The familiar smell of turkey will waft around the home on Thanksgiving. Family recipes will conjure fond memories from years past. Naps will be had after the festive feast – just like every other year.

But in 2020, almost everything else is different. Food might be shipped to family members who can’t travel for Thanksgiving. Friends may not be at the same table this year.

As families and friends face the challenges of celebrating the holidays during the COVID-19 pandemic, Virginia Cooperative Extension has new traditions to make this Thanksgiving special.

“The joyful time that is the holidays is much needed in 2020. But it’s important to be careful and safe as we reconnect and interact,” Extension agent Kaci Daniel said. “Extension has ways for families and friends to safely make this a special Thanksgiving for everyone.”

Daniel has a few suggestions on how to celebrate the day with new traditions.

Locally sourced food competition

Nothing is more festive than a friendly competition. One fun activity could be to see how many ingredients in the Thanksgiving meal can be locally sourced. Some of the late fall vegetables that can be locally sourced include sweet potatoes, butternut squash, acorn squash, greens (such as mustard and kale), brussels sprouts, and turnips, just to name a few.

Family cooking

Involve the whole family in the creation of the meal. Kids are great at washing and peeling vegetables, mixing dressing, and setting the table. Modify preparation tools to be age-appropriate – knives can be nylon, plastic, or metal, and assigned to kids depending on maturity and dexterity.

Neighborhood parades

People traditionally gather to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, but with the significant changes to the event in 2020, it is an opportunity for neighbors to create their own parade. While staying socially distanced, create cardboard decorations, costumes, or miniature handmade floats down neighborhood streets. Kids and adults of all ages can be creative and give new life to old household goods, cardboard, paint, string, duct tape, and anything else found around the house.    

Get active

After the meal, as weather permits, a long walk or a game of flag football with members of the same household will burn off some of the excess calories from the meal. Play such games as Red Rover, capture the flag, or hide and seek to stave off the food coma. For creative families, a scavenger hunt could provide some additional fun.

DIY Escape Room

For families looking for something a little different, an escape room in a box could prove to be that much-needed break from reality, with families bonding over a variety of imaginative scenarios that require teamwork to solve puzzles, find clues, and more.

Take care of your neighbors

Sharing tasty treats is a way to stay engaged with neighbors. While following all social distancing and mask mandates, a care package can be delivered, but tell the recipient ahead of time. Gather the ingredients for your favorite side dish and present those and a recipe to a neighbor or friend – along with a handwritten note about why the dish is meaningful – who can share in your traditions.

Even with social distancing and other COVID-19 protocols in place, it is still possible to create a memorable holiday season with traditions and memories that will extend beyond 2020.