How to Have a Lively Virtual Thanksgiving This Year

Even though Thanksgiving may look different this year, that doesn't mean it can't be a memorable experience. Photo by skynesher/Getty Images

By Jessica Swarner

November 25, 2020

No matter who’s coming to the virtual dinner table, there are ways to keep Thanksgiving from feeling boring this year.

Thanksgiving won’t look the same this year. 

With health experts urging against travel and gatherings, dinners on Thursday will likely look much smaller than normal. Many people may find themselves separated from their loved ones this holiday.

But the holiday doesn’t need to be lonely or boring. There are still ways to connect with loved ones and hang on to a semblance of normalcy in this crazy year. 

Call the Fam

Luckily, there are plenty of virtual methods for spending time with friends and family. 

Zoom, a popular video conferencing software, is lifting its 40-minute time limit for free meetings on the holiday. Zoom allows users to connect multiple households at once, bringing together all the extended family into one virtual room. 

Other options for group video calls include Skype, Oovoo, and FaceTime for iPhone users.

If you want more of an open-house feel, you can start a live stream from your favorite app throughout Thanksgiving dinner. Then your friends can drop in whenever they have time and chat with you through the comments. 

If the technology is a little daunting for some family members, go for the old-fashioned phone call. You can put it on speaker and keep it on through the duration of your meal. 

Or if you have some loved ones who aren’t the chatty type, send them some messages, photos, or videos via text, Snapchat, Instagram, or any platform of choice. 

Spread the Food

While many of us may rely on a few family members to do the bulk of Thanksgiving cooking, this year more people are left to their own devices. There are a few different options for getting some of that traditional food on the table this Thursday. 

One possibility is ordering in or picking up ready-made items at the store. 

You can also share recipes with family and friends and do your best to make some dishes at home—maybe even alongside them on a video call. It’s the perfect time to ask the best chef you know for a live cooking demo. 

If you live close to your loved ones, you could coordinate no contact food drop-offs so everyone gets a piece of the same pie. 

Another option is to forge an entirely new path and come up with an inventive Thanksgiving menu for 2020. Use the holiday as an excuse to eat your favorite meal and have dessert, too. 

Not Just Talk

If the thought of sustaining a few hours of online conversation sounds exhausting, there are some other activities you can do to fill up the time. 

Everyone on your call can tune to the same football game on TV to watch in real-time together. Or you can use a browser extension like Teleparty to watch some holiday movies or favorite shows. 

There are also some games you can play online, like bingo, trivia, or charades

If there are kids on the call, you can come up with some crafts in advance for each one to do. You could also read a story out loud, or show them the Scholastic First Thanksgiving Virtual Tour, which shares the history of the holiday in an interactive way. 

And, as a way to get everyone involved, have each member of the call tell everyone something they are thankful for this year. 

No Stress

Maybe a whole day alone in bed sounds more appealing than the traditional Thanksgiving  right now.. 

There’s the option to postpone the holiday until it is safe to gather again. You can always meet up with loved ones in the future and celebrate everything you missed in one extravagant event.  

If you do decide to keep to yourself this week, just make sure to schedule some time later to check in on elderly family members, college students, or other people who may be stuck alone. Many people are experiencing mental health struggles during the pandemic, and simply letting them know you’re there can go a long way. 

No matter how you decide to celebrate, make sure it’s done safely. Staying home, or wearing masks and social distancing if you are seeing people outside your household, will help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and save lives.


  • Jessica Swarner

    Jessica Swarner is the community editor for The Copper Courier. She is an ASU alumna and previously worked at KTAR News 92.3 FM in Phoenix.

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