Stay home this Thanksgiving: How to have a digital dinner with family
With Thanksgiving now less than a week away it’s essentially the holiday season. Under normal circumstances this would mean airports would be gearing up for some of the busiest travel days of the year and households would soon be packed with extended family.
This year is not like other years. We all know it, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to accept. For some people, the holidays are the only time of year they get to see their family so skipping out on Thanksgiving or other winter holidays feels like an impossibility. However, if you truly love your family it’s best to stay home this year.
The number of COVID-19 cases are already reaching higher numbers than we’ve ever seen and we haven’t even finished autumn yet. On top of this, the CDC has officially stated that nobody should be traveling for the holidays in order to prevent spread. So, here’s how to create a lovely Thanksgiving dinner while social distancing.
If you’re one of those families that usually has twenty people at the dinner table (or maybe a couple of tables) then one big video chat probably sounds like a bit of a nightmare, since having more than one person speaking on video chat automatically makes the audio a garbled mess nobody can understand. You might as well be listening to adults in Charlie Brown.
It might make more sense to schedule a few different video calls throughout your day in order to spend some more quality time with the various factions of your family.
If you have a small family then one video chat should do the trick, but either way, if you have family you want to see on Thanksgiving that doesn’t live in your household, then video chats are the way to go.
Not just dinner
Getting everyone in the video chat for dinner is ultimately going to be most people’s end goal, but Thanksgiving is a lot more than that. Instead of trying to get everyone in the video call while your food goes cold start the fun earlier.
You can cook your Thanksgiving meals together and people can hop in and out of the call or the screen as they desire. Maybe keep the football game on quietly in the background so you can all watch it together like you usually would & react in real-time together.
If you have a video call open all day it allows people to join in when they have time (again preventing too many people being on at once).
Some of the best memories come from cooking the meal together, not eating. If you’re going to miss being in the kitchen with your family then plan to video chat while you cook together. You can use the same recipes and do the same tasks together making it feel a little less like you’re in different homes.
If you’ve never cooked Thanksgiving dinner before and are wanting to eat the same foods everyone else will be eating, then cooking together via video chat is a great way to learn how to make your favorite holiday foods.
We’re not going to recommend everyone boot up Call of Duty or Fortnite and play with their family (unless all your family members would be into that). What we would recommend is playing something more like JackBox games. They have great party games for in-person gatherings, but it also works fabulously for digital parties.
As long as one person has a JackBox pack on their computer they can screenshare the game with everyone else, and everyone can join on their phones or tablets using the code on screen. This is a great way to hang out and have shared experiences without having to be in the same room.
If you do decide to play some JackBox games we recommend that you go into the settings & select “extended timers”. You might find this under streamer settings, but it’s also very helpful for video chat gaming sessions because it helps prevent issues from lag. Gaming remotely tends to make responding to questions take longer.
Sharing recipes & food
If you’re all eating the same food it feels a little bit more like a normal Thanksgiving dinner. Grandma might have sworn she’d take her pecan pie recipe to the grave, but maybe she’ll reconsider this year if she knows you won’t get any pie this year otherwise.
Sending things like home baked cookies or a bottle of wine to one another is also a great way to share the same foods or drinks to feel like you’re all having the same shared experience. Eating baked goods sent with love also makes it feel more like Thanksgiving.
Plus, if you say something like “oh there’s nutmeg in this cookie” everyone else can actually respond because they either made the cookie or are also eating it.
It may feel a little silly to decorate for the holiday if you’re the only one enjoying it, but seeing the decorations make things feel more festive and fun even when you’re not on the video call. Plus, when you are in the video call it will be nice and festive for everyone else too.
And don’t just decorate the area you think people will see on screen, decorate as you would if Thanksgiving was being held at your place this year. It makes things feel a little more normal and a lot more happy.
Live in the moment
It might feel strange to have a digital Thanksgiving, but if all goes well holidays can hopefully go back to normal sometime next year. It’s temporary, so just try to enjoy this odd holiday season for what it is – making the best of a crappy year.
It also helps not to talk about how strange it is to celebrate the holiday digitally or acknowledge too much of the mess that caused the need for socially distanced Thanksgivings. Accepting the weird & going with it helps to keep the mood light & allows you to focus on the people you’re talking to.