Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and after the stress of the past few months everyone is excited for the holiday season! This year is going to have to look a bit different than most, but you can still have a wonderful holiday with your family.

We always recommend following the CDC guidelines and recommendations for keeping you and your family safe during the holidays. The lowest-risk Thanksgiving gathering is, of course, a meal with only the members of your family that you are currently living with and vaccinated quests. To expand the dinner guest list a little, there is always the option of timing dinner with far away or unvaccinated family and friends for a video call or a FaceTime call. This is particularly helpful if there are elderly or immunocompromised family members who want to participate.

If your family is set on not breaking tradition we have some tips and guidelines below for lowering the risk of catching or spreading COVID-19.


The first thing to understand is that traveling from out-of-state, especially by airplane, is automatically higher risk and should be avoided if possible. The colder months will be the most difficult time of this pandemic with seasonal allergies; the flu, colds, and the weather making everyone more susceptible to COVID-19 even if you are vaccinated.

The safest way to eat Thanksgiving dinner together is just like the pilgrims…outside.

Even though it may be a bit cold in Virginia on Thanksgiving, hosting a Thanksgiving lunch outside at the warmest time of the day is the safest option if you are inviting guests over from outside your household and especially if they are unvaccinated guests or children.

Plan to have enough room outside to have six feet between households, masks on during the event except when eating. Think about it like turning your porch or backyard into a restaurant.

Even though it might be cold, resist the temptation to put up a tent or create an enclosed space. You don’t want to create what is essentially an indoor, and therefore more risky, space outside.

Be prepared to cancel.

It’s important to be flexible in your plans, and to understand that others may be unpredictable in theirs. If your cousins, all 8 of them, were coming but somebody became ill, you may suddenly lose half your crowd. We need to be understanding of family that can’t attend, and remember that if they are showing hesitancy, it’s because they want everybody to be safe.

Sometimes there can be family pressure to attend, and we understand that. Especially if some don’t understand the risks with exposure or are unvaccinated. Your health, and that of your family, is most important, and it’s ok to say “I don’t feel comfortable being with the group this year, but I can attend in other ways so I can see everybody”, or to take steps to limit your risk.

Things to do instead of a big Thanksgiving gathering.

Virtual dinners are a great way to loop large groups in with your family without having to travel. Stream the big game together and watch it live with everyone, play virtual games or do a quick video call while everyone is cooking in the kitchen to feel more like you’re together.

Another rewarding activity, especially if you are used to cooking for a crowd and won’t be this year, is to cook for your neighbors and high-risk friends. Drop off some tasty dishes on your elderly neighbors’ doorstep and share the holiday spirit, especially to those who are missing their own family’s get-together.

Speaking of dinner menus, why not use this year as the excuse to make that one Thanksgiving dish that you never get to have? Or throw out the rule book entirely and do something other than turkey!

The last tip we have is to avoid as much Black Friday shopping as possible. Crowded stores and small spaces are still not the safest options for this year and that’s okay. Set up a virtual shopping mall at your kitchen table! You can still stay up all night, eat leftovers, and scope out the best deals from home. Most stores offer online sales, and some have online deals that you can’t get in the stores.

Being vaccinated changes some rules!

If you and your family/household are vaccinated, then you are going to be able to have a more “normal” holiday season. Getting children and adults vaccinated that you plan on having at your event reduces the risk of catching or carrying COVID-19. If you are only partially vaccinated, it will still be important to follow masking and distancing rules, even though there may be a slightly lessened risk.

If you or your family have any questions about Thanksgiving safety tips, or questions about flu season and COVID-19, please call or portal our office and we will be happy to help!