November 24, 2020
  • Opinion

2020 has been weird. Why should our Thanksgiving celebration be ‘normal?’

2020 has been weird. Why should our Thanksgiving celebration be ‘normal?’
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By Polina Konuchkova

It is an understatement to say that 2020 has tested all of us in ways we couldn’t have imagined back in February. Yet here we are. Most of us have found ourselves learning epidemiology basics, and making tremendous adjustments to our everyday life, including how we interact with our loved ones while keeping them safe.

However, our greatest challenge is yet to come as we enter the holiday season. November through February are filled with many holidays. It is a time when we deal with the dark, cold days by spending it with our loved ones. But this year, without an abundance of caution, gathering with our families could spread the coronavirus and put our loved-ones at risk. We are yet again learning how to keep up with the rituals of social norms in an abnormal way.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is to celebrate at home with the people you live with. If you do choose to gather with others outside of your household, please keep it small. Gather outside whenever possible. If gathering inside, keep your masks on (being related by blood will not protect you from getting infected from a relative), ventilate, and arrange for social distancing between households if sharing a meal together.

With this guidance in mind, here  are some creative ideas for celebrating Thanksgiving during a pandemic. Embrace the weird! Nothing is normal in 2020. Hopefully, we can get back to our “normal” rituals next year. But to make sure that no one is missing at our tables in 2021, please make sacrifices this year and embrace the strangeness of it all.

  • With fewer family members at the table expecting a turkey, 2020 is a great year to try making a non-traditional meal. Try cooking up something entirely new. If the meal  doesn’t turn out, just follow the rule we have in our home – we can experiment in the kitchen all we want, as long as there’s a backup frozen pizza. Try finding a recipe from (also available as an app on Apple and Google Play stores). You enter ingredients you have on hand (or want to cook with) and it generates recipes.
  • Or maybe you could embrace this year as the year of no-kitchen hassles and support a local restaurant (or caterer) by ordering from them. “Stay Safe to Stay Open Utah” has published a directory of local businesses who took a pledge to follow safety guidelines so the state can stay open.
  • Get creative with traditional Thanksgiving dishes. Instead of a sweet potato casserole, make sweet potato toasts instead. Or go outside and roast hotdogs or make S’mores in the backyard firepit. There’s marshmallows – it counts.
  • Share meals with your friends or loved ones in a safe way by coordinating with others to make one dish each (for example, someone can make a big batch of mashed potatoes, and someone else can make their famous harvest casserole). Then package it up in smaller containers and drop it off at each other’s houses. Then just heat it up and have a “shared” meal on a virtual video call.
  • Hike or snowshoe and have a picnic. Pack up food – either traditional Thanksgiving items packed up in a picnic-friendly way, or go with your favorite snacks. Hike (or snowshoe) with your family and enjoy a meal with a view in the fresh air! You can search for a hike to fit your level on Intermountain’s Healthy Hikes search here.
  • Run a family Turkey Trot 5K in your local park. It’s a great way for your immediate family to get some exercise before the big meal.
  • Write thank-you cards. Since there will be fewer people at the table to express gratitude this year, take this time to reflect on who you are thankful for and write them thank-you cards. When they receive them (by mail or drop off) days later, it could extend the spirit of gratitude.
  • You might also consider using this year’s Thanksgiving as an opportunity to learn more about Indigenous Peoples who have been portrayed erroneously as willing and beneficial recipients of European colonization through traditional Thanksgiving stories. A great resource to get you started is this article on how to honor Indigenous American communities this Thanksgiving. Checkout this local organization that supports Native American elders. 

IMG 7235Polina Konuchkova is a resident of Poplar Grove. By day, she works as a Project Lead at Intermountain Healthcare. In her free time, she enjoys volunteering on issues of health and wellness.

Editor’s Note: We want to hear from you! What holidays do you celebrate and how are you adjusting your plans to keep everyone safe during the pandemic? Message us on our social media pages or email us your ideas and plans to our editor at .