7 tips for a meaningful virtual Thanksgiving

  • Far-flung family members can participate in Thanksgiving meal prep via videoconference.

    Far-flung family members can participate in Thanksgiving meal prep via videoconference. Getty Images

 
 
Posted11/23/2020 5:30 AM

With COVID-19 pandemic restrictions on travel and gatherings, many families will be navigating Thanksgiving celebrations virtually this year.

Public health officials urge limiting festivities to household family members to mitigate the virus' spread. They suggest connecting with extended family and friends through myriad social networking apps. To help, Zoom is lifting its 40-minute limit for meetings on Thanksgiving so family gatherings aren't cut short.

 

To make the most of this experience, the Daily Herald has talked to experts and curated some of the best advice available online for having a successful, socially distanced virtual Thanksgiving celebration.

Here are seven tips:

1. Designate a party host

All parties need planning. They also require a host to keep the event running smoothly. Designate a person who also is tech savvy to take charge, welcome guests and help guide the conversation. Have different family members take turns hosting parts of the event. Not all family members might be familiar with video conferencing, so have a practice session ahead of the day. Limit background noises and use the mute button as needed. Check out TechRepublic's Zoom 101 guidebook at techrepublic.com.

2. Recipe swap

A few days before Thanksgiving, ask guests to write down a favorite family recipe. Draw names so each person gets a different recipe to make, then share how it turned out on the video call. Also, check out the 100 best Thanksgiving recipes at Delish, delish.com, and Good Housekeeping, goodhousekeeping.com.

3. Cook together

Cooking together can be just as fun as eating the Thanksgiving meal. Schedule a call for cooking tutorials or during meal prep. Set up a laptop in the kitchen, play music, share a drink and allow family members to be part of the process.

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The annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade still will be broadcast on TV this year, with modifications.
The annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade still will be broadcast on TV this year, with modifications. - Associated Press, 2019
4. Watch live sports or parade

Traditions like watching live sporting events or the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade together can be managed virtually. Keep a Zoom chat room open for friends and family to engage in sports banter, share real-time reactions to gameplay and catch up during intermission.

5. Share stories

Social isolation and missing out on holiday traditions can bring people down in an already depressing lockdown environment.

Michael Isaacson, assistant director of community health for the Kane County Health Department, suggests making Thanksgiving a day to celebrate and learn about one's own family history and share personal stories and memories.

"Take this time to talk to aunts and uncles over Zoom or over the telephone," he said. "Talk to grandparents and hear family stories. Relive fun memories that people have had. Just really try to get that social connection that's so much harder for us all right now in these times that we're being asked to stay apart. A lot more people are going to be at home, so checking in with distant family members, checking in with friends you haven't seen for a while ... that social connectedness is so important for our mental health."

Families who are miles apart still can play games together via the Houseparty app.
Families who are miles apart still can play games together via the Houseparty app. -
6. Play games

Playing games and activities online is one way families can come together.

Isaacson said his family uses the Houseparty app that allows participants to draw on the screen kind of like Pictionary.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"And you're all connected via audio so you can laugh at everybody else's horrible drawings as you try and figure out what they are. It's really a fun way to stay connected when you have to be apart," he said.

Some of the best video conferencing games include bingo, Yahtzee!, chess, Scattergories, charades, Pictionary and scavenger hunts.

StoryCorps urges people of all ages to create an oral history as part of "The Great Thanksgiving Listen."
StoryCorps urges people of all ages to create an oral history as part of "The Great Thanksgiving Listen." - Getty Images
7. Record history

Become a part of American history this Thanksgiving by participating in StoryCorps' "The Great Thanksgiving Listen." The movement urges people of all ages to create an oral history of their lives by recording interviews with an elder, mentor, friend or someone they admire. Interviews will become part of the StoryCorps Archive at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. For details, visit storycorps.org.

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