How to Host a Small Thanksgiving Dinner-And Make It Great

Medical professionals are recommending that we scale back our Thanksgiving dinner and break bread only with those in our household. Learn how.

Thanksgiving in 2020 is not going to be the usual affair because of the coronavirus crisis that continues to plague the world. Unable to contain the virus, Americans are being told by doctors and the Centers for Disease Control to avoid travel and host smaller Thanksgiving gatherings. Ideally, healthcare workers would prefer it if we all have the great feast with only those in our household.

For many, myself included, this has been a jolt to the system. After all, Thanksgiving is all about a giant bird crisped to perfection at the center of a long table full of hungry loved ones, who feel blessed to be all together. A lonely Thanksgiving is un-American, in fact. But, alas, for safety’s sake that is what we should be doing this year.

It’s up to us to make the most of it. We don’t have to give up our Thanksgiving. We just have to rethink it. Here’s how:

Get a small turkey.

My 10-pound bird is already in my refrigerator. Head to your supermarket (or order online) right now because there are warnings that the big birds will be all that is left as we get closer to Thanksgiving.

Some people are just getting turkey breast or turkey legs. You can get creative and eat something else, such as a capon or individual cornish hens. Another idea is to make like the Pilgrims and Native Americans at the original Thanksgiving and have lobster. Turkey wasn’t the only thing on the menu back then. Get creative and think about what suits your taste and the more intimate feast.

Make Thanksgiving Pinterest-worthy.

Just because we’re having a more subdued holiday doesn’t mean that it can’t be pretty. In fact, it’s easier to make your tablescape more detailed and intricate when there are fewer place settings.

So, whip out the fine china and crystal goblets. Fold your napkins into roses and make place cards with vintage turkeys on them. Don’t forget the kids. We will have turkey headbands and Pilgrim’s hats and a kids table for our two sons. Even if you don’t want to go all out, just make sure to set the table in a way that indicates this is no ordinary day. This is Thanksgiving.

Spread the love.

We can’t all be together this year. Normally, I would host a spread for my parents, my brother and his family, and various friends of ours. The number of people ranges from 13 to 30 each year. This year we’ll be down to the four of us.

But I will be baking apple pies and sharing some other little treats, including a poster the kid made with their little handprints turned into turkeys. I can leave them on the steps of my family’s homes or hand them over out in the garden (where we wear masks and maintain social distance).

Go virtual.

This is the year of Zoom, so keep the party going. Call up your sister on the other side of the world and keep your computer screen at the table while you’re all eating. Make like Dr. Fauci, who said he and his wife will be catching up with their daughters online. Give a virtual toast and express your gratitude for one another just as you would in person.

Ask for help.

This is going to be a tough Thanksgiving for many people and not just because we can’t be with our family and friends. Many people are suffering financially. In these tough economic times, some people will have a hard time pulling together the turkey and the trimmings on their own.

If you are among those who need some help, don’t be afraid to ask. Your community is likely offering food at the food pantry. Check with your kids’ school or the closest community center. Someone should be able to direct you to help.

On the other hand, if you can help others, please do so. Donate food or money to the local food pantry. Or make Thanksgiving dinner for those who ask for help. Someone I know posted the offer to make or deliver the groceries for Thanksgiving for anyone who needed it. They just had to send her a direct message, and she promised not to tell anyone about it. We all have pride, but now is not the time for our egos or our judgment.

Find your gratitude.

I’m not going to sugarcoat this or lie. It’s hard to be grateful this year. There’s a lot of ugly out there, and it’s causing personal pain. I’m with you. But we have to charge forward and remember we still have blessings. For starters, we have family and friends we love and miss. As always being able to get a meal on the table is a blessing.

This year — more than any other — merits our attention to gratitude. Talk about for what you are thankful. Say it out loud and with verve. I’ll start. I am thankful for each and every one of you, and I wish you many blessings today and always.

Happy Thanksgiving! Let us know how you’ll celebrate in the comments below.

Francesca Di Meglio is a veteran reporter who has worked for Bloomberg Businessweek and Ladies’ Home Journal. Visit for her blog.

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