8 Outdoor Thanksgiving Dinner Ideas For Your Immediate Family Gathering

Unlike a traditional Thanksgiving spent around the dinner table with all your loved ones, this year will look quite different. The coronavirus pandemic is a very serious daily reality, so it’s time to get creative if you want your holiday to be both safe and fun. One way to accomplish this is by recreating any of these outdoor Thanksgiving dinner ideas while staying safe at home with your immediate family or roommates.

Limiting your dinner to include only the members of your household or planning a virtual celebration is what 2020 is all about, per the latest safety guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which were updated on Nov. 19. It’s crucial to note that anyone you come into contact with who is not part of your immediate household puts yourself and others at risk. Some officials — such as Mayor Jim Kenney and Health Commissioner Thomas Farley of Philadelphia — even revealed indoor and outdoor Thanksgiving gatherings with anyone other than the people within your household are banned in their city.

Karen Levy, an infectious disease epidemiologist at University of Washington’s School of Public Health, explains how crucial it is to follow the CDC guidelines. "While we all need to live our lives, it’s important to think about risk as something that accumulates across the activities that you do or don’t engage in. Each additional risky thing you do increases your chances of encountering the virus," Levy tells Elite Daily. This includes seeing people outside of your "immediate family unit or pod."

Instead of being physically surrounded by all of your loved ones, you can include as many extended family members as you’d like virtually. With coronavirus cases surging around the U.S., it’s imperative to put safety above everything else. In an interview with Elite Daily, Dr. Lisa Cuchara, PhD — a professor of biomedical sciences at Quinnipiac University — stresses that it’s safer to toast through a laptop screen. According to Cuchara, traditional gatherings are "deceptively safe," because you don’t know if someone you love is carrying the virus, but not showing any symptoms such as a fever and shortness of breath.

Luckily, there are still so many adorable ways to make your holiday family time special. For example, you can set up a movie theater in your backyard and stream your fave Thanksgiving episodes, or chill by a fire pit with s’mores supplies and warm apple cider. You can even have long-distance fun with friends and relatives you normally have over by playing virtual Thanksgiving games together.

Just because this Thanksgiving may be untraditional, that doesn’t mean it can’t be stuffed with fun. The following ideas for an outdoor Thanksgiving dinner can all be done with the current safety guidelines in mind. Remember, though, it’s the smart decision to celebrate the holiday and recreate these ideas with only the people in your household. Leave the sit-down dinners with everyone else you love to post-coronavirus days.

1. Play A Thanksgiving-Themed Game Of Charades

Let’s talk about what games you can play while you’re waiting for your turkey to be done or even chatting with your friends and family on Zoom. A Thanksgiving-themed game of charades is sure to get the good vibes flowing.

If you don’t know how to play traditional charades, the rules go like this: Each player can choose themed words out of a bowl to act out in front of the group. These could include: a movie title, a phrase, a famous person, etc. But, to change things up for these particular festivities, be sure to include some options that have a Thanksgiving theme to them. Players can’t use words or sounds. The first person in the group to guess what’s being acted out wins the round.

2. Take Turns Saying Something You’re Grateful For

Even in the middle of a pandemic, you and your circle can find little things you’re grateful for, like spending extra time together over the past eight months, or having welcomed a new furry friend into your home who’s become the coolest family member ever. Take turns with your housemates or virtually tuned-in guests, and don’t forget to snap away for some really sweet memories.

3. Hold A Dinner Plate Photo Competition

It’s #necessary to take a photo of your dinner plate on Thanksgiving and show off the tasty sides you’re enjoying to all of your followers. This year, turn it into a virtual competition and have everyone in your household post a picture of their plate on Instagram with a festive hashtag like, #PlatePics2020 or #ButFirstAPlatePic. Have your followers "vote" on their favorite plate by leaving a comment with an emoji.

4. Set Up A Movie Theater And Watch Thanksgiving Episodes

The Thanksgiving episodes of sitcoms like New Girl or Friends can’t be beat. That’s why you should set up an outdoor movie theater and watch them with members of your household. To do this, set up a white sheet and a projector and choose one of the episodes that makes you laugh.

You can even give everyone a little snack bowl of their own to eat out of. In this snack bowl, you can include popcorn, holiday-themed cookies, and chocolate-covered pretzels. Don’t forget a mini bottle of hand sanitizer for each person to use before digging in.

5. Sit Around A Fire Pit And Make S’mores

Fall is a great time to set up a fire pit and make s’mores with your household crew. If you and your housemates have a fire pit, make the most of it and roast some marshmallows. Sit by the fire and tell your favorite Thanksgiving stories from past family get-togethers, and even set some goals for the new year now that this one is coming to a close. If it’s not too chilly, lay out blankets and gaze up at the stars.

6. Tune Into One Of Airbnb’s Online Thanksgiving Experiences

Virtual events have become increasingly popular this year, and so have virtual experiences. You and your favorite people can celebrate the holiday by taking one of many online classes hosted by the folks at Airbnb. For example, there’s a class on "How to Catch the Northern Lights" that any travel buff may enjoy, and another on baking vegan treats.

The best part? Your friends and family can tune in safely from their individual homes, as long as each person purchases their time slot in advance.

7. Paint Some Fall Pictures To Show Off On Instagram

Show off your artistic skills on Instagram with this outdoor painting sesh idea. Set up water cups, watercolor sets, and paper for each member to paint a cute fall scene. You can use the trees or little pumpkins in your backyard for inspiration. Any friends and family members you’re connecting with on Zoom can join in on the fun virtually.

8. Send Goodie Bags To Your Friends’ Homes

Last but not least, if you’re really missing your typical crowd on Thanksgiving this year (and understandably so), spend the holiday putting together goodie bags you can send them. You can either order something online and send it directly to their home, or bake cookies and other treats and then wrap them up with a note.

As of Aug. 22, the CDC said there is no evidence that COVID-19 can spread through food. However, when prepping any food or goodie bags, it’s still important to take extra precautions. Cuchara suggests wearing a mask, avoiding touching your face, and having freshly washed hands at all times if you’re planning to handle someone else’s food. Follow those guidelines, and you are likely to have a safe and adorable time on Thanksgiving.

Experts cited:

Karen Levy, infectious disease epidemiologist at University of Washington’s School of Public Health

Dr. Lisa Cuchara, PhD, professor of biomedical sciences at Quinnipiac University

If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all Elite Daily’s coverage of coronavirus here.

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