Thanksgiving Celebrations and Traditions

Thanksgiving celebrations and traditions are the most non-religious holiday celebrations of the year.  Eating turkey with all the trimmings and pumpkin pie for dessert with friends and family are some the most common ways to celebrate. Football games, parades and shopping are also a beloved part of this holiday. 

Pumpkin Pie is a favorite for Thanksgiving Celebrations
Pumpkin Pie is a favorite for Thanksgiving Celebrations

Virtual Thanksgiving Celebrations

Because of the pandemic, some Thanksgiving celebrations and traditions need to be modified for safety reasons. A little creativity will go a long way to make the holiday dinner special, even during social distancing and virtual gathering.

For a virtual gathering, all cooks can prepare food by adhering to the CDC guidelines regarding Thanksgiving gatherings and food preparation. Distribute cooked dishes to each household in the celebration.  Repeat the process until everyone has all of the dishes they would normally be eating at an in-person gathering. An alternative is for participants to make their own complete dinner.

To gather around the table, use one of the many virtual meeting services. Some of these include Facetime (for iOS users), Facebook Messenger and Facebook Rooms, Google Meet or Zoom.

Safer In-person Celebrations

If virtual celebrations are not an option, follow CDC and local gathering guidelines for a “safer” holiday. Since more than 1 household will be indoors, the CDC is recommending everyone stay at least 6 feet away from each other and wear masks when not eating. Wash your hands before preparing food and wear a mask while preparing the meal according to the CDC guidelines. The CDC also recommends guests bring their own food, drink, plates, cups and utensils to the gathering place. Keep the gathering small (10 or less in New Jersey, per Executive Order) and safe by limiting the number of people in close contact.

If self-contained gatherings are not possible, and food is made and served “family style”, designate one person to serve all of the food to everyone. The server should wash their hands before serving the food and wear a mask. A limited amount of hands on serving utensils helps minimize the potential spread of the COVID19. If dishes and utensils are not disposable, wash them in hot soapy water or load the dishwasher and start it immediately after the meal. Eating outdoors, weather permitting, is another good way to keep everyone safer.

Thanksgiving History

  • The first Thanksgiving celebration in the United States was in the 1500’s when the Spaniards celebrated a day of thanks in what is now Florida and New Mexico.
  • The first settlement in the U.S. (Jamestown, VA) celebrated a day of giving thanks in 1610. This was 11 years before the Pilgrims and Native Americans had their 3 day festival in 1621.
  • During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln decreed the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day. Until then, Thanksgiving was celebrated on various days from October through December.
  • In 1939, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt decreed Thanksgiving as the fourth Thursday in November. The decree allowed merchants to have more shopping time for the winter holiday season. FDR hoped the “extra week” would help bring the country out of the depression. No one knew how that “extra week” would become shopping tradition!

Shopping has become a Thanksgiving Celebration and Tradition

Because of the Thanksgiving Day and “extra week” decree, shopping has become a major part of the Thanksgiving weekend. Some people “need” the thrill of bargain shopping for holiday gifts right after Thanksgiving Day. To shoppers, Black Friday makes the adrenaline rush of going to stores at crazy hours, to get the “perfect gift”, at a great price irresistible.

If in-person shopping is a must, wear a mask at all times in the store and wipe the shopping cart down. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after handling and paying for your “treasures”. Practice social distancing and stay six feet away from other shoppers. A better solution is online shopping. The adrenaline rush from finding the “perfect gift” online isn’t the same, but it is safer.

No matter how you celebrate, have a great time and be safe!

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