Thanksgiving has officially come and gone and it sadly may have been a letdown to many people this year. With COVID-19 numbers spiking across the US, many states instituted restrictions to limit social gatherings. While this was necessary given the current trends, it may have come as a last-minute surprise to people, throwing off plans for some much-needed interaction.
I grew up in a large blended family, so my family gatherings are at least 12 adults and 3 toddlers. We started discussing in October how it felt like there was no way we could get together safely, and ultimately made the call shortly thereafter to forego an in-person event. By deciding far ahead of time, and ahead of statewide mandates, we were able to plan out activities to make the holiday as memorable as possible while still exercising caution.
Though the need for a virtual event may have thrown off your Turkey Day plans, it doesn’t need to for Hanukkah or Christmas since there is still time to prep! Here are some ideas to make the upcoming winter holidays special and safe for you and your loved ones.
Contact-Free Cookie Exchange
It wouldn’t be the holiday season without an enormous amount of desserts, right? I typically do a bake day each year with friends or family, and am thinking of converting it into a contact-free sweets swap! My family did this for Thanksgiving pies and it was a hit: each person baked a surprise pie and then dropped it off at another house. This can be as big or simple as you want - each participant could bake enough to leave some on every front step, or only one home. Either way, it’s a fun activity to satisfy some sugar cravings and help people feel connected! Needing inspo? Here is a link to Bon Appétit’s 99 best cookie recipes (Jay-Z would be proud).
Zoom Cooking Class
My parents were very gracious for Thanksgiving and decided to still cook our traditional family meal and drop it off at everyone’s houses for our virtual dinner. This is above and beyond, but if you’re still looking to come together for a meal this holiday season then take it virtual. Choose something at an easy skill level (or challenging if everyone is adept enough), share an ingredient list and recipe, and enjoy cooking and dining together. Cooks of Crocus Hill is also doing virtual classes if you want professional guidance. I’ve now taken three of their classes and loved them; super informative with delicious creations.
Light Show (Un)Carpool
Just as the Minnesota State Fair made their summer event socially-distanced, many holiday light shows are following suit. Meet your squad for a little caravan and enjoy them together! You could also go the extra mile by making little goodie bags to give to everyone for their car. Popcorn, hot cocoa (we love Mademoiselle Miel’s Honey Hot Cocoa Bombs), cookies, whatever you like. Our friends at Kare 11 made it easy by compiling the drive-thru shows around Minnesota this year here. Be sure to get your tickets soon, since we know these will be a hit.
DIY Game Night
I’m pretty certain 75% of America has played Jackbox Games at this point. While I love it, there are definitely many more online games at your fingertips (literally - Google for the win!). With a little extra coordination, you can also do a DIY bingo or trivia night. My family did this in the spring and gave away gift cards to local restaurants as prizes. Obviously, bragging rights alone are a sufficient trophy, but it’s a fun twist that also helps support small businesses that especially need some love this year.
Homebound Happy Hour
With colder temps and shorter days, we know that the holiday season is usually filled with happy hours. Although you may not be able to bundle up and head to your favorite lounge, there are plenty of distilleries helping you whip up inventive bar-worthy libations at home! Have everyone grab a cocktail kit of their choice, then mix them up together for a little Zoom soirée. Here are some of my favorite kits:
The Ruckus Rosemary from Twin Spirits Distillery - full menu
Snowball Old-Fashioned Miracle from Lawless Distilling Co. - full menu
Eater also did a list of more options, including restaurants. Check it out here.
The pandemic has definitely hit hard on a lot of individuals and families across the US. If you’re fortunate enough to be able to give back right now, it not only helps people in need, but also inherently uplifts your spirits. If your friends/family are in a similar spot, suggest making it a collective donation. Here are a few ideas to make it engaging:
Everyone donates $10 for each day they wear sweatpants the whole day (zero judgment - we’re all doing it)
Adopt-a-family and each individual or couple picks an item(s) to gift
Pick a day for everyone to do a coin hunt around their house. Once everyone is done, the group adds up what they found and everyone matches the donation.
I hope this gives you all some inspiration for upcoming festivities! I’d love to hear any other fun suggestions you and your loved ones are planning - let me know in the comments.
Image Credits - Cookie: golubovy/iStock