How to safely celebrate Thanksgiving this year

How to safely celebrate Thanksgiving this year

As COVID-19 cases rise, it is important to safely celebrate Thanksgiving this year.

You can safely celebrate Thanksgiving this year.  Here are tips for staying safe while still enjoying the holiday during COVID-19.

In-home holiday gatherings are typically ways to celebrate Thanksgiving weekend.  Things are going to be different because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

You may be able to host a small outdoor gathering with a little planning (weather permitting).  Follow safety guidelines to keep you and your loved ones safe and healthy.

Staying Home is the Least Risky

We now know the best prevent the spread of COVID-19 is by staying home.  As depressing as this sounds, there are many ways to take your your holiday plans this year virtual.

Safely Celebrate thanksgiving with small meal at home
Safely Celebrate Thanksgiving with a meal at home

Also remember, the spread of COVID-19 could get worse (we are already at bad), if we all go somewhere for Thanksgiving and celebrate inside.  We all need to be very cautious because we have rising daily cases, which increase the potential for exponential spread through the entire country.

Remember, the safest holiday plans you can have this year are cooking or ordering food and connecting with your friends and family virtually. 

Virtually Eat Together

You can plan a virtual Thanksgiving get together if you decide to follow the CDC‘s advice and stay home. Staying home is the best way to safely celebrate Thanksgiving.

Set a menu or single recipe that each individual household can easily prepare.  Everyone can enjoy the dish or meal together virtually during the virtual party. 

Here are some recipes ideas:

You can make something as simple holiday themed drinks or complex as full Thanksgiving dinner. Thanksgiving dinner typically involves turkey, stuffing, sides, breads and desserts. 

Safely Celebrate Thanksgiving with a Virtual Celebration
Safely Celebrate Thanksgiving with a Virtual Celebration!

Virtual Gathering Ideas

Are you feeling tired of Zoom parties?  Me too!  However, there are now fun ways to interact virtually.  Thanksgiving is only one day, you can do it.

Connecting virtually is worth it to connect with friends and family.  One thing I have learned from COVID-19 is that you can still feel connected to one another, even if we’re not in the same room.

Virtual Gathering Ideas:

  • Holiday-themed trivia
  • Netflix Party – everyone watches the same movie at the same time or night
  • Virtual visit to places – many places such as museums and farms now have virtual tours.  You can do these with your family
  • Game Watch – watch your favorite games at the same time.  You can connect via phone, text or video to “watch together”

Get creative or not.  Ultimately the goal is to connect with your loved ones on this special holiday.

Host Thanksgiving outside

If you must see people in person, throw a small outdoor gathering to celebrate.  You can either host or plan to meet in a park or other outdoor area. 

If you live in an area that is already cool or chilly, you have options:

  • Consider getting heater or tent
  • Safely lighting a bonfire
  • Have hot drinks like hot cider and hot cocoa
  • Wear warm clothing including layers
  • Get festive by wearing fleece pajamas
  • Use wool blankets

Ask guests before they arrive to maintain six feet or more apart from each other, especially when eating.  You can either put chairs or blankets out for guests or mark spots that are 6 feet apart to make it easier to socially distance. 

Make sure to ask your guests bring masks to wear just in case they need to go to the bathroom or inside.  

COVID-19 General Guidelines Basic Food Safety
If you must see people in person, throw a small outdoor gathering to celebrate. You can either host or plan to meet in a park or other outdoor area. COVID-19 General Guidelines Basic Food Safety

Safety tips for Food Preparation and Serving

In addition, let guests know you are following recommended steps to help them stay safe and healthy in advance.  Wear a mask when you are preparing food and setting up.

Be cautious this year with how you share the food.

  • Have the food prepared before guests arrive. 
  • Package the food individually if possible. 
  • Set out hand sanitizer and have everyone use it when they first arrive at the food station or table.
  • Have your guests can take turns getting food and spreading back out.  
  • Try to avoid a buffet at all possible.
  • Do not share food or drinks with others

COVID Precautions for Small Celebrations

To start, there are actions you can take to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  Follow these guidelines for your Thanksgiving Soiree and daily to keep you and your loved ones safe and healthy.

can you get COVID through Food

  • Wear a mask when you are in public.  Make sure you cover both your mouth and nose.
  • Continue following standard Food Safety steps. 
  • Social distance from others at a minimum of 6 feet.
  • Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds.  Sing Happy Birthday in your head twice to make sure you are washing long enough.
  • Eat nutritious foods (like produce) to take care of your physical and mental health
COVID-19 Defense Tips for Everyday and Thanksgiving
COVID-19 Defense Tips Thanksgiving and everyday.

The CDC considers the likelihood that you will get COVID-19 from eating or handling either foods or food packages very low.  Although this is great news, the risk is not zero. 

You can follow standard Food Safety guidelines to minimize any risk.  Remember, it is always important to follow good food safety practices to reduce the risk of illness from common foodborne pathogens.

Use proper food safety practices when handling food and before, during and after preparing or eating food.

Clean surfaces

Regularly clean and disinfect kitchen counters and cooking surfaces using a disinfectant product.  You can buy these commercially or make your own

When disinfecting your kitchen leave the disinfectant product on the surface for at least 1 minute.  Before preparing food on the kitchen counter, rinse disinfected surface with water.

Wash your hands

Luckily, evidence does not suggest that handling food or consuming food is associated with COVID-19.  Coronaviruses like the one that causes COVID-19, spread person-to-person through respiratory droplets. 

Always wash your hands after shopping, handling food and food packages and before preparing or eating food.


Wash with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Sing Happy Birthday twice in your head to make sure you are washing long enough.

Hand Sanitizer

If you do not have soap and water available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.  

When you use hand sanitizer, make sure you cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they are completely dry.  The rubbing and drying is how the sanitizer works.

In addition, please note the FDA is warning consumers about alcohol-based hand sanitizers that are being packaged in food containers or packaging.  Many food and beverage companies are packaging sanitizer in their standard bottles, so it could appear as food or drink.  

Do not eat or drink any sanitizer products as they cause serious internal injury and death!

Have a great Thanksgiving

You can safely celebrate Thanksgiving this year while staying safe.  Many of you celebrate Thanksgiving with indoor gatherings.  Unfortunately, this year needs to be different because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Luckily, you can get creative and enjoy the holiday in new, unique ways. 

The best way to stay safe and healthy is to enjoy Thanksgiving at home.  If this is not an option for you, you can host a small outdoor gathering with a little planning.  Follow safety guidelines to keep you and your loved ones safe and healthy.

Also, do not forget to follow basic Food Safety guidelines. Here’s a quick reminder of how to safely cook turkey.

Infographic Turkey Food Safety for Safely Celebrating Thanksgiving
Food Food safety guidelines including these for cooking your turkey safely.

COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic. Go to the CDC website for the latest information on symptoms, prevention, and other resources.


Food and Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).  Retrieved 30 August 2020.

Keep Food Safe. Retrieved 31 August 2020.

Q&A: Food Safety and Nutrition related to COVID-19.  Retrieved 31 August 2020.

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