Take the pressure off. This year, Thanksgiving doesn’t have to look a certain way or involve all the traditional foods. Here are some ways to stay positive and still celebrate amidst the pandemic.

Lisa Valente, M.S., R.D.
November 13, 2020
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2020 has been full of hard decisions and changed plans thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s been extra hard to stay vigilant with the holiday season coming up and the covid fatigue that’s likely set in. For many of us, holidays are going to look different as we figure out how to keep our families safe and reduce the spread of the coronavirus (here’s what the CDC recommends for a safer Thanksgiving celebration).

Luckily, I’m somewhat of a pro at celebrating holidays with just my household. Our families live out of state and my husband typically works on Friday so driving 6+ hours in one day, usually doesn’t happen for a meal. Plenty of other people I know who live far from families or don’t love celebrating with their families (for one reason or another) have found creative ways to enjoy their Thanksgiving that may not involve a giant turkey and mashed potatoes. If you’re having trouble getting in the holiday spirit this year, here are a few ways to still get some joy out of your day.

1. Get takeout from a local restaurant

Many restaurants are closed on Thanksgiving but many are offering takeout to pick up the day before and reheat on Thursday. It’s a great way to support local businesses, eat a lot of the traditional foods and not have to deal with cooking or dishes. Win, win, win. 

2. Skip the turkey

I’m a vegetarian, so it may be easier for me to say that than it is for some of you to do, but my meat-eating husband has also been fine with that. He’s grilled steak or roasted a chicken instead of getting a whole turkey for one person. We each pick our favorite sides and still get to have a really special meal, even if it wasn’t traditional.

3. Find a way to be social

The Zoom fatigue is real. But seeing each other virtually is better than not at all. Plus, virtually celebrating may give you a chance to see family and friends you don’t normally get to see over Thanksgiving. Put some events on the calendar now so that you’re not trying to spontaneously call during someone’s busy part of the day. I find calls to be best when they’re not too big and when you get to take turns going around and sharing something. You can’t go wrong with asking what everyone’s grateful for, or be a little sillier and ask, “If you were a Thanksgiving side dish, what would you be and why?”

4. Go outside

Thanksgiving tends to be a multi-day affair because of all the shopping, prepping and cooking. Without the obligations to cook and clean for visitors, you’ll have more time to go for a long walk or hike, or even participate in a virtual race. Many Turkey Trots have gone virtual and signing up can give you some much-needed motivation to keep running. This may be the year to camp on Thanksgiving and wake up in the woods. 

5. Give back

You may be less likely to head to a soup kitchen this year but there are still ways you can give back. Since the pandemic hit, hunger has increased across America. Consider making a donation (maybe the money you saved in airfare or gas) to your local food bank or No Kid Hungry. Because more people are home alone this season, check in your area to see if volunteers are needed to safely drop off meals to seniors. 

Bottom line

It can be hard to focus on the good with so many tough pandemic-related safety decisions to make every day. But your nontraditional Thanksgiving can still be fun, festive and delicious with a little bit of creativity. Plus, if the holidays normally feel stressful, 2020 may be the break you need to do something different and come back next year refreshed and ready to go.