What can Thanksgiving look like in 2020?
September 8, 2020 12:30 PM   Subscribe

We normally do a short car trip to have Thanksgiving with our family but because of various COVID reasons, it might not make sense in 2020. What else could Thanksgiving look like? What are you planning to do?

I'm curious to hear what others are thinking about for Thanksgiving COVID. We'll have a 20-month old who is not always the best behaved at meal times, so the idea of creating and then eating a Thanksgiving meal while she is content to be in her high chair sounds...not fun. And because she is so young, I don't feel guilty that she'll miss Thanksgiving. But it is hands-down my favorite holiday so I'm trying to think of ways we can celebrate.

My brainstorming list includes:
- quarantining and then seeing family (but the idea of going back to no childcare, even if temporarily, blows)
- renting a place nearby that is on the water and going with our kiddo for a change of pace
- doing Thanksgiving as an outdoor meal with our local family
- getting really decadent takeout and having an adults-only Thanksgiving while baby is asleep (or the Wed before or Monday after when she is in daycare)
- making a large donation to the local food bank
- ????

Open to any and all thoughts others have!
posted by neematoad to Human Relations (18 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Every resource I've seen shows outdoor activities are almost completely safe. Even going in for 5 minutes (alone) for the bathroom is regarded as "very safe". So, the outdoor dinner sounds fun.

We have a friends-bubble that is airtight enough... (one of the 6 of us works at a gym, everyone else is distancing completely). I plan on having an indoor friendsgiving with them.
posted by bbqturtle at 12:35 PM on September 8

I'd go for 100% pure and unfettered indulgence all day.

I've been doing a weird take on Thanksgiving every other year for the past ten or so - the years my brother spends Thanksgiving with his in-laws, that means that "Thanksgiving" is just my parents, one aunt maybe, and me. And we all decided that on those years, we say "hell with it" and all have a day trip to Rhode Island (the midpoint for us all) and have dinner that Saturday.

But that still has left me alone on Thanksgiving day proper. And I've declared that for that whole day, I will do whatever the hell I feel like. Some years I've stayed in pajamas all day and bingewatched Mythbusters reruns and eaten nothing but junk food. Some years I've made a singe-person size traditional Thanksgiving. Some years I've made a fine meal that has nothing whatsoever "traditionally Thanksgiving" about it. Some years I read instead of TV. Some years I just have a lot of elaborate hors d'ouervres set out all over the house - fruit, charcuterie, cheese, crudites, super-fancy bread - so that whatever room I'm in, I can just reach out and nibble something and graze all day. All that matters is that I am personally satisfied.

Maybe try the same? Just indulge and spoil yourselves all day, whatever your definition of "spoiling yourselves" may be.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:46 PM on September 8 [10 favorites]

I'm favoriting this post and will be back to read responses, but my household's current plan is to drive down (~5 hours) to where other family lives and rent an apartment near their house for a few days. We'll visit with them in a park and/or their backyard, and bring our own food -- so it won't be "Thanksgiving" per se but it will be spending time with family. Obviously if it rains torrents, this will not be a great plan...

Oh, and also, we'll be doing this either the week before or after Thanksgiving, so there's less traffic and fewer people around.
posted by rogerroger at 12:54 PM on September 8

Yeah, Thanksgiving on our own terms has big Christmas Day Afternoon energy - lots of food (sometimes we'd do brunch out with a friend or two who don't have other plans, but I'm also happy with takeout from the grocery deli or an interesting restaurant offering; and then we do lots of frozen appetizers and treats), video games for him and a new book for me all afternoon, leftovers and a movie (usually our first "Christmas movie" of the season, but also sometimes just something that just came out) for dinner.

To be fair, this energy extends most of the weekend. We don't go out shopping on Friday either, unless it's to pick up more snacks, and we might sneak in one or two seasonal chores but mostly we leave those for normal Saturday/Sunday schedules, except we still don't go out shopping. We might try to drag ourselves out into the fresh air to do some kind of nature thing or go to the movies (in happier years).

We look forward to this as introverts, and we dislike the colonial and capitalist natures of the holiday so it feels good to hunker down and donate the money we'd otherwise spend on travel and bullshit to Native organizations and local food banks.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:57 PM on September 8 [2 favorites]

It's my favorite holiday too. As of right now, I'm imagining an all-outdoor celebration of some sort. Which, because reasons, will probably have to be at a local park. I'm not sure that park bathrooms are open now (or will be open on a holiday) so I'm thinking something like having everybody arrive on time and plan for 90 minutes or so of socializing before families will inevitably peel off because somebody has to pee.
posted by BlahLaLa at 1:09 PM on September 8 [1 favorite]

A lot will decide on the election and whether we feel thankful or not. Right now the plan is for it to just be my wife and I, and my MiL who lives on our property. We plan to roast a chicken instead of a turkey.
posted by Hey, Zeus! at 1:32 PM on September 8 [4 favorites]

I think I'm going to cook a 2-person Thanksgiving dinner for my partner and I, with just the things we like most, which probably means tamales, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and something green, with pecan pie for dessert. It'll probably be about the same for Christmas this year. Actually, since it's just two of us, I might get something really decadent for part of it. Maybe we should have some really good steaks or the like. Either way, it's going to be a 2-person version of the usual.
posted by fiercecupcake at 1:32 PM on September 8

We are making a small car trip from NYC area to Philly area. Having the usual Thanksgiving at sister in law's. I expect about 15-20 people all related either through birth or marriage. The most vulnerable is the person at whose house it is being held. If they are okay with it, I am too.

I am bringing the sweet potatoes with marshmallows. Again. Delicious.
posted by AugustWest at 1:36 PM on September 8

We don't have Thanksgiving here, but I do have an eating out in the rain experience that was absolutely amazing.
When my youngest daughter turned four, in November 2002, one of the teachers at the kindergarten suggested that we should take all the kids in her group to a park with very good outdoor cooking facilities. So we went out, I think four adults (three teachers and me) and twelve toddlers, with some dough for making bread on sticks, a lot of seasonal vegs and herbs and some pheasants. Out there we cleaned the birds and vegetables with the children moving in and out of the "kitchen" on a huge nature playground. We made a big pot of stew over an open fire, and then helped the kids make the breads. They didn't have the patience for it, but it was fine, because we were in a safe park, they could play and run about and sometimes participate. They sat at the table when the lunch was served, then ran off again while we adults enjoyed our meal a bit longer, taking turns on toddler duty. It was raining, albeit more of a gentle sizzle than a downpour. It was one of the most magical and memorable days of my life. The meal was much simpler than a "normal" birthday meal, but everyone agreed it seemed to taste much better. Because this was within kindergarten hours, we probably weren't out there more than 90 minutes including cleaning up, but it was fine.
You could definitely cook a Thanksgiving stew with a lot of the traditional ingredients in one pot. Decorate a picnic table with autumn leaves. Bake apples with cinnamon and sugar in foil in the embers from the fire. Roast marshmallows. Maybe it was actually more like that for the first Thanksgiving.

I did a similar party many years later in September in brilliant sun with far more people and more time. It was very good too. But that first time had all the poetry.
posted by mumimor at 1:37 PM on September 8 [10 favorites]

We host a big Thanksgiving gathering every year and I was very sad that it wasn't going to happen this year. But then we bought a house with a MASSIVE deck AND a patio so if the weather holds out (i.e. not raining), we'll host everyone outside! Plenty of room for appropriate distancing. And it'll be a lot smaller this year, more like 15 people vs. 30/40. I'm very excited and I think I'll come up with a way to do it even if it rains (patio umbrellas, tarps, etc.) because when I mentioned it to the people we usually invite, EVERYONE was thrilled and so very excited. It'll be nice to have a tiny bit of sort-of-normal.
posted by cooker girl at 1:43 PM on September 8 [1 favorite]

Outdoor midday meal probably. Recently I transitioned my family to the Thanksgiving festivities starting at 11 and going til c 3, which has been a huge improvement in every way. But that was when everyone could digest their food while doing puzzles and watching movies etc; this year I think we'll do outdoor Thanksgiving meal 11-1, then walk to the park, weather permitting. If it looks like rain, well, I'll be so grateful we're getting rain that my giving thanks will be accomplished and I'll just cancel the event.
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:45 PM on September 8

I'm part of a group of eight or so people that spends Thanksgiving (and Christmas) together every year. We're in discussions now about outdoors, or everyone getting a test that week and trying to be normal, or ... we don't know. As a single person who's been distancing hard, the idea of being alone on those days is incredibly painful, and I may accept more risk than usual to spend a few hours with my people.
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 1:51 PM on September 8

I have a 2.5 year old son with GI issues and related eating issues. If we don’t have family in town bubbling with us (and even if we do), I expect the day to look like reading Thanksgiving books from the library, watching cartoon Thanksgiving shorts that are age appropriate, maybe doing a Thanksgiving related craft (we did a cute gratitude Turkey last year from Busy Toddler), and FaceTiming family we can’t see in person. Then we’ll get takeout (probably the traditional Thanksgiving meal, scaled appropriately, from Whole Foods - we got that last year and it was great) and either eat it alongside the kid if he wants (he’ll have his own food because of his GI issues) or eat it watching fun TV after he goes to bed.

To me, the holiday is about connecting with family, coziness, eating delicious food, and being grateful, so we’ll try to figure out the lowest stress ways to get those feelings even if we can’t do our normal gatherings. Especially with a young kid, picking a few things that really matter to you and having the lowest possible standards for everything else sounds like a great idea. I’d especially vote for takeout over cooking - trying to entertain a toddler while cooking a big meal sounds pretty stressful to me.
posted by bananacabana at 2:08 PM on September 8 [1 favorite]

We have not decided exactly what we're doing yet, and this question has been weighing on my mind as well. We normally spend Thanksgiving with my immediate family, but my family is large-ish and split among several households, and almost half are essential workers. My current thinking is: if everyone gets a test shortly beforehand, I might personally be willing to take the risk of an indoor Thanksgiving (the weather here is unlikely to work for an outdoor meal). However, I'm also mentally preparing to cancel if testing becomes scarce again, not everyone can get a test, if conditions worsen in my area, etc.

If that happens, we would probably try to make pared down (read: easier/faster) versions of our personal Thanksgiving favorites (e.g. Cornish hens instead of turkey, a few sweet potatoes instead of a whole casserole, etc), and then do a Zoom call with family. One thing we normally have at family gatherings is lots of cheese and crackers for appetizers, so I would do the same to make it feel more "special".
posted by catabananza at 2:38 PM on September 8 [1 favorite]

Looking at this from the toddler side of things, I'd be trying to minimize the expectations and distruptions for her. Doing it while she's in daycare sounds absolutely ideal to me, and would be the option I'd pick if everyone wanted it to happen. Personally, I'm pretty sure we're just skipping Thanksgiving, but if we were going to try to make it work in-person, I wouldn't want my kid to have the burden of keeping an older relative safe on what's supposed to be a day of relaxation (I too am strongly disinterested in skipping another two weeks of childcare, and anyway our work is mostly in-person). My overall thought about my child and their extended family is that if anyone ends up getting sick, or even dying, from this, I want there to never be any question in the child's mind that it might have been their fault. I know yours is too young to conceptualize that now, but this all will obviously be a huge feature in all the kids' childhoods, and an adolescent might well retrospectively piece together an unfortunate timeline that might not even be true but is plausible. And regardless, I feel like having a kid present with other family during the prep/meal would mean constantly monitoring what's going on with them, keeping people away from them, keeping them from naturally wanting to share things and interact, etc. Much much easier for everyone to just pick a compromise time when the child is otherwise occupied, and maybe have a day-of video call if you want to get some cozy family time in for her.
posted by teremala at 3:37 PM on September 8

We have young kids and it’s just to hard to travel for Thanksgiving (my extended family does a big Thanksgiving, but they’re a 5hr flight away). So, for the past few years, we’ve been on our own - meaning just me, my wife, and our kids. We cook just a few dishes - only the ones we care about - rather than a full meal. Last year it was turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie. The kid watched movies all day and my wife and I traded off cooking and hanging out with the kid and baby. We went on a walk around the neighborhood at one point. It was very relaxed and pleasant - waaaay less stressful than traveling, even though I miss seeing my extended family.
posted by insectosaurus at 5:51 PM on September 8

As a single person who's been distancing hard, the idea of being alone on those days is incredibly painful, and I may accept more risk than usual to spend a few hours with my people.

Honestly, I am gonna be 100% alone and I probably just won't even try to "celebrate" the holiday at all. I don't think I should try to see family given the safety issues and there's no point to the holiday without family and good eatings, which I definitely will not be pulling off alone and couldn't finish eating alone anyway. I guess I'll pretend it's just another day.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:19 PM on September 8

Thanksgiving has been weighing on me a bit. I see that I'm not the only one.

It's always been the holiday that we spend with family. We've never missed a year. But the weather in our area will probably be too chilly for an outdoor meal, and my parents, who we usually spend Thanksgiving with, don't like to eat outdoors anyway. They have also shown some resistance to changing their routine—and pandemic or not, they will probably want to have the usual 10-15 people over for Thanksgiving dinner. They will invite us to come eat with them indoors, but we will have to decline in as gentle a manner as possible.

My wife, daughter, and I will most likely spend Thanksgiving at our home. I'll roast a chicken (a turkey will be too big), with stuffing, mashed potatoes, spinach, pumpkin pie—the usual suspects. We'll watch the parade on TV (if there is one?) and the dog show (if there is one?) and the football game (if there is one?). Maybe we'll take a nature walk.

Our extended family knows that we aren't doing indoor visits because of the pandemic, and they probably already know that we won't be there for Thanksgiving. It'll still be hard to tell them so, officially, when the time comes.

But, you know...we will try to make the best of it. In a way, it might be nice to have one Thanksgiving that is just the three of us.
posted by vitout at 6:25 AM on September 9 [1 favorite]

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