Don’t stress about making it normal.
This Thanksgiving will NOT be normal.
It can, however, still be awesome.
Don’t stress about what it can’t be or what it isn’t. Instead, focus on this opportunity to be creative, fun, weird, or unique. One year, while I was in graduate school, my sister came to visit and we were the only ones together for Thanksgiving instead of being at my aunt’s house with our parents and our large extended family. I honestly can’t remember why it was just us, but we had grilled cheese, salad, and this fabulous peanut butter chocolate fudge dessert she created. Weird and unique, but perfect for us at the time.
You can “get together” with your long-distance family and friends virtually via Zoom, WhatsApp, Skype, or Facetime, to name a few.
Is it the same? No, absolutely not.
But it’s better than not seeing or talking to them at all.
Think about when the best time will be to ‘gather.’ Do you want to “eat” together? Maybe you’d rather visit during a cocktail hour before dinner or watch football together? My favorite time to gather is during dessert.
You could even ‘gather’ the children earlier in the day. Enlist the help of older cousins/neighbors to read stories to younger cousins/your kids to give parents time to cook with fewer interruptions.
Hmmm – that’s something that could happen any day and doesn’t need to be reserved just for Thanksgiving… I know a few grandparents who are helping their grandchildren with homework each day. Maybe they could read bedtime stories on Thanksgiving night to help tuck your children in bed.
There are all kinds of games you can play virtually. Some are ‘pre-made’ while others require a little thought or preparation in advance.
Kahoot – an online multiple-choice game. I first learned about this from one of my daughter’s teachers 5-6 years ago. She used it to ‘quiz’ kids in a fun way to make sure they had learned the material she was teaching.
There are a number of pre-made games with different themes to choose from, yes, even math questions… Or, you can create your own questions and multiple choice answers. This could be fun if it were questions about the people you would be gathering with virtually. You could ask each of your family members to send a few facts about themselves ahead of time.
Charades – you can create a list of words that you send to each family. They can cut the words out and put them into a hat to pull out during your game. Another option is to have everyone pull up the Charades generator. It has different levels and a few different categories and will choose random words for you: https://www.wordgenerator.net/charades
Pictionary – Using the Zoom Draw/White Board feature or turning your camera to your paper, you can even play Pictionary virtually.
Another way to make this Thanksgiving memorable is to cook or bake together virtually. I have enjoyed making Nutter Butter turkeys with our littlest guests and recently found this link for oreo turkeys that look quite cute: https://www.delish.com/holiday-recipes/thanksgiving/g3579/oreo-turkeys
We have had all kinds of different ways to give thanks in our family. While sitting around the table and stating something you are grateful for is a fabulous tradition, I have a few other suggestions for you.
Cut paper leaves for everyone to write something on that they are thankful for. Then invite them to attach their leaves to a trunk (paper taped to the wall or sticks in a vase).
One year, I gave everyone a tiny composition notebook. I had decorated the covers with scrapbook paper that reminded me of each person and wrote a little note on the inside about why I was thankful for that person. I realize we’re a little short on time now if you have to mail it – although it would probably be a sweet surprise even if it arrived shortly after Thanksgiving.
We also have put questions under each person’s plate on the table. At some point in the meal, we ask everyone to take turns reading and answering their question. Sometimes the questions are serious and sometimes they’re just plain silly. What food are you most grateful for? Which Superhero are you most thankful for?
I have one last suggestion for giving thanks this year, the crazy-Covid year of 2020. There are many people suffering. Mentally, physically, emotionally, and financially. Reaching out and providing support with a phone call, a letter, a virtual call or a financial donation can mean the world to someone.
If you normally cook a large turkey but there will only be a few of you, consider donating the ‘rest’ of the pounds you would have bought. If you only purchase a 4-6 lb turkey this year but usually buy 20-24 lb turkey, talk to your kids about donating another turkey or two to someone in need making up for the difference.
Wishing you a Thanksgiving with lots to be thankful about.
Hug those you can in person and virtually and please,