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Blending old and new Thanksgiving traditions

'Tis the season for indulging in all our favorite comfort food and enjoying the warm glow of family and friends in any way we can. Thanksgiving is almost here! There’s no doubt that 2020 is going to be different from past years, but that doesn’t mean that family Thanksgiving traditions won’t be just as special.

When it comes to Thanksgiving traditions, we of course tend to fall back on the stories and activities that have been in our family for years, possibly even generations. As our family grows and times progress, it’s also a great time to start incorporating brand new Thanksgiving traditions for family bonding and togetherness.

This year has been tough for many people who are family oriented because the pandemic has prevented us from gathering together as we normally would. When your family means the world to you, it’s difficult to stay away, even when you know it’s what’s best for the health and safety of everyone involved. So let’s talk about ways to share the holidays together in ways that keep everyone happy and healthy!

What are your family Thanksgiving traditions?

If you paused to think about the things that immediately come to mind when you think of Thanksgiving, what comes up right away? Close your eyes and let all of your senses take over. What do you smell, hear, feel, and taste? Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that truly incorporates every single sense.

Some of your dearest Thanksgiving traditions might include:

  • Traditional or unique dishes to share
  • Telling stories around the table
  • Time set aside for everyone to share what they’re thankful for
  • Fireside movie night
  • Watching a football game together
  • Mixing a special holiday drink for the adults
  • Discussion about the origins of the holiday
  • Group food donations to those in need
  • Enjoying a favorite seasonal dessert
  • Prepping and cooking the meal together
  • Visiting a favorite local spot before dinner
  • Singing songs or playing a game together
  • Decorating for the winter holiday together at the end of the night
  • Enjoying leftovers for days to come

These are only a handful of the many, many Thanksgiving traditions for family members to do together. Does your family have any unique traditions they take part in? What says “holiday” to you?

grandma serving turkey at thanksgiving table

Blending new Thanksgiving traditions with old

While our tried and true traditions are always worth celebrating, there’s always room for incorporating something new, especially during a completely non-traditional year. Whether you’re choosing a smaller get-together, an all-virtual check-in, or a typical holiday gathering, there are plenty of ways to marry new and old traditions this Thanksgiving.

In the spirit of looking on the bright side, this year presents ample opportunities to try out some brand new family Thanksgiving traditions. You may opt for dinner with your immediate family only accompanied by a video call to your other loved ones, or perhaps drive-by meetups or a Thanksgiving outdoor BBQ are in the cards. Throw some turkey legs on the grill and enjoy the crisp fall air!

This is also the perfect time to try out any new or atypical Thanksgiving recipes. Always wanted to try a different turkey preparation, but Uncle Carl only wants a traditional roasted bird? Well, if you can’t get together with Uncle Carl this year, go ahead and try that turducken or deep-fried preparation. You only live once, right? Just remember, safety first!

It’s also a good time for a little more reflection on why we celebrate Thanksgiving and what we’re thankful for. Write notes, create a family art project, or simply share your thoughts together over Zoom. Health and safety are certainly great reasons to be thankful.

For an easy way to create sharable photos, videos, and scanned art projects, the Rosy Go app is perfect. The Rosy Home console can easily store everything on a secure device so you can choose exactly who to share it with, and you can chat via video or voice anytime. Make a virtual gathering for people who can’t be with you in person one of your new traditions!

Great Thanksgiving traditions for family togetherness

Need a few ideas this year? We’ve got you covered!

The main event: food traditions

We’d be remiss if we didn’t start a discussion of family Thanksgiving traditions with plenty of food.

Everyone knows the American cornerstones of a traditional Thanksgiving meal – roast turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, dinner rolls, and pumpkin pie. But why stop there?

Thanksgiving meals vary throughout the country and your family may have its own special recipes. Many families make cultural dishes like pasteles, tamales, latkes, antipasto, or even curry. Historians theorize that the original Thanksgiving meals were nothing like the ones we enjoy today. When the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag dined together, they likely enjoyed venison, squash, berries, waterfowl, clams, and other coastal offerings.

Your family likely has food traditions that are uniquely your own. Perhaps you douse the turkey in barbecue sauce or offer a shrimp platter to whet everyone’s appetite. Whatever your family does to celebrate, make it front and center. If you can’t get together with the family’s usual chefs this year, make your own plan on a smaller scale and prepare your feast together.

Feeling up for a challenge? Select one new dish you’ve never tried before and include it with the meal. Don’t necessarily replace the entire spread – you want to have some familiar foods there, after all! A new and exciting side dish, however, might be the tradition your family ends up loving and keeping for years to come.

The Rosy Home console can easily store all your favorite family recipes and Grandma Ethel is only a quick voice or video call away!

Thanksgiving activities

While the meal is always the main attraction, there are tons of other activities families participate in during the Thanksgiving holiday. From football to charades, there’s something for everyone.

When does your family typically begin their Thanksgiving festivities and how long do they last? It’s likely you have several Thanksgiving traditions to fill the time before and after the meal. Some families play sports together or take a scenic hike, while others watch a football game and enjoy snacks. There may be movies, singing, or games. Since Thanksgiving leads into the winter holiday season, some may even use the opportunity to break out the decorations and start welcoming the holidays in earnest.

A number of great socially distanced activities are making a splash this year, as well. Backyard cinemas, drive-by celebrations, and Zoom parties are all great alternatives. It’s not quite the same as a big gathering around the communal table, but it’s still a fantastic way to see everyone, even those who would have to travel a great distance to join you.

For a “virtual potluck,” arrange a video call where everyone can share a favorite recipe. That way, the whole family can build a menu of their own and it’s like the extended family was there overseeing the cooking.

Make individual snack packs rather than communal food bowls so everyone can grab their goodies and find a nice seat in the backyard for a movie night. Digital projectors are super affordable and easy to use these days!

Do you usually watch the big game together? You still can, thanks to the wonders of technology. Set up a family chat room or video call and let all the biggest ball fans watch at the same time, celebrating and yelling at the referee like they always do.

What are your favorite Thanksgiving traditions for family bonding time? We’d love to hear about your activities! Don’t forget to take video for the family members who aren’t present so you can share it with them later.

The tradition of giving back

Of all the family Thanksgiving traditions, expressing thanks and giving back to the community is the most important for the spirit of the holiday.

As we sit around a table loaded with food, we should remember that many people are less fortunate. During an especially difficult year, it can be very healing to pause for a moment to consider all the good we have in our lives and talk about how we can pay that goodness forward.

Making sure we teach our youngest relatives the benefits of gratitude will give them the tools they need to be more well-rounded, empathetic people. Before the holiday begins, have a family discussion about whether you’d like to volunteer or donate to an organization this year.

You may also make the choice to discuss the origins of Thanksgiving and why it’s so important to us, culturally. We know the well-worn story of two disparate groups coming together and breaking bread, but it’s equally important to delve into the history of the first Thanksgiving. Make space to discuss the Wampanoag and the real, sometimes very thorny, history of what happened. These can be difficult conversations, especially during a typically warm-and-fuzzy holiday, but they’re important.

This time around, encourage the spirit of thankfulness and consider bringing some new Thanksgiving traditions to dinner. We all have something to be thankful for this year.

Staying safe this season

If you do choose to host or attend an in-person gathering, it’s highly recommended that you review the CDC recommendations for holiday celebrations.

Having a smaller than normal celebration may feel strange, but different doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Consider the ways a more intimate group can change the holiday for the better this year! Less meal prep and more time spent together, more in-depth conversation, and plenty of time for games.

When planning your event, bear in mind that there are many ways you can reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, including social distancing, masks, and lots of hand washing. Be sure to check your local laws and regulations so you know what the limits are for group gatherings.

If your guests are able to access testing before Thanksgiving, that would go a long way toward easing everyone’s mind. Weather permitting, you may consider an outdoor meal, which offers less risk than an indoor gathering – in fact, the CDC recommends outdoor events with lots of ventilation whenever possible. Anyone who’s been potentially exposed or has increased risk for complications if they contract COVID-19 should abstain.

However you choose to celebrate your family Thanksgiving traditions, please stay safe!

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