Thanksgiving 2020: 3 Pillars to Secure Your Celebration Against the COVID Surge

Tiffany Lewis
6 min readNov 16, 2020


Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

This is a difficult year to be thankful for.

2020 has felt like the onset of Armageddon for most, with COVID-19 at the forefront of everything. To make matters worse, the pandemic has now bled into the holiday season.

Thanksgiving arrives alongside another COVID surge as shut-down measures return and health experts strongly advise against gatherings with people outside your household.

No little cousins running around the house together. No bear hugs from uncles or kisses from grandmas. No football huddles in the backyard or dog-piles on the living room couch while watching the game. No holding hands around the table saying grace and sharing what each person is thankful for.

Gatherings are the hallmark of Thanksgiving. So how are you supposed to celebrate without them?

With conviction and a little restructuring.

There are three pillars of Thanksgiving capable of withstanding shut-down orders while maintaining the spirit of the holiday amidst COVID-19.

Pillar #1: Thanksgiving Dinner, with Modifications

Photo by Pro Church Media on Unsplash

Dinner is a major mainstay of Thanksgiving. Whether you’re gathering as a household only or arranging a Zoomsgiving celebration with friends and/or extended family, food is essential, even if each party must prepare their own meal.

If you live alone, resist the urge to order takeout. The home-cooked Thanksgiving meal is sacred. Plus, you’re worth the effort.

But if the thought of Thanksgiving dinner prep is daunting, you do have options:

Downscaled Dinner

Image by Chanwit Voraakan from Pixabay

A small bird, a side dish or two, a dessert, and a beverage will suffice for a small family or individual. It’s just enough food to feel holiday-special, but not enough to tether you to the kitchen all day like with traditional holiday meals.

Turkeys are smaller this year due to the CDC’s recommendations to restrict gatherings to household inhabitants only. If you’re still nervous about tackling that main course, Whole Foods has your back with their Thanksgiving Turkey Protection Plan.

Conversely, you can swap out the turkey for a small chicken or cornish hen. So picture a cornish hen, mac & cheese, frozen veggies, cookies baked with the recipe on the back of the Nestle chocolate chips bag, and a glass of wine.

Recipe Swap Dinner

Photo by andreeautza at

Instead of preparing an entire meal, host a recipe swap where everyone makes just one dish. For example:

  1. Reach out via social media and have interested parties contact you by a deadline.
  2. Pair individuals or households at random.
  3. Instruct the pairs to swap one favorite or family recipe via email or DM.
  4. Challenge everyone to gather all necessary ingredients and supplies before Thanksgiving and to then prepare their assigned recipe the day-of.
  5. Showcase and enjoy the dishes at your virtual dinner gathering.

You not only put a different spin on the usual Thanksgiving meal but also strike up some fun dinner conversation from the experience. Who doesn’t want to hear about the misadventures of a first attempt at making sushi rolls, chicken pot pie, or eggplant lasagna?

Charlie Brown-Themed “Dinner”

For a fun, judgment-free dinner, orchestrate a Charlie Brown-style event with your household and virtual guests. We’re talking:

  • Mismatched chairs: folding chair, lawn chair, kitchen chair… no two people should have the same chair if you can help it
  • Inappropriate dining surface draped with a tablecloth: desk, top of your mini-fridge, ping-pong table if you’ve got it… any surface but your dining room table
  • Swan-folded napkins: cloth napkins, paper napkins, paper towels… dealer’s choice
  • Four-course meal: you already know― jelly beans, popcorn, buttered toast, and pretzels
  • Apron-wearing dogs: non-negotiable, put an apron on your dog

Take the pressure off and have a hearty laugh together with this ridiculous affair instead. Maybe even watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving or some other movie simultaneously whilst you dine.

Pillar #2: Giving Thanks, with Intention

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Another major mainstay of Thanksgiving is, of course, giving thanks. You may, understandably, feel more robbed than grateful this year. But even 2020 contained blessings parallelled with the losses, if you really reflect:

  • Are you financially stable? Do you still have a job, whether in-person or remote?
  • Are you healthy? Are the people in your life healthy?
  • Are you ALIVE? (I don’t think any ghosts or zombies are reading this post)
  • Did you test positive for COVID but recover? Did you ever need a hospital stay?
  • Do you have health insurance?
  • Do you have family, friends, pets, great colleagues, kind neighbors?
  • Did you vote for Biden and Harris? ’Cause they won. Even if you didn’t, regardless of who you voted for, you had the right to do so.
  • Do you have a home? Does that home contain groceries, disinfectants, toilet paper, clothing and footwear, electricity, heat, indoor plumbing, etc.?
  • Despite the circumstances, did you get married, graduate (even without a ceremony), celebrate a birthday, have a baby, or purchase a new home?
  • Do you enjoy technology?
  • Do you enjoy nature?
  • Do you believe in God? Are you grateful for Him? (I know I’m speaking to the religious in the room, and that’s okay. He’s been a source of strength for many this year, myself included, so I don’t mind going there.)

If any of these ring true for you, verbalize your blessings from this past year to yourself or with your household or video group. You’d be surprised by the power of gratitude amidst despair.

Pillar #3: Bargain-Hunting, with Adjustments

Photo created by BiZkettE1 at

A Thanksgiving mainstay for many families is post-dinner Black Friday shopping. This tradition had been transitioning to virtual before 2020 for various reasons, so most businesses offer huge Black Friday deals online starting Thursday evening. But the whole family can still shop online together in a few ways:

  • Screen-share in video chat while shopping: Choose your stores, then choose someone to share their screen so everyone can see the deals together. Folks can split-screen or switch screens altogether to make their own purchases.
  • Shop on the phone while on video call together: Shop on your phones, either at the same site or different sites, while you’re still on video chat from dinner. Maintain an open dialog and show off your finds like you would if you were together in-person.
  • Shop on the computer while on the phone together: Shop individually on your computers while everyone’s connected via conference call. This option works well for people who struggle with setting up video calls.

Chase down those virtual deals together, from the comfort and safety of home. And by doing so skip the long lines, hours of waiting in the bitter cold, and injuries sustained from fights and stampedes. Somehow Black Friday 2020 will be much safer and more convenient than years past.

The Most Necessary Thanksgiving of Our Time

Photo by Preslie Hirsch on Unsplash

Following all the turmoil of this year, Thanksgiving provides an opportunity for joy, peace, and gratitude. Social distancing guidelines, though difficult to uphold under these unprecedented circumstances, are crucial to keeping the holidays alive at all.

Thanksgiving 2020 done right by everyone keeps everyone safe while honoring family time, protecting holiday traditions, and preserving sanity. Little cousins can still talk to each other, and you can still blow kisses to grandma. Family stories, prayers, thanksgivings, and football arguments can still occur.

So let’s be careful while being communal in upholding the pillars of Thanksgiving. Shut off the news, fill your belly, enjoy good (virtual) company, and count your blessings.

Most importantly, relax.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!



Tiffany Lewis

Certified Content Marketer through SmartBlogger. I write about Faith, Family, Furbabies, and Wellness (alliteration-bomb)