Connect with CREDO:

7 Tips to Have a Fun and Safe Virtual Thanksgiving This Year

Thanksgiving is nearly upon us — and this year’s celebrations will certainly be much different than years past.

As the pandemic continues to surge across the country, public health officials are becoming increasingly concerned that Thanksgiving celebrations may turn into super-spreading events, as social gatherings have become some of the main drivers of community spread.

That’s why experts are urging us to forego traveling for the holiday, celebrate within our own households or “pods” and limit in-person contact with those outside our homes. But we can still enjoy the company of family and friends, give thanks and have a great holiday — thanks to the power of technology.

Here are 7 tips to host a successful and safe virtual Thanksgiving celebration this year.

Choose your platform

The first consideration for hosting a successful virtual holiday get-together is a technical one: Picking the right video conferencing software for your event. 

You have many platforms to choose from, including YouTube, Facebook, Twitch, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, and others — but if you’re looking for a platform that’s easy to use and familiar to most of your guests, we recommend Zoom. It’s free for up to 100 participants and works on your computer and mobile devices, but the free version does not allow for recording and is limited to 40 minutes per meeting (just restart if your celebration lasts longer). Make sure to create the event ahead of time so your guests have a link, too. Here’s how to schedule meetings in Zoom.

Download Zoom for your computer, or for your mobile devices from Google Play or the App Store.

Send invitations

Next, it’s time to make your guest list and let your friends and family know about your Thanksgiving celebrations with an online invitation. Not only will you be able to easily send your Zoom link to your recipients’ inboxes, you’ll save a lot of paper, too.

Again, you have many services to choose from that make sending bulk invitations pretty easy. Evite is one of the leaders in the online invitation space with many free options, Minted works with independent artists, and Paperless Post is beloved for its great designs. You could also check out Greenvelope, a paid online invitation company that donates a portion of its revenue to Mountains to Sound, a nonprofit organization that maintains forests.

Alternatively, you can send an email to your guests with all of the details. It will lack some of the fun of a designed invitation, but it’s free!

Make a plan

In year’s past, your holiday run-of-show probably followed a pretty familiar pattern that your guests knew well – arrival, snacks, dinner, post-meal traditions, etc. But virtual holiday gatherings present unique challenges to those tried and true schedules and traditions you once had. That’s why it’s important to create a plan and make it simple to follow. For example, set the start and stop times for your virtual meeting, choose who will speak and when, and brainstorm some fun pre- and post-dinner games to play. This will help make the celebration a little bit more manageable and keep everyone on schedule.

Pick a host

Along with making a plan, choose a person who will emcee the celebration to follow the plan you created. The host will keep everything moving smoothly from Hors d’oeuvres to toasts to dinner. Even if you’re not the host, you can make your emcee a co-host in Zoom who will be able to mute a participant with bothersome background noise or an unruly family member who indulged in too many cocktails.

Swap recipes

Swapping recipes is a great way to feel connected and ensure everyone gets to have a bite of a favorite dish while remaining physically distant. The easiest way to share recipes is digitally, through email, text or your favorite messaging app. For those less tech-savvy, swap your recipes over the phone or even snail mail. When you’re preparing for the big day, you can practice the new recipes with your family and friends over a video chat to nail their secret tricks to getting the dish just like you remember. 

Take a group picture

Although 2020 hasn’t been an easy year, you’ll still want to remember your virtual Thanksgiving celebration with a photograph of everyone who joined. It’s really easy to do in Zoom or other video conferencing platforms.

In Zoom, ensure everyone on your video chat is on the screen at the same time by choosing “Gallery View” then picking “Full Screen” (this is best done on a computer). Then, take a capture of your screen with either your operating system’s screenshot feature (Windows or Mac) or Zoom’s screen capture option.

Bonus Tip: Fill out CREDO’s Thanksgiving Survey & help us donate 200,000 meals

This month, CREDO is partnering with our friends at Feeding America to donate 200,000 meals to families in need this Thanksgiving season — and we also want to check in to see how you are thinking and feeling about this Thanksgiving.

Before you begin planning your virtual holiday meal, please take two minutes to fill out our quick survey, and we’ll donate these meals to families who need it the most.