11 Tips for Having a Safe Thanksgiving During a Pandemic

Holidays are a time for family gatherings and celebrations. The togetherness is good for the heart and soul, but a pandemic can make it a bit hazardous to your health. Here are some tips for having a safe Thanksgiving during a pandemic.

When we started hearing about Covid-19 back in early 2020, our holiday celebrations were far from our minds. Our country was in a panic and toilet paper and Clorox wipes were flying off the shelves at record rates.

Now here we are in early November, and our minds are shifting to Thanksgiving. We’d normally be thinking about who’s going to be able to attend, how much turkey we need, and which side dishes we’re making.

Instead, a lot of the nation is seeing a surge in cases and wondering if they should cancel Thanksgiving altogether. With the spike in cases, Dr. Fauci is advising Americans to stay home and limit celebrations to immediate family.

Regardless of how big your celebration will be this year, there are some things you can do to have a safe Thanksgiving during a pandemic.

What is the Best Way to Celebrate Holidays During COVID-19 Pandemic?

The best way to celebrate the holidays is going to depend on a lot of factors.

  • Virus Concentration in Your Area – if your area is seeing a spike in infections, there is an increased risk of having large gatherings.
  • Type of Venue – your home or a meeting hall increases the risk due to everybody being in one enclosed space. An outdoor space decreases risk.
  • Size of Venue – the larger the area, the more likely people are able to maintain safe social distancing while still being together.
  • Local Restrictions – your celebration might be limited based on emergency regulations put in place by your local government.

You’ll need to consider all factors when deciding on and planning your Thanksgiving activities.

thanksgiving basket with autumn vegetables

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What are Low-risk Activities You Can Do for Thanksgiving During COVID-19?

Low-risk activities during a pandemic Thanksgiving are going to include those that allow you to maintain social distancing, avoid enclosed spaces, and prevent personal contact with members outside of your household.

Despite how much this pandemic has rattled our livelihoods, it’s still possible to enjoy Thanksgiving – even if your city is under a lockdown. You might have to get creative and step away from your norm, but you don’t have to forget about celebrating altogether!

Consider these tips for a fun and memorable Thanksgiving that won’t put your family at risk. You never know, you might even start some new family traditions!

Ways to Have a Safe Thanksgiving During a Pandemic

Depending on the local social distancing guidelines and travel availability, some families will end up drastically changing the way they celebrate while others will be able to go on with business as usual.

Here are 11 tips for how to have a safe Thanksgiving during a pandemic.

family celebrating a safe Thanksgiving dinner during a pandemic

1. Don’t Have Guests Over

This is what I call the nuclear option, but it’s likely the safest way to celebrate during a pandemic. Forego the guest list and limit your celebration to just the members of your own household this year.

While it certainly won’t be the same as having your loved ones spend the holiday with you under one roof, it may be necessary. Especially if anyone in your home is at an increased risk for complications from COVID-19.

2. Host a Virtual “Potluck”

You can safely host a Thanksgiving potluck without your family and friends present by doing it virtually.

Have each ‘would-be’ guest send you their favorite recipe. Put together a menu with each recipe and email it to all participants.

Thanksgiving day, each household can prepare the recipes and you can all sit down and enjoy the same spatchcocked turkey meal, albeit separately.

3. Keep Your Gathering Small

If you do plan to have people over, avoid overcrowding your home. While it might be tempting to celebrate the holiday with everybody you normally do, it’s not a good idea to have too many people gathered together in the same indoor space.

You can place an empty chair between each guest to encourage social distancing. Plus, the extra space cushion will eliminate the traditional Thanksgiving elbow bumping – especially with your annoying cousin Joe.

Celebrate absent family members by placing a photo in their regular spot at the table.


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4. Invite Extended Family via Zoom

Instead of asking relatives to fly out for Thanksgiving, set up a laptop or tablet in your dining room for a Zoom call.

Some families already have a tradition of calling absent family members before sitting down for the Thanksgiving meal. This year, try a zoom call so you can talk to everybody at once and see all of their faces.

An added bonus is all of the money everybody will save on airfare.

5. Host Your Gathering Outside

Outdoor gatherings are considered to be safer than indoor events, so it may be worthwhile to host a Thanksgiving cookout in your backyard.

Depending on where you live, it’s likely to be cold in late November, but there are ways to make that outdoor gathering possible.

If you have a covered area, it’ll protect you from any rain, and a fire pit or other outdoor heat source will keep everybody warm. Add some cozy blankets and some spiked hot cocoa, and it’s totally doable.

Just be sure to bundle up in layers if you live in a colder climate!

6. Have Your Guests Get Tested First

If your area has rapid COVID-19 testing sites that don’t require prescriptions or appointments, you could ask your guests to get tested for the virus prior to your gathering.

This might be an awkward conversation, but having those negative test results will give everyone some reassurance as they gather for dinner.

Don’t wait until it’s too late to learn that someone in your circle has COVID-19!

7. Have Ample Hand Sanitizer Available

In addition to getting your home holiday-ready (including those light switches most people forget to clean), make sure you have lots of hand sanitizer available.

You can give out personal-size bottles at the door and have touchless dispensers full of sanitizer throughout your home.

If they use it throughout your gathering, it’ll reduce the spread of any virus, not just COVID-19. With flu season just around the corner, why not take steps to prevent that, too?

8. Skip the Buffet-Style Dinner

Buffet-style dinners lead to tightly-packed spaces and multiple people touching the same utensils. Reduce the risks associated with in-person gatherings by plating each guest’s food for them.

Wash your hands and wear food-safe loves while doing so, just as you would if you were serving people at a restaurant.

Since you’ll already be plating food, it’ll then be easy to set aside portioned leftovers or to-go meals for guests who aren’t comfortable gathering indoors.

9. Have Your Thanksgiving Groceries Delivered

Grocery stores are bound to be packed around Thanksgiving, making it harder to maintain social distance while shopping. Reduce your exposure to COVID-19 by using Instacart or a similar service to deliver groceries to your home that week.

Some stores also offer their own delivery programs, so check with your local supermarkets to see if they have one. You may even be able to apply online coupons to your order!

thanksgiving dinner plate with turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing, and cranberry sauce

10. Wear Decorated Masks or Face Shields

Health experts now recommend that we wear face masks when someone who doesn’t live with us enters our home. They don’t have to be bland, though.

If you invite people over for the holiday, hand out Thanksgiving-themed face masks at the door. Those who’d prefer not to make masks by hand can buy some off of Etsy or Amazon.

Alternatively, cut out some paper “hand turkeys” and stick them onto plastic face shields. Just make sure you have a camera on hand to take silly photos!

11. Do Your Black Friday Shopping Online

As we all know, Thanksgiving festivities don’t end after dinner. On Black Friday, stores lure us into in-person sales events early in the morning.

As with grocery shopping when it’s likely to be crowded, Black Friday shopping is risky, too. Consider scoring these deals online (or waiting for even better ones on Cyber Monday). Who likes witnessing brawls over television sets, anyway?

How to Safely Celebrate Thanksgiving During a Pandemic

None of these tips are ideal or will be anything like and in-person, hug-filled Thanksgiving celebrations, but do try to make the most of it.

Whether you practice strict social distancing or take other steps to protect yourself from COVID-19, it’s a good idea to plan ahead for how you’ll handle that over the holidays.

How are you protecting yourself during the holiday season?

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