URBANA, Ill – As families take precautions to keep everyone safe this Thanksgiving, favorite holiday traditions are getting a fresh perspective. University of Illinois Extension family life specialist Cheri Burcham encourages families to make the most of Thanksgiving 2020.

How do we demonstrate our love for family, friends, and neighbors without gathering together? "There are many ways to enjoy the upcoming holiday," Burcham says. “The main goal during this time is to connect with others, but in a safe way that will preserve everyone’s health so we can continue to celebrate in the future."

    Watch the same shows: Whether it's watching the shortened virtual Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade or watching the NFL's Thanksgiving day games, use technology to watch the parade, football, or holiday movie "together" from separate households.

    Send a letter: People still love to receive notes in the mail, Burcham says. Share recipes, photos, or favorite memories of past celebrations. Seniors, who are most vulnerable to the coronavirus and have likely been the most isolated this year, may be feeling especially lonely and hopeless. This can also be an especially tough time for family caregivers, so be sure to show your support.

    Deliver meals: Safely cooking, packaging, and then delivering food to others, especially to those who have been more isolated, can be a good alternative to eating at the same table. Check-in on friends, family, elderly neighbors, and others in your community who might need some extra support. If you’ve been stress baking, or want to do some holiday cookie-making with the kids over break, consider packaging some up and dropping them off on doorsteps.

    Drive by to see fall or winter decorations: Drive through the neighborhood to see any fall decorations or early Christmas lights. Have kids make simple decorations like hand turkeys and put them in the windows for everyone to enjoy.

    Get outside: Follow this Fall Nature Scavenger Hunt to get your kids excited about spending time outdoors. 

    Talk about gratitude: Keep gratitude front and center this Thanksgiving, no matter where you’ll be, or with whom you’ll be celebrating, encourages Tessa Hobbs-Curley, Extension family life educator. “This year, our attitude needs to be centered on giving people grace about their decisions and focus on expressing gratitude and thankfulness in a variety of ways, even if the holiday looks a little different. When we express what we're grateful for, we often find our thoughts focused on people instead of things."

    SOURCECheri Burcham, Family Life Educator, Illinois Extension;
    SOURCETessa Hobbs-Curley, Family Life Educator, Illinois Extension
    WRITER: Nicole Stewart, Communications, Illinois Extension, extension@illinois.edu

    ABOUT EXTENSION: Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities.