Safe Celebrations for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is the start of the most wonderful time of the year – but this year it looks a bit different. 

Traditional Thanksgiving gatherings with family and friends are always the best, but this year can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu. Obviously, the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is to celebrate with people in your household. If you do plan to spend Thanksgiving with people outside your household, take steps to make your celebration safer.

Attending a Gathering

Make your celebration safer. In addition to following the steps that everyone can take to make Thanksgiving safer like washing hands properly, take these additional steps while attending a Thanksgiving gathering.

  • Bring your own food, drinks, plates, cups, and utensils.
  • Wear a mask, and safely store your mask while eating and drinking.
  • Avoid going in and out of the areas where food is being prepared or handled, such as the kitchen.
  • Use single-use options, like salad dressing and condiment packets, and disposable items like food containers, plates, and utensils.

Hosting a Thanksgiving Gathering

If having guests to your home, be sure that people follow the steps that everyone can take to make Thanksgiving safer. Other steps you can take include:

  • Have a small outdoor meal with family and friends who live in your community.
  • Limit the number of guests.
  • Have conversations with guests ahead of time to set expectations for celebrating together.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and items between use.
  • If celebrating indoors, make sure to open windows and provide ventilation.
  • Limit the number of people in food preparation areas.
  • Have guests bring their own food and drink.
  • If sharing food, have one person serve food and use single-use options, like plastic utensils.

Consider Other Thanksgiving Activities

  • Host a virtual Thanksgiving meal with friends and family who don’t live with you
    • Schedule a time to share a meal together virtually.
    • Have people share recipes and show their turkey, dressing, or other dishes they prepared.
  • Watch television and play games with people in your household
    • Watch Thanksgiving Day parades, sports, and movies at home.
    • Find a fun game to play.
  • Shopping
    • Shop online sales the day after Thanksgiving and the days leading up to the winter holidays.
    • Use contactless services for purchased items, like a curbside pick-up.
    • Shop in open-air markets staying 6 feet away from others.

Don’t forget to practice gratitude this Thanksgiving, especially if you and your family are healthy and well! 

Blog contributed by Morgan Page (’21), University of Maryland College of Arts and Humanities

Happy Healthy Thanksgiving Tips

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, so families should consider ways they can stay healthy during the holidays. Here are some tips to consider when preparing Thanksgiving dinner:

The Main Dish: Roasting a turkey is by far the healthiest way to reduce sodium and fat.

  • Avoid salt-based seasonings.
  • Use fresh or dried herbs and spices to decrease sodium and add flavor.
  • Reduce eating too much fat by avoiding eating the skin of the turkey.

 Try these quick and easy Herb Roasted Turkey recipes this Thanksgiving!

Side Dishes: Vegetables and fruit are incredibly important to our everyday health. Make half of your plate filled with delicious fruits and vegetables. There are many ways to prepare vegetables that can go well with a Thanksgiving meal. Check out my favorite recipes:

Try using Maryland’s Best to find local produce and meats for your meals this holiday and every night of the week.

Drinks: Reduce your consumption of sugary drinks. Enjoy your favorite cider or soda if you wish, but to help limit the extra calories you consume it may be best to drink more water. Water can also help you feel full to prevent you from going back for seconds.

Desserts: Staying healthy this Thanksgiving does not mean that you have to give up having dessert. It can be our favorite part of the meal! Here are some sweet and savory recipes you can enjoy to end the Thanksgiving celebration with:

Physical Activity: Try a family walk through your neighborhood or at a park to burn calories. Remember to wear your mask. Think of fun family games to get you moving. Family football games can be a great way to work off the meal.

Food safety tips

Remember to always wash your hands before cooking and clean all surfaces.

Always wash your hand before and after touching raw poultry, meat, eggs or seafood, and its packaging.

For more tips, checkout our previous post on food safety for preparing a turkey for the family.

COVID-19 & Holiday Resources: Talk to your household and non-household family members to determine whether an in-person or virtual holiday celebration is a shared risk at this point in time. Here are some resources that give some ways to approach a COVID-Holiday season from the CDC and STAT News. This year will be different due to COVID-19, so it may be best to avoid Black Friday shopping this year.

Happy Thanksgiving and stay safe!

Special guest post contributed by Jae’La Reese, FCS Intern and senior in the School of Public Health

Thanksgiving Dinner Countdown

The holidays may look different this year with fewer guests, but hosting holiday dinners can still be stressful. To simplify things and reduce your stress, here is a countdown to help stay on track for hosting Thanksgiving dinner.

8 days before: 

  • Plan your menu 
    • Be sure to take into consideration the oven space and use of other cooking equipment, such as slow cookers or electric roasters. 
    • Decide on the size of the turkey, how to prepare it and whether you are buying a fresh or frozen turkey. 
    • Finalize items or dishes other guests are bringing.
  • Make 2 shopping lists
    • Number one: Things you can buy tomorrow 
    • Number two: Items to pick up a couple of days before Thanksgiving. 
  • Be sure to check your pantry, refrigerator and freezer to see what you already have, especially items like spices, flour, salt, pepper, and cornstarch. 
  • Don’t forget to check the expiration dates! 
  • Check for essentials like a food thermometer, potato masher or other utensils.
Photo by RODNAE Productions on

1 week before:

  • Clean out your refrigerator and freezer so you have plenty of space for the extra food, especially the turkey.
  • Do your first shopping trip 
    • Including: non-perishables, staples and a frozen turkey, if you haven’t bought it yet.

6 days before:

  • If you bought a frozen turkey, start defrosting it in the refrigerator now. It takes about 1 day for each 5 pounds of frozen turkey to thaw in the refrigerator. 
  • The last thing you want is a frozen bird on Thanksgiving morning.

Weekend before:

  • If there are dishes that you can make ahead and freeze, prepare them over the weekend so there will be less to do later in the week.

One to three days before:

  • Do your second shopping trip early in the week to get everything else you need for the Thanksgiving meal.
  • Make cranberry sauce or salad and other prep like washing and chopping vegetables, cutting bread for stuffing, and anything else that will make the week go more smoothly.
  • Start to defrost frozen dishes in the refrigerator at least two days before.
  • Make pies and any other desserts.
  • Consider making the stuffing and any casseroles the night before so they are ready to pop in the oven tomorrow.
  • Bake your desserts the night before so the oven is available for the turkey and other dishes on Thanksgiving.
  • Chill the drinks and make sure there is enough ice in the freezer.
Photo by Askar Abayev on

Thanksgiving Day: 

  • Turkey should be done at least an hour before the meal. 
    • Remove from the oven, cover with foil and let it rest for 30 minutes. 
    • If carving ahead, do it about 30 minutes before dinner and cover with foil to keep warm.
    • Make gravy from the turkey drippings and keep it warm until serving time.
  • Make mashed potatoes early and keep warm in a slower cooker.
  • Cook or reheat side dishes.
  • Designate someone to set the table, fill water glasses and pitcher.
  • Get things set up for tea and coffee with dessert. Put pies in turned off ovens to warm up while you are eating dinner. 
  • If you have time, clean up the kitchen and run the dishwasher during dinner.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner!