This year’s Thanksgiving celebrations are likely to look very different for many families, but a Houston Methodist expert offers tips for new traditions that make room for gratitude and fun, while leaving COVID off the guest list.


“Thanksgiving is a time where we typically come together with friends and family to share our gratitude for the year gone by. While 2020 has held its fair share of challenges for so many, we can all most certainly use a day to stop and reflect. The pandemic will undoubtedly make Thanksgiving gatherings more difficult, however there are creative ways to safely celebrate and still connect with friends and family,” said Joshua Septimus, M.D., primary care and internal medicine specialist at Houston Methodist.


For instance, the Septimus family will share Thanksgiving with immediate family only, with plans for an outdoor meal, weather permitting. For other families, he encourages sharing family recipes and hosting a virtual meal or participating in small gatherings of 10 people or fewer outside that incorporate social distancing and masking.


“We saw an explosion in COVID cases following gatherings during the Memorial Day weekend, events which were typically outside. Those case numbers show that we must remain cautious, even when outdoors, of close social interactions without masks. As we enter the holiday season, we do not want to see a repeat, particularly as the potential for flu on top of COVID-19 looms. We are all growing tired of the social distancing and masks, but that combined with diligent hand hygiene is really the only avenue to keep infection levels down. This won’t be a traditional Thanksgiving, but it’s a tradeoff that we must be willing to accept to keep our loved ones safe,” said Septimus, Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine at Houston Methodist.


The CDC website offers a wealth of information and has quantified Thanksgiving activities that offer low, moderate and high risk for contracting COVID-19. Other helpful tips for celebrating Thanksgiving this year include:


  • Avoid crowds, including retail stores, parades and races.
  • Host and attend small, outdoor gatherings of family and/or close friends who are included in your COVID “bubble”
  • Prepare traditional family recipes for loved ones and deliver them in a way that minimizes contact with others.
  • Shop online rather than in person on Thanksgiving and Black Friday.
  • Consider sending personal handwritten notes to loved one letting them know how grateful you are for them.
  • Keep a gratitude journal throughout November and use it to reflect on who and what you are grateful for.


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