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Tailor this Thanksgiving to the times

A woman and child look at a tablet together.

Nov. 13, 2020—Thanks to COVID-19, this year will bring a Thanksgiving like no other. And that doesn't have to be a bad thing.

Thanksgiving is typically one of the busiest travel times of the year. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending people stay at home this year to protect themselves and others from the virus.

That doesn't mean you can't see Grams and Pop-Pop. Your visiting will just have to take place virtually. And you can still make the holiday special with ideas like these:

Zoom it. Host a virtual gathering for everyone who would otherwise be attending Thanksgiving in person. Do a little pre-event planning to help the day go smoothly. Decide what parts of the holiday you most want to share long-distance: Cooking together? Watching the parade? Sharing what you're thankful for? Or digging into the mashed potatoes and gravy? Create a schedule so everyone knows what to expect and when to show up online. You might even hold a rehearsal for those who haven't video chatted before.

Do your own turkey trot. You don't need a crowd to get your heart pumping Thanksgiving morning. Grab your shoes and your masks—and a costume if you're feeling festive—and hit a local trail with the family.

Hold a meal exchange. Instead of preparing a whole Thanksgiving spread yourself, split the menu with another family, and drop off the trimmings at each other's doors. Then enjoy your meals together on a video call.

Donate to a soup kitchen. It might be too risky to volunteer in person at your local shelter. But if you have the means, you can still help give others a reason to celebrate with a cash donation. You could also organize a food drive in your neighborhood. Or make a difference closer to home—drop off a special something to a family you know is struggling right now.

Order out, eat in. Support your local businesses by ordering food from your favorite restaurant. Look especially for "take and bake" options you can pick up ahead of time and heat later. Another option: Order specialty foods online—for your own meal or as a treat for loved ones. This could be the first Thanksgiving where no one had to cook.

Declare a day of self-care. It's been a tough year. If you're on your own this Thanksgiving, why not dedicate the day to pampering yourself. Relaxing with a good book, spending time in nature or tucking yourself into bed early can help restore you.

Try a new dish. There's no rule that turkey has to be on the menu. Use the holiday at home to take a new recipe for a spin. With fewer people to please, this may be a good time to experiment. You never know: You may start a whole new tradition at your house.

Surf the sales. Keep your after-Thanksgiving shopping online this year. You can still find great deals without adding to holiday crowds—while you relax with your feet up at home.

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