Spending Thanksgiving surrounded by your loved ones (and insanely good food) is what makes the holiday so special. But with social distancing still strongly encouraged by the Centers for Disease Control, you might have to celebrate separately from the rest of your family this year. You can still keep the connection to your loved ones, though, with these Zoom Thanksgiving dinner ideas that’ll make you feel like you’re all still together — and having a deliciously good time, too.
“Thanksgiving is always a time to share gratitude and traditions, but this year is sure to stand out no matter how you celebrate,” Kimberly Allen and Jennifer Charles, event planners at Something Fabulous, tell Romper in an email. “With the challenges of COVID-19, your feast may be a little more technically involved than the traditional Thanksgiving travel, but with a quick click, Zoom may provide you with more time for bonding even if it’s with a screen as the mode of transport.”
Like so many of the holidays that have been affected by the Coronavirus, Thanksgiving won’t be the same, but that’s okay. What matters most is that you gather with your loved ones in any way that you can. So whether it’s carving the turkey, fighting over who’ll get the wishbone, or who made the best pie, learn how to celebrate Thanksgiving, quarantine-style, with tips that won’t make you want to, um, zoom through the meal.
1. Plan The Menu Ahead Of Time
Sometime before Turkey Day, set up a family meeting to go over the Thanksgiving meal. Figure out what everyone wants to eat on the big day, so that you’re all serving up the exact same meal. You can send out family recipes ahead of time, so that the food comes out the same (more or less) for everyone. Just take into consideration everyone’s culinary skills, because you don’t want Grandma Jane struggling to make the lattice crust for a picture-perfect apple pie, and becoming frustrated before the feast.
2. Cook Together
Part of the joy of Thanksgiving is cooking together in the kitchen, and it’s what many families might be missing this year. Don’t let the distance stop you from that beautiful bonding experience of basting your golden turkey together, though. Set a start time and begin baking and cooking in tandem. Once those heavenly aromas start to waft through your homes, you’ll swear that Zoom now has the capability of sending scents digitally.
But if you’re worried that Grandma might accidentally leave the oven on, you can always send some food ahead of time if you live close by. “If you live in close proximity, the chef of the group can prepare pre-portioned meals and perform a contactless delivery,” Andrea Correale, an events planner in New York City tells Romper in an email. Making sure that everyone can cook the same Thanksgiving meal will help you all feel like you’re together.
3. Eat At The Same Time
Sure, you might not all be gathered around the same table, but you’re still gathered together virtually. So make sure everyone’s sweet potatoes are safely out of the oven, and sit down to enjoy your meal together. “Set a specific time for your Zoom so you have the illusion of being together,” says Correale. You’ll get to eat the apps and main meal at the same time, which can further foster the connection. You might even compare who made the best homemade cranberry sauce.
4. Play Festive Music
Nothing sets the scene better than some holiday music (and no, we’re not talking about “Jingle Bells”). There are tons of fun songs that you can play on Thanksgiving — all overflowing with an attitude of gratitude. From Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “Thanksgiving Song” to Phillip Phillips’ “Home,” you can be inspired as you eat. And you never know, playing music might lead to a karaoke contest. Have prizes ready for whoever belts out Bing Crosby’s “I’ve Got Plenty To Be Thankful For” best. Or you can have a multi-generational rendition of “We Are Family” via Zoom.
5. Raise A Glass
Even if 2020 has been chaotic and stressful, there’s always something to be thankful for. So take some time to be thankful for the ability to even be together, even if it’s online. “Words of gratitude in a toast transcend no matter how the words are exchanged,” says Allen. “Share a favorite holiday memory or a note of thanks around the dinner table on this day of Thanksgiving.” You might even want to break out some family pics for the whole family to ooh and aah over.
6. Create Contests
There’s nothing like being around family to make you feel happy — band also highly competitive. You might have a culinary contest to see who’s turkey pie turned out the most flavorful, or you can even award a prize for the best dressed table. You can even mail out some games (and prizes) ahead of time so that you can all play together. “After the meal, find games that can be played together such as charades or Pictionary,” say Allen and Charles. “It might take a little practice and creativity, but that is part of the fun. If you have a musician in the family, it could be fun to gather around the piano or sit for a session with the guitar. There are many ways to interact if you stop to think about it.”
7. Tell A Tale
Unless you’re dashing out the door to snag some pre Black Friday deals, why not sink into your respective sofas, snuggle with those next to you, and tell some stories? It might be a beloved family legend, or an opportunity for younger kids to ask their grandparents questions about the family history. Or, you can start a story with one sentence, and each family member takes turns adding onto the story, until it ends in laughter… and even more bonding.
8. Do A Thanksgiving Craft
Although eating is obvs the main event of Thanksgiving, there are other fun things that you can do, too. Kids can do turkey handprints, or you can find an easy-to-do activity in your craft store — just make sure all the kids on the Zoom call have the same or a similar one so no one is left out. Then, while you’re waiting for the popper on the turkey to finally pop, you can have the adults help the kids craft to their hearts’ content.
9. Bond Over Baking
Is there anything sweeter than seeing Grandma baking with her grandchild? Probably not. But you won’t have to lose this baking bonding moment just because everyone is celebrating in their respective homes. “We know a grandmother who likes to bake with her granddaughter,” say Allen and Charles. “The little girl measures and mixes with help from her mother, and grandma enjoys giving the instructions just as if she were sitting at the kitchen counter.” Make sure to have all the ingredients ready so that your child can don her own apron and get ready to make a delicious dessert.
10. Watch TV Together
After a big Thanksgiving meal, sometimes it takes all the energy you can muster to roll yourself from the table to the couch. So if watching a beloved TV show or movie after dinner sounds delicious, why not do it? Make sure that everyone can stream the film or episode, sit down, and snuggle with your family. It’ll definitely make everyone happy to hear Grandpa laugh at the same silly scene in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.
Even if everyone is in their own homes for the holidays, you can still make Thanksgiving memorable and fun. Plan ahead for a fun, festive family feast, and you’ll realize that connecting can be done no matter how far apart you are.