If you can’t visit family due to the COVID-19 pandemic, host a virtual Thanksgiving dinner instead.


It’s that time of year: Thanksgiving is Thursday. And, like most holiday celebrations in 2020, it’s going to look different this November.

Public health officials are warning Americans about the dangers of travel and gatherings as the coronavirus pandemic rages. Stores nationwide are closing their doors Thanksgiving Day, while families finalize what recipes they’ll enjoy together (perhaps virtually). And many Indigenous people will commemorate the 50th National Day of Mourning, amid overdue need of being honest about the holiday’s true history.

There’s a lot to do in preparation for Thanksgiving 2020. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, never fear: we’ve got you covered. Here’s a list of things to do as we approach Thursday.

1. Avoid unnecessary travel, gatherings

Traveling for Thanksgiving? Here’s what to bring with you to stay safe (Photo: Getty Images)

As COVID-19 cases surge across the country, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is strongly recommending against Thanksgiving travel and large gatherings to help prevent increased virus spread.

Public health officials hope that most Americans follow this guidance, but estimates project that about 50 million will still travel for the holiday. If you do physically gather with family or friends, it’s important to do so with COVID-safe practices in mind.

CDC recommends against Thanksgiving travel and gatherings. Here’s why 

2. Make the most of a ‘Zooms-giving’

Zooms-giving season is upon us. Families nationwide, including that of Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, are moving their holiday festivities online.

Whether you’re planning a quick FaceTime as you cook, or setting up computers at the table to enjoy a turkey feast together (virtually), make sure you’re prepared with all the tech needed for Thanksgiving 2020.

Zoom-ing for Thanksgiving dinner this year? Here’s how to make the most of it 

Watch from home: Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade 2020 will be ‘reinvented’ amid COVID-19 pandemic 

3. Be honest about Thanksgiving’s history

The “first Thanksgiving” story, so often repeated in kindergarten classrooms and holiday specials such as “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” is built on myths about the relationship between the Pilgrims and Wampanoag people  – and leaves out the atrocities and true experiences of colonial violence, slavery and disease.

Today, Native people across the country observe the National Day of Mourning – a gathering that’s been held every Thanksgiving in Plymouth, Massachusetts, since 1970, to honor Indigenous ancestors and recognize the injustice that remains.

Not all Native Americans celebrate Thanksgiving. Find out why.

Learn the truth about Thanksgiving. Here’s the real history surrounding the holiday. 

4. Take another look into the past: 1918

Red Cross Women sit at long tables making influenza masks in Chicago, Illinois in 1918. (Photo: Image provided by the Chicago History Museum. Graphic by Karl Gelles, USA TODAY.)

2020 isn’t the first time Americans faced a Thanksgiving holiday during a pandemic.

Over a century ago, there were also face mask orders and quarantine restrictions nationwide. Millions mourned loved ones. And health officials issued very similar holiday guidance: Stay home and stay safe. Learn more about what happened in 1918.

We’re celebrating Thanksgiving amid a pandemic. Here’s how we did it in 1918 – and what happened next

5. Navigate post-election conversations

President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden debate in September at Case Western University in Cleveland. (Photo: Patrick Semansky, AP Images)

Many Americans will likely have a scaled-down or virtual Thanksgiving celebration Thursday, but the stress of a hectic year and contentious presidential election could still cause dinners to turn tense.

If you’re worried about a political argument arising at your 2020 Thanksgiving table or Zoom, you’re not alone. These tips are for you.

What experts say: How to navigate awkward political conversations at Thanksgiving dinner after a tense election

6. Get turkey-prepared

If you’re not seeing your typical Thanksgiving company (in person), you may be on turkey-duty Thursday.

First time? No fear – with the help of these few tools and tips, you can easily roast a beautiful bird in your kitchen this year.

Cooking your first Thanksgiving turkey this year?Don’t be intimidated by the bird. 

7. Don’t sleep on sweet potatoes

Your turkey may be the starring dish on the Thanksgiving table, but sides are where taste can really get creative.

Don’t be afraid to explore the possibilities of sweet potatoes this year. From fries to casserole, these recipes have you covered.

4 ways to cook sweet potatoes this Thanksgiving: Read the recipes here 

8. Know what’s open and closed

Walmart stores open at 5 a.m. local time on Black Friday. (Photo: Kelly Tyko, USA TODAY)

Before you run out of your house for those always-forgotten brussels sprouts or some extra paper towels, it’s important to note what stores will be open and closed Thanksgiving Day.

Depending on state, tribal and local public health orders, non-essential businesses and hours may vary, but here’s a helpful list of nationwide stores to use this holiday.

See the list: Walmart, Target, Best Buy are closed Thanksgiving amid COVID-19, while CVS and Walgreens are open. 

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