Skip to Content

How to Host a Virtual Thanksgiving

A virtual Thanksgiving with wine.

Thanksgiving is a special holiday for those of us who live in the U.S. This holiday is celebrated nowhere else in the world, which makes it distinctly American. Even the menu is comprised of many foods native to North America.

Turkeys are indigenous to the U.S., along with veggies like squash and corn. It’s always enjoyable to gather around the table and dig into a big meal. But during a global pandemic, celebrating Thanksgiving is actually dangerous. It’s much safer to have Thanksgiving virtually…but then, that’s not so easy, either.

How do you take a holiday that’s all about eating together and somehow put it online? If you can’t quite figure out how you’re supposed to host a virtual Thanksgiving, you’re not alone. It’s a little different than what you’re used to, but you can get together with loved ones even during a pandemic…as long as you have a few really creative ideas to fall back on.

There are lots of ways to enjoy the holiday together, even if you’re not really together. A virtual Thanksgiving isn’t really any more effort than a more standard type of Thanksgiving gathering but you will have to use a whole new set of skills and plan things a whole lot different than you have before.

Related: Thanksgiving Turkey Alternatives | Types of Stuffings | Thanksgiving Pies | Yams vs. Sweet Potatoes | Cherry Cranberry Sauce Recipe

Thanksgiving During Pandemic Conditions

A rustic Thanksgiving setup with medical masks.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends not hosting people outside your own immediate household during Thanksgiving or any other holiday in times of pandemic. However, if you are determined to have a gathering that includes members outside of your household, there are many guidelines you should follow to ensure everyone’s safety and minimize the risk.

Their guidelines include wearing a mask, maintaining social distancing, and using only plastic, disposable utensils. Everyone should bring their own food, drink, plates and cups.

The gathering should be held outside. if that’s not possible, open the windows inside the house to keep air circulating. Only one person should serve the food using only plastic, disposable utensils.

These guidelines are all considered necessary by the CDC if you plan on having a more standard type of Thanksgiving where loved ones who do not live with you come to your home to eat and socialize. However, even if you exercise all precautions you are still increasing your risk and the risk of everyone present contracting the COVID-19 virus or another virus, such as the flu.

It’s highly recommended to not have anyone outside the immediate household over for Thanksgiving. You can, however, have a huge gathering with loved ones using the internet. Try hosting a virtual Thanksgiving, which is the safest possible version of the holiday.

Getting Everyone Together

A family of three having a virtual thanksgiving.

If you’re going to host a virtual Thanksgiving, start working out the plan ahead of time. First, you want to pick the platform you’re going to use. There’s a lot of different software available for doing video chats, but you need everyone in your family to be using the same one.

Your options including using Apple Facetime (which is only possible if every person at your virtual Thanksgiving has an iPhone), Skype, Google Hangouts, Zoom, and Facebook. Zoom will be offering free services all day long on Thanksgiving, so this may be a good choice.

When you know which software you’re going to use, make sure everyone who you want at your virtual Thanksgiving knows how to use this software. Send them links or talk them through the setup on the phone. Make sure they know how to connect and use the software so you can avoid any big tech issues on Thanksgiving Day.

Do a test call with everyone to be sure they know how to connect and how to talk. If you’re not very tech-savvy, get together through email or text with someone who will be at the virtual Thanksgiving to take care of this part of the event.

You also want to decide when you’re going to have your virtual Thanksgiving so you can tell everyone when they need to be on the video call. Remember to let everyone know what time zone you’re in so they know when the call will be occurring in their own time. Landing on the right time is going to take a bit of back and forth, so make sure you’re prepared to be patient. It takes a lot of organization to plan a virtual Thanksgiving but it always takes good organization to plan a holiday event anyway.

Deciding What to Do

A rustic Thanksgiving setup with a sign for staying safe.

Different can sometimes be a good thing. Maybe you can’t gather around the table with everyone and eat this year, but you can find a new way to celebrate the holiday. What will you do for your virtual Thanksgiving? Is everyone going to make their own food at home and eat together during the call? Should you all get together earlier in the day and cook together virtually?

Will you show off your table, exchange recipes? Maybe you could all get together for dessert. There are many ways to enjoy a virtual Thanksgiving video call. Come up with something that will work for everyone based on the time of the call and just run with it.

You can always plan ahead and send the same recipe for a specific dessert or side dish to everyone in the video call. If everyone makes the same recipe, that’s almost as good as getting together at the same table.

What about getting together after dinner? There are some games you can play together virtually. Games like Cards Against Humanity and Trivial Pursuit can be a fun way to pass the time.

One way to keep the holiday close to your heart is to spend at least a few minutes of the call giving thanks. After all, that’s what Thanksgiving is supposed to be about. No matter how you celebrate your virtual Thanksgiving, make it a point to give everyone the chance to name at least one thing they’re grateful for during the holiday.

Hosting a Virtual Thanksgiving

A woman having a virtual thanksgiving with a family of three.

Thanksgiving may not be the same but you can still together with the ones you love…at least, in a way. You can get creative to find ways so that everyone can still eat the same thing, do something together, and have the chance to talk and share holiday wishes and big news.

Thins may change the world may not be quite the same during a pandemic but there are ways to hang onto traditions and get together, even if you have to use computer screens to do it. Work out how to host a virtual Thanksgiving this year. Once you do, you’ll be well-prepared for the next holiday you’re all going to celebrate together.