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7 Special Ways to Celebrate Thanksgiving This Year

The year 2020 has brought about a lot of changes to our regular daily routines, and who knows if or when things will return to the way they were. However, just because we live in strange times doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to bring back some level of normalcy into our lives. The holidays are here and with that comes all the festivity traditions!

Thanksgiving might be the first time this year it actually feels natural to be kept up in the house all day with just the family. After all, that's what Thanksgiving is for, right? With all of the stress and negativity going on in the world today, it will be nice to set aside some time to truly reflect on all the things we’re thankful for that have made this year great! It will certainly be a pleasure to bask in the comforting familiarity of Thanksgiving traditions (and of course all the delicious food), but why not also take the opportunity provided by the unusual circumstances of the year 2020 to start some new traditions?

Here are seven ideas that you can try out this Thanksgiving to make your celebrations a little more special. So whether you're celebrating alone, virtually, or with family and friends, there’s something here that you can add to your festivities to really make this Thanksgiving memorable!

1. Family Arts & Crafts

If you have younger kids then sitting around the table to join in some Thanksgiving arts and crafts is a great way to not only keep them entertained but also get everyone in the festive spirit! You can plan to have several craft options available, or just one unique to this year's celebrations. Conducting a family arts and crafts session

can be a fun way to create a memento for each person that can then be used as decoration for next Thanksgiving. That way, as you celebrate next year, you can look back on all the fond memories from past Thanksgiving (not to mention it’s a nice way to keep the kiddos distracted while you get some work done in the kitchen). If your friends and family are coming together virtually this year, then planning a craft that you can all do in your individual homes is a creative way to stay connected and feel closer to one another even when you’re far apart.

2. Fall Photo Shoot

Stylish cold weather fashions and rich fall colors make this the perfect time of year to take some beautiful photos. So get dressed up in some festive fall outfits and smile for the camera. You can get some of the whole family sitting around the dinner table set with your Thanksgiving Day feast, or you can take some outdoor photos of the kids playing in the colorful fall foliage! Either way, snapping some shots of your favorite moments this year is a great way to encapsulate precious memories. If everyone is staying distanced this Thanksgiving then you can document the times by making a collage out of pictures that everyone takes of their individual celebrations. Just ask your friends and family to send in a picture of their Thanksgiving day, and you can have a deconstructed family photo to look back on for years to come.

3. Everyone Help Cook

If your family doesn’t already help with the cooking on Thanksgiving, then this year could be the time to start that tradition. Besides, helping out in the kitchen is how kids learn family recipes. To make sure that your children have all the knowledge and skills they’ll need to recreate family favorites in their own homes someday, spend some extra time teaching them how to prepare your family’s signature Thanksgiving dishes. You can do it by assigning each member of the family a dish to make and help them along, or you can have all the kiddos gather around and help you with each dish, having them recite back ingredients and measurements as you go. As your kids get older they’ll be able to do it entirely on their own. However, even if you’re not helping them anymore, cooking in the kitchen together side by side is so much fun! It gives everyone time to catch up, talk, and laugh together. A lot of classic Thanksgiving dishes can be prepared days in advance like stuffing, green bean casserole, or mac and cheese! Sometimes cooking with kids can take a little bit longer than doing it all yourself, so plan out what you’re going to prepare on the days leading up to Thanksgiving. That way you have all the time you need to walk your children through each dish step-by-step. The payoff is totally worth it! Food really is at the heart of this holiday. Making food that your whole family will enjoy is a great way to serve one another and show the loved ones you care. Passing down family traditions and heritage through recipes is a special way to honor the spirit of Thanksgiving.

4. Organize a Neighborhood Thanksgiving Day Parade

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a classic holiday tradition, but why not switch things up a bit by throwing together your own neighborhood parade? It’s so much more fun than just watching a parade on TV, especially if you have kids. It might take some work to get the neighborhood involved, but the payoff is definitely worth it! People can drive their cars, golf carts, bikes, scooters, and hoverboards––or they can just walk and wave. It’s a fun way to get people together while safely social distancing. If people are really feeling the festive spirit they can decorate their vehicle or get dressed up in their favorite fall fashions for the strut around the block. Kids can even decorate their bikes or wagons like a Thanksgiving parade float! You can host a contest to see who has the best decorated “float” in the parade and give the winner a reward basket filled with yummy treats and fall-themed items. Why leave all the fun to Times Square? Start a new tradition for the whole neighborhood that helps everyone get to know one another and share in some long-lasting memories and friendships.

5. Go on a Camping Trip

Going on a Thanksgiving camping trip is a lot of fun whether you’re going with family, and friends, or flying solo this year. Sometimes the best way for us to truly appreciate all the amazing things in our lives is to take some time away from it all. Not to mention that getting out into nature is a nice way for us to draw our attention away from distracting things like technology, and really focus on the people in our lives––including ourselves. You can simplify the traditional Thanksgiving feast by bringing a turkey pot pie for dinner, or try substituting a whole pumpkin pie for a smaller hand-held version. So whether you’re cuddling up by the campfire to enjoy some lively conversation and deep talks, or to take in a moment of solitude for some much-needed self-reflection, camping might just be the perfect way to make your Thanksgiving day extra special.

6. Start a Thanksgiving Journal

For centuries people have been commemorating this holiday centered on gratitude by sitting around the bountiful dinner table and each taking a turn sharing what they’re thankful for this year. It’s a nice sentiment, but rather fleeting. Why not keep the idea where you all share what you’re most thankful for, but give it some permanence by writing it down in a journal? That way, with each new year, you can pull out your family Thanksgiving journal and be reminded of all the things you’ve been thankful for in the past while also recording everything you’re grateful for in the present. All you need is a pen and an inexpensive notebook you can find at the dollar store. Then, each family member will take a turn writing down what they’re most thankful for this year at the beginning of the festivities. When it’s finally time for the pie you can read out loud to the whole room what everyone wrote. An adult can help the younger kids write down their thoughts, or instead, the little ones can just draw a picture of what it is that they’re thankful for in the journal. Be sure to mark the year for each Thanksgiving, and have everyone put their name at the top of their journal entry. If your family is far apart this season, you can mail the journal around until it reaches every family member. Another option is to have one person call everyone else (over the phone or via video chat) and act as a scribe. This is a fun new twist on an old Thanksgiving day tradition!

7. Do a Service Project

One of the best ways to express gratitude for all that you have is to give back, and participating in a service activity is a great way to do that! You can volunteer at a homeless shelter, soup kitchen, or food bank. Or if you want to do something a little different you can join a cleanup crew, help with disaster relief, or volunteer at a women’s center. There are so many wonderful opportunities out there to serve and help one another, all you have to do is search for what’s available in your area. Instead of joining a group or organization, you can always do some service a little closer to home. You can visit and assist a friend or neighbor in need. Visit the elderly in their homes or go to a senior center and volunteer your time and attention. Not everyone has a family to celebrate with on Thanksgiving, so consider inviting someone who may be on their own this year to join in the festivities. All you have to do is look around to see who in your sphere of influence is in need of a helping hand and offer yours freely. Participating in service is a positive way to bring everyone together and celebrate this special holiday that’s all about gratitude.

There you have it––seven special and unique ways to celebrate Thanksgiving this year. Despite all of the challenges in life, there’s still always a lot to be thankful for. We need our holiday traditions now more than ever as we join together to face the drastic changes in our society brought about by the pandemic. This will certainly be an unforgettable year, so let’s be sure to document and record all of these precious memories so that we can look back on them for years to come. No matter how you're celebrating, or who you’re celebrating with this Thanksgiving, there are good times to be had and traditions to be shared. So let’s gather around the table for our festive feast and show our friends and family some love and gratitude. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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