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How to host a fun, festive virtual Thanksgiving

Have I ever told you my grandmother is living through her second pandemic? 

Yep, she’s 106 and was 4 years old when the Spanish flu came through her little town of Helena, Montana.  It took her father and left her mother a widow.  My great-grandfather was French and he had opened a candy shop in town.  The family lived above it and my grandmother has faint memories of the smells of caramel and perching on a stool at the counter.  I was never sure if those were actual memories, or memories she created to hold on to a bit of her father.  Her mother tried to keep the candy store open, but a widow owning a business was unheard of back then.  She ended up taking my grandmother and her brother to live with friends in Seattle. 

My mother-in-law is English and grew up in London during World War II.  She has vivid memories of blackouts and bombings.  When it became too unsafe to stay, her mother took her to live with grandparents in Ireland.  Children would travel alone in boats across The English Channel because parents wouldn’t want to have their entire family on a boat in case it was attacked.  She barely knew her grandparents and didn’t see her mother again for months.

Our world has endured extraordinary tragedy and hardships before.  And these are just a couple of stories from the countless ones to come out of those times. 

But we’ve always made it to the other side.  And we’ll do it again. 

And, like previous generations,  we’ll have our own stories to tell. 

There’s no doubt right now is hard.  And hard doesn’t seem like an adequate enough word for what the world is going through right now. People are sick, people have died, people are out of work, businesses are struggling. 

But there are still things we can be grateful for, even if it’s just for a hot cup of coffee in the morning or the bed your sleeping in or the friend who called yesterday to check in and say hi. 

And, yes, Thanksgiving is another holiday, another day on the calendar in 2020 where it’s not going to be like it usually is.

But we can still make it festive.

We can still make beautiful memories.  And you can add to your story of 2020.

Think about the stories you’ll tell future generations?

Are you going to tell them about all the Facetimes and Zooms, the drive by car celebrations, the loaves and loaves and loaves of sourdough you baked, the struggle of online school, the extra family time, making Tik Toks, the business you started or the shows you binge watched?

Because one day, in the future, you’ll be sitting around the Thanksgiving table with your children, grandchildren, great nieces and great nephews, and they’ll ask you……

“What was 2020 like?”

What will you tell them?

One of the best things about right now is technology.  Usually, I have a love/hate relationship with it, but it keeps us connected in a way that letters, emails and phone calls can’t do. 

And, speaking of technology, my family and I are doing a virtual Thanksgiving this year, and, if you plan on doing the same,  I’ve got some tips for you to make it festive and fun!

 

CHOOSE A FESTIVE COCKTAIL

What better way to kick off a virtual party than with a festive cocktail!

Take a poll or have everyone contribute ideas and then randomly pick one.

Send the recipe to everyone and include a mocktail version so kids can also be part of the celebration!

A couple of my favorites are this boozy apple cider and a dark ‘n stormy.\

WHO WILL YOU INVITE

Pick your guest list and then send out fun evites or, if they live locally, pop an invitation in the mail.  

Are you including ALL the cousins? The in-laws? 

If you have a big crowd, Zoom is the better platform.  Or if you can’t decide, you can always split up the guest list and have a Thanksgiving followed by a Friendsgiving.  

PICK A MENU

There are 3 ways to go about this: 

1.Pick a menu and recipes everyone cooks, so everyone is eating the same food.  This will help you feel more connected.  It’s really nice when Aunt Shirley can tell Cousin Ronald she loves his stuffing, and your mom tells you how amazing your pie crust is.  If you’re still in need of recipes, check out Thanksgiving Feast — 30 incredibly recipes from cocktails to turkey to side dishes to, of course, dessert!

2. Everyone cooks their own food which then can spark some fun conversation.  Maybe you want to cook scallops and your mother-in-law is all about the traditional turkey while your nephew plans on barbecuing ribs.  To each their own!  

3.If you and your guests all live in the same city, order in from one of your favorite local restaurants. Get creative and order sushi or Thai or pizza.  

PICK A TIME

My family always ate Thanksgiving closer to dinner time, but I know some friends who usually celebrated in the afternoon.  

Pick a time and don’t forget to consider the time difference if you’re celebrating with loved ones in different parts of the country.  

PICK A LOCATION IN YOUR HOUSE

It’s pretty hard to have a virtual anything if no one can see you, right?  

By now you’re probably an expert at Zoom and Facetime, but, just a refresher — find the light in your house and set up your computer, laptop, Ipad or phone there.  

Pick a table that either has a ton of natural light or where you can turn on enough lights where your loved ones can see you and not just your shadowy outline.  

WEAR YOUR FESTIVE BEST

Yes, I KNOW you’ve been living in athletic wear (at least from the waist down) for the last 8 months, but Thanksgiving is the perfect time to actually get dressed.  And I mean from head to toe.  

Pull out that cute dress you haven’t worn in ages, or the fun pair of pants with a cozy sweater.  

Add some sparkle with jewelry, glittery lip gloss or nail polish.  Or all 3!  As soon as Thanksgiving is over you can get right back in your sweats or pjs!

PLAY GAMES

We always love the games that have questions like “This or That” or “What’s your favorite childhood memory.” But you can also play card games, charades or Thanksgiving bingo

WHAT'S ONE THING YOUR MOST GRATEFUL FOR IN 2020

Go around the virtual table and ask everyone to say what they’re most grateful for in 2020.   This year has absolutely had more than it’s share of challenges, but finding gratitude, even in the smallest things, gives us something positive to hold on to.

What positive things happened in 2020 that would never have happened without the pandemic? 

Deeper connection with family?

Rediscovering a love of painting or reading?

A new favorite show to binge watch?

Reconnecting with old friends?

 

However you're celebrating Thanksgiving this year, I hope you create beautiful memories and stories to share!

I'm incredibly grateful you're here and am sending you a giant virtual hug!

xo

Lisa

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