8 Holiday Traditions You Should Rethink This Year (And 1 That’s Totally Fine)

thanksgiving traditions this year

Earlier this month, the US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention released updated guidelines for holiday celebrations. The takeaway? Thanksgiving isn’t canceled this year, but certain beloved activities and traditions will have to be reimagined. Here are the ones to skip (plus one that you can safely still enjoy).

1. Hosting a big gathering

You usually invite your in-laws and best friend’s family over for the holidays so you can all gather around your dining room table to give thanks. But this year, you’ll want to keep your guestlist small. “The safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is to celebrate with people in your household,” says the CDC. That said, if you plan on being with people not in your household, having a small outdoor dinner with family and friends in your community is considered a moderate risk activity. Plus, you can further reduce your risk by following the CDC’s recommendations on hosting gatherings or cook-outs. Bottom line: Tucking into a Turkey Day feast with your own household is the safest option, but if you are going to see other people, take the celebration outside and follow social distancing protocols (like wearing masks when you’re not eating).

What to do instead: Keep your in-person celebration small and organize a virtual Thanksgiving with other friends and family who are not in your household.

2. Having dinner with grandma

This one breaks our heart but it’s true: Older people and those with underlying conditions (such as diabetes of heart disease) are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. As such, you may want to consider celebrating separately this year.

What to do instead: Taking your celebration online is a good option here too. But if you can’t virtually dial nana into your dinner party, why not prepare her famous sweet potato casserole and drop it off? “Safely prepare traditional dishes and deliver them to family and neighbors in a way that does not involve contact with others (for example, leave them on the porch),” suggests the CDC.

3. Getting in on a neighborhood game of touch football

Close contact with people not in your household is a high-risk activity that’s best avoided in order to stop the spread of COVID-19.

What to do instead: Attending a small outdoor sports events with safety precautions in place is considered to be a moderate risk activity, says the CDC. But to really be safe, skip the high-contact sports altogether and try one of these fun board games for adults or great card games for kids instead. Bummed about missing the chance to whoop your neighbor’s butt in football? Get an online game going.

4. Participating in a Turkey Day Trot

This holiday tradition is both fun and good-for-you… but not during a global pandemic. Participating or being a spectator at a crowded race is considered a high-risk activity, per the CDC.

What to do instead: Get your heart rate up by going on a nature walk post-feast (while maintaining social distancing protocols, of course).

5. Serving dinner family-style

A table loaded with all our favorite foods is what Thanksgiving dreams are made of. But skip the family-style or buffet dining this year, say experts. While the FDA does not believe that COVID-19 can be spread by food, problems could arise if members of different households share utensils or crowd around the mashed potatoes.

What to do instead: Consider plating everyone’s dinnerware beforehand (so classy) or designating one person to be the server.

6. Hosting a potluck

You’re always in charge of the pumpkin pie while your sister brings the green beans. But this year, you should avoid potluck-style gatherings, per the CDC.

What to do instead: “Encourage guests to bring food and drinks for themselves and for members of their own household only,” the CDC says. It may seem strange bringing your own meals, but hey, these are strange times. (Plus, that means more pie for you.)

7. Having a holiday cookie-baking party

If you’re in the same household, this one is fine. But if you were planning on having your nieces come over to make gingerbread cookies, you might want to rethink the tradition this year, says the CDC. Again, it’s not the food itself that is the issue but the preparation of it and being in close proximity with people indoors. “Hosts should limit the number of people in food preparation areas” and those attending a gathering should “avoid going in and out of the areas where food is being prepared or handled, such as in the kitchen,” say the experts.

What to do instead: This is another tradition that can just as easily be pulled off virtually—make sure everyone has all the necessary ingredients and hop on a Zoom call to bake together (while apart). You may not be able to taste each other’s creations, but you can still have fun showing off your decorating skills. 

8. Hitting the stores after the feast

Crowded mall? That’s a definite no-no. 

What to do instead: “Shopping online rather than in person on the day after Thanksgiving or the next Monday” is a low-risk activity, per the CDC. (And TBH, we totally prefer getting our Black Friday shopping done in our pajamas, anyway.)

And one activity that’s still totally fine…

Eating all the foods. From a traditional Turkey Day menu to more creative spins on the classics (hello, butternut squash upside-down cake), if there was ever a year to eat your feelings, it’s 2020. Or if you don’t want to spend two days prepping dinner for just you and your household, then consider ordering your Thanksgiving feast ready to go. From a full spread (turkey included) or an option to receive just the sides—plus a few vegan options—these websites make it super easy to order a Thanksgiving dinner that requires little effort on your behalf. Now sit back, relax and stuff your face (and wait for this bizarre time in our lives to be over already). 

Oh and one more thing: If you are celebrating Thanksgiving, consider donating to groups that support Native Americans.


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Executive Editor

Alexia Dellner is an executive editor at PureWow who has over ten years of experience covering a broad range of topics including health, wellness, travel, family, culture and...