20 (Actually Really Fun) Ways to Celebrate Thanksgiving Virtually This Year


Photo credit: Khadija Horton

Photo credit: Khadija Horton

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Ah, Thanksgiving. A holiday for spending time with family, practicing gratitude while eating your entire body weight in turkey, and pretending you like it better than a juicy chicken. Sure, you might be thinking of cozy Thanksgivings past (y’know, like, pre-quarantine) while wistfully reading this. But I’m here to inform you that—spoiler!—Thanksgiving is not canceled this year. No, sir. It just…might look a little different, especially if you don’t feel comfortable traveling yet.

I mean, I get it. Though vaccination numbers have been on the rise, this panini is still happening, and so the CDC continues to advise that people avoid large gatherings and events.

So, how do we do Thanksgiving this year? Why, via the internet, of course! Were you expecting another answer? Between Zoom birthday parties, Zoom graduations, and even Zoom weddings, most of us have gotten pretty used to the whole virtual celebration thing. In fact, I would go so far as to award us all gold effing stars for our devoted ingenuity. But if you’re looking for new ways to host your Thanksgiving festivities virtually or socially distanced this year, then that’s where I come in: Below, find 20 actually fun ways to celebrate Thanksgiving online. Good Turkey Day greetings to you, yours, and your seasonal candles.

Have an At-Home Scavenger Hunt

Yes, this game doesn’t hit quite the same as it would IRL, but I promise it’s still v v fun. There IS a secret ingredient though in order to make this game a hoot: You’ve gotta grab a fun checklist (like the one above!) to make things interesting. Once you have that, share it with your household or long-distance loved ones if you wanna play over Zoom, maybe start a timer, and get to playing!

Play ~Digital Jeopardy~

Who said you couldn’t play your favorite TV game show in the comfort of your own home? If you and your fam are obsessed with Jeopardy orrr just love trivia with all your lil hearts, then T-Giving must be celebrated with a couple of rounds of the game! Purchase and download this ready-made PowerPoint that looks like a replica of the show’s gameboard. And OFC we had to find one that was on theme with the holiday, because, le duh. Go on and start freshening up on your American history if you plan on winning this thang!

Paint Hand Turkeys

You know you loved this as a kid. But I know you’ll love it even MORE if there’s wine involved. Wink wink. Think of it as a paint and sip situation but in your living room or dining room. Get some basic art materials—paint, brushes, and a canvas—and a bottle of your go-to vino (I may be biased, but I say treat yourself to one from Cosmo‘s collection) and let your inner Picasso shine through. Everyone will have a ball!

Make Gratitude Jars

Putting these together will make everyone’s hearts feel all warm and fuzzy—and those are the exact vibes we need to have during a holiday family gathering! Get some mason jars, strips of paper, and a pen and just start jotting down a bunch of things you’re thankful for. Drop ’em in the jar, and keep it in an accessible place. And whenever you’re having a bad day, take a note, read, and instantly feel a boost of happiness. Feel free to discuss with your fam all the things y’all are thankful for. 🙂

Have a Pottery Night

Okay, yes, I know this kit is technically Halloween-themed, but pumpkins are still very ~Thanksgiving~ and you know you agree with me! Send everyone in your crew one of these cute pottery-making bundles before November 25, so each of you can enjoy creating the same piece of *chef’s kiss* art. This isn’t a must, but, if your group is competitive, you can make it a lil contest. Prizes are up to you guys to figure out!

Send Some Cute Virtual Invites

It’s a little extra to send out actual Thanksgiving invites if you’re just going to be chowing down with the fam over Skype. But hey, if you’re in the mood to go over the top, I say go for it (I’m all for supporting the USPS). Otherwise, some cute virtual invitations should do the trick. Fill them out with your dinner time and preferred video chat platform so everyone’s on the same page for the big day. Minted has some really cute (and free) Thanksgiving options, like this one.

Plan Your Own Turkey Trot

TBH, I’ve never understood why turkey trots are a thing, but if your family does one every year, it’s only right to keep the tradition alive. Set a time on Thanksgiving morning, and have your usual turkey-trot crew race a 5K at home using a running app like Strava so you can compare times and see who won. Wanna up the stakes? Make a deal that everyone will Venmo the winner $5.

Have a Zoom Cooking Class

If it’s your first time doing Thanksgiving without your family’s best cook there to chef everything up, stay calm—you got this. Just ask them to teach you their ways via Zoom. Have them send around an ingredients list ahead of time so that everyone can follow along in their own kitchen. It’ll kinda feel like you’re cooking together as you used to in the Before Times.

Mix Up Some Dranks

Planning to order in? Then just skip the cooking class and go straight to the booze. Video-chat while you mix up a fall-themed cocktail, like these Apple Cider Ginger Bourbon Smashes. Here’s the recipe:

  • ¼ cup apple cider

  • ¼ cup ginger beer or ginger ale

  • 2 ounces bourbon

  • 1 teaspoon orange zest

  • 1 tablespoon orange juice

  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Combine apple juice, ginger beer, bourbon, orange zest and juice, cinnamon, and ground cloves in a cocktail shaker. Shake until combined. Strain into a glass filled with ice, and top with a cinnamon stick or sliced apple.

Recipe from Sage to Silver

Set Up an Early Secret Santa

After the last two (?!) years we’ve had, everyone deserves some presents RTFN, right? A few weeks before November 25 (that’s Thanksgiving this year, BTW), use an online name generator like Elfster to assign your family members a secret Santa. Set a price limit, and have everyone mail their gifts so they’ll arrive in time for Turkey Day. After dinner, do the big reveal over FaceTime.

Three Words: Pie Eating Contest

Totally ridiculous? Yes. Insanely fun? Also yes. Everyone bakes a pie, then goes head-to-head on Zoom to see who finishes theirs the fastest. With witnesses, of course. And yes, you do have to eat with your hands behind your back, thanks for asking.

Set a Funny Dress Code

If you’re celebrating with your quarantine crew, chances are you’re b-o-r-e-d of eating together all the time. Spice things up by setting a dress code theme. This family went with random fancy attire they had lying around. Decide on a theme together, and have cousins, grandparents, or family friends choose their own theme too. Rock your outfits to Zoom dinner and lol over what everyone else wears. Bonus points if you film a TikTok while you’re at it.

Tailgate in the Backyard

Watching the Cowboys just won’t be the same without 20 people in the living room screaming at the TV. But don’t worry, it can still be super fun. Prop up a TV on the patio or back porch, and pull the car around for a backyard tailgate.

Play “What Do You Meme” but With Family Photos

Start by rounding up some of your family members’ most embarrassing photos and save them to a folder on your computer. Have each group you’re going to Zoom with order a What Do You Meme set before Thanksgiving. Once everyone’s logged on, have each player take seven caption cards and choose a judge from the group. But instead of picking a classic meme photo from the game, share your screen and display an embarrassing family pic. The players have to caption it, and the judge decides which caption is best. FYI: You might wanna opt for the Family Edition to avoid any awkward moments since the captions in the OG version can get a little risqué.

Get Creative With Photoshop

You probably can’t exactly pull off a huge family photo à la the Kardashian-Jenners this year. But you can definitely crop in your brother who lives out of state and pretend thanks to Photoshop. Whip up some doctored family photos from the day for some major laughs.

Challenge Everyone to a Virtual Board Game

I don’t know about you, but it’s not Thanksgiving at my house without at least one painfully long game of Monopoly. This year, take your fam’s board game of choice digital thanks to the App Store. Tons of games like Clue, Catan, and Risk have app versions where you can invite others to play.

Go Black Friday (Online) Shopping

Hot tip: The best Black Friday deals are usually online, and most of the time, they go live on Thanksgiving Day. So once your food coma subsides a bit, start shopping your favorite sites. Text a few links to your friends so they can confirm that you *need* that new loungewear set and pair of boots (even though you were totally gonna get them either way). It would be wrong not to.

Host a Zoom Friendsgiving

The bad news? You probably can’t host a Friendsgiving with your high school friend group this year. The good news? You can totally still hang out, catch up, and get wine drunk with them this year. Just do it over Zoom! Wanna win friend of the year? Uber Eats everyone dinner so they don’t have to worry about cooking.

Stream the Parade

As expected, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is going to look a lot different. The department store released a statement saying:

“This year, the celebration will shift to a television-only special presentation, showcasing the Macy’s Parade’s signature mix of giant character helium balloons, fantastic floats, street performers, clowns, and heralding the arrival of the holiday season with the one and only Santa Claus.”

Instead of the traditional 80 to 100 giant balloon handlers desperately trying to make sure Snoopy doesn’t fly away, Macy’s plans on using a “specially rigged anchor vehicle framework of five specialty vehicles.” Take that info however you want to! But there *will* be balloons and there *will* be Santa Claus.

The 94th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will air from 9 a.m. to noon Thursday, November 25, on NBC. Set your alarms, bbs!

Have a Christmas Movie Night

As soon as I get up from the Thanksgiving dinner table, I’m ready for Christmas. And unless you’re one of those hard-core “Christmas season doesn’t start till December 1” people, I highly recommend watching a Christmas movie post-dinner with some friends or family to get in the ~holiday spirit~. Thanks to Netflix Party, a totally genius Chrome extension, you can invite up to 50 people to share your screen and watch it with you. There’s even a chat feature, so you can share your hot takes on Home Alone.

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