


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