Thanksgiving goes virtual: Carving out new traditions amid pandemic

The novel coronavirus is still surging, and families and friends are talking and texting about virus risk factors, which are real and complicated.

Health experts are urging people to stay home, warning that travel increases chances of spreading the virus that causes covid-19. A virtual Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving gathering won’t smell or taste delicious, but increasingly, people are realizing it is the safer option during the current crisis.

The current official guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says a lower-risk Thanksgiving involves a small gathering with only those who live in your household; other family and friends could be looped in virtually. The guidelines suggest having a virtual dinner and sharing recipes with friends and family. 

Planning might be the ticket. If Zoom or another video conferencing platform will be the way you gather, create a strategy to make it work smoothly and to keep it fun. If your family likes to dress up for the holidays, get out your party dresses. If you like games, have a scavenger hunt or a trivia contest. Ask tech-savvy family members to design a festive custom Zoom background (cranberries and hand sanitizer?) and help those who may not be adept at Zoom to sign on.

“It’s great to go into a virtual hangout with a plan,” says Taryn Williford, lifestyle director at Apartment Therapy. “It sounds stuffy, but you need a moderator who will make sure everyone is engaged and having fun, and if you go off script, roll with it.” Consider involving everybody in “a shared ritual” by emailing ingredients for a cocktail or a recipe for macaroni and cheese. Determine whether you want to watch football, share stories and pictures, or get crafty. “Anything you can do to make a memory, this is the year to reinvent traditions, for sure,” Williford says.

A Thanksgiving Zoom can mean different things to different people. Some may want to dine together, while others don’t want to see Grandpa chomping on his turkey leg. Designer Rebecca Gardner of Houses and Parties, an event-planning and design company based in Savannah, Ga., and New York, says her clients are looking for help in uncharted waters. “In March and April, I thought the idea of a Zoom Thanksgiving was totally bizarre,” she says. But now, she’s figuring out ways to turn the day into a good party while also staying as safe as possible. She’s not a fan of eating together on multiple screens, though; do that before or after your Zoom call, she says. Find some party hats or sing a chorus of your family’s favorite song. Children could prepare a poem to read. “Build new traditions on top of your old ones,” she advises. (Source: The Washington Post)

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