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Like most things in 2020, Thanksgiving will be anything but normal.
Cases of COVID-19 are rising across Canada and public health officials are urging residents to spend Thanksgiving with only the people in their household. Unfortunately, this means the holiday typically associated with large family gatherings and copious amounts of food will be relatively quiet — and, for some, perhaps even lonely.
For Chef Phil Nguyen, chef specialist at Open Concept Hospitality and an instructor with Hyr Live, a small Thanksgiving is a necessary safety precaution — but it’s going to be a big departure from tradition.
“Thanksgiving represents family. Being a chef, the days are long and holidays are very rare, but I always make time for Thanksgiving,” Nguyen said. “Thanksgiving at my mama Nguyen’s is tradition.”
To keep the tradition alive — albeit in a slightly different way — Nguyen is going virtual.
“We shouldn’t feel like we are losing anything this time of year. Especially now, we need each other more than ever,” he said.
Below, check out some tips for hosting the perfect virtual Thanksgiving.
Send cute invites
If you really want to make Thanksgiving 2020 a memorable one, consider sending out virtual invites to your “party-goers.”
Minted, a website featuring art by independent artists, is currently featuring some adorable — and free! — email invites for Thanksgiving dinner.
Use the opportunity to set a start and end time, and share information about where the party will be hosted. If you’re using a platform like Google Hangouts Zoom or Blue Jeans, create a link and distribute it to those invited.
Create an easy menu
One way to make virtual Thanksgiving a bit more exciting is to create a menu — complete with a list of ingredients — so all of your loved ones are cooking and eating the same food.
According to Nguyen, the key to a successful meal is a menu that’s “easy and attainable — so no matter your skill level, you can follow along and serve a Thanksgiving dinner that’s fast, easy, delicious and memorable.”
Don’t forget to include the traditional recipes your family makes every year on Thanksgiving! Familiar flavours may even help the holiday feel “normal.”
Consider a meal kit
If your virtual party guests are uneasy about getting their groceries, consider ordering a Thanksgiving meal kit for each of your “attendees.”
Hyr Live and Open Concept Hospitality have created a stellar Thanksgiving Meal Kit for two, including a roasted cornish hen, 5-spice candied yams, a maple sage sausage stuffing and asparagus with roasted garlic. It’s available online for $95.
“We know times have changed, and things are different so we want to help people feel some of that tradition at home during the holiday season,” Nguyen said. “I love the idea that I will be eating Thanksgiving with a bigger family this year: my immediate family, and everyone that chooses to join me on Hyr Live!”
Once you and your loved ones receive your boxes, you can visit the Hyr Live website for a cooking class with Nguyen where he’ll teach you how to prepare the meal.
Plan some activities
If you’re worried about your virtual Thanksgiving dragging on, consider creating some challenges for your “guests.”
A signature cocktail or bottle of wine is a great way to bring the group together, even if it’s virtually. Open the event with a toast and ask everyone to say one thing for which they’re grateful.
A centrepiece competition is another way to keep people excited and engaged. Give everyone a certain amount of time to create a Thanksgiving-themed centrepiece with only things found around their house. When time’s up, go around the group and ask people to vote for their favourite centrepieces.
Designate a tech leader
Make sure to put the “virtual” into your virtual Thanksgiving. It helps to pick a member of your group who feels confident using platforms like Zoom to lead the event.
If you have people in your group who are older or less tech-savvy, consider hosting a “how to” session before the big day. There are also several helpful online resources about how to use video chat platforms which you may want to distribute in the days leading up to the event.
All that’s left to do now is enjoy the conversation — Nguyen’s favourite part of Thanksgiving.
“Enjoy yourself, eat lots, drink more and do not stop talking!” Nguyen said.