With many states still imposing restrictions for family celebrations due to Covid, Thanksgiving will likely look and feel different this year. However, by implementing a few creative ideas, your family can still enjoy the blessings of delicious food, time together, and cordial conversation (no political discourse allowed!).

Al Fresco Dining

Football fans have switched from tail-gating to home-gating, and the same concept works for Thanksgiving meals, too. For large extended families, have drivers pop open their vehicles’ trunks and pull out lawn chairs, tables, and food to share. Weather permitting, this stress-free, casual set-up alleviates the need for cleaning the house, polishing the silver, and using the fine china. Paper plates and napkins welcome!

For a fancier option, hosts may rent a large outdoor dining table for socially distance seating and/or buffet-style service. This is a better choice for those who prefer to control the menu and the music.

Turkey Day Meals

Speaking of food, several local restaurants and grocery stores offer prepared turkeys and other traditional sides for pick-up. These include Whole Foods, Publix, Boston Market, Honey Baked Ham, William-Sonoma, and Cracker Barrel.

Locally, numerous restaurants and butcher shops offer fully cooked birds as well as delicious sides such as sweet potato casserole, seasoned green beans, cranberry relish, and, of course, pumpkin pies.

Set the Ambiance

Advance the ambiance right away with an upbeat playlist for background music. Depending on the demographics, consider Pandora stations such as Frank Sinatra Radio, Hipster Cocktail Party, Blue BBQ, Brunch Cafe, Coffeehouse Covers, or Cool Jazz.

Alternatively, croon music directly from the playlist of your favorite artist. Popular people for background music include Dave Matthews, Stevie Nicks, Lauren Daigle, or Ray Charles. Of course, creating your own playlist or having guests take over as surround sound DJ makes for an eclectic evening!

Outdoor Games

Children enjoy playing tag and hide-and-seek in the yard, but if you do not want to be mowed down by excited 8-year olds or surprised by a 6-year old grabbing your leg as he/he hides under the table, then set out a few outdoor games to keep entertained.

Cornhole, ring toss, four square, and spike ball are few games that garner team-building, critical thinking, and strategic planning skills. If you have an extra table, make a separate space marked as “kids’ area.” Here, children can color pictures of turkeys, mold turkeys with playdoh, or build a turkey out of scrap material. To up the competition, make it a contest and have a small prize for the winner.

Conversation Starters

If you’re like most families in the U.S., you have a politically diverse representation. With the 2020 election still on-going, take a break from red/blue chatter. Instead, lead the conversation with timely questions such as “What lessons have you learned in 2020?” “What things have you taken for granted?” “What excites you the most about the future?” “For what are you most thankful today?”

Bonfire & Libations

While likely not a traditional backdrop for Thanksgiving, why not give a nod to the Native Americans, stoke a fire, and sip ojibwe menwaagamig juice. To make this staple Native American drink, simply crush assorted berries, such as blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries, then add ice, water and honey. Of course, this can easily transition to an adult beverage by adding in gin or vodka. Another aperitif is the popular pilgrim cocktail.

For this classic, simply combine orange juice with ½ ounce of light rum, orange liqueur, and lime juice. Add a dash of pimento dram and Angostura bitters, then shake well. These dynamic drinks will be a memorable way to start or conclude the evening.

Family Tribute

Find ways to honor those family members who have passed away or who are not able attend due to health restrictions. One idea is to light a candle in remembrance of each family member and set the candle(s) on the table.

Or set pictures out of missing relatives on an adjoining table. During the meal, guests can go around and share their favorite memory of this beloved person (or pet). Another idea is to utilize Facetime or Zoom so that multiple families can simultaneously connect.

Whether celebrating solo or with a large (covid-safe) group, do take time to give thanks for living in the greatest nation on earth. The obstacles and struggles of 2020 have shaped our society into people of intention and of innovation.

In the words of George Washington’s 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation, may we then “all unite in rendering Him our sincere and humble thanks -- for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation -- for the signal and manifold mericies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence.”

Pandemic and pandemonium tried to squall our country, but our nation remains thankful, humble, traditional, progressive, peaceful, rational, safe, and happy. From our NV family to yours, happy thanksgiving!

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