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How to Change Up Your Midwest Thanksgiving Traditions this Year

Suffice it to say that this autumn’s and winter’s holidays won’t be the same as they always are. Here in Wisconsin, COVID-19 cases aren’t going down fast, and holiday celebrations will likely be rethought in an effort to slow the spread, especially the potential of spreading the virus to those who we love most. 

It could be disheartening if we let it.

However, there is an opportunity here. One that can make the 2020 holidays more memorable than the year's past, simply because we’ve grabbed the bull by the horns and have gotten creative with our celebrations. This Thanksgiving, could you make some changes to your Midwest traditions that could actually make them better, more impactful for your family in the long run? We have a few ideas. 

3 Ways to Change Your Midwest Thanksgiving Traditions This Year

 If your family is close by…

If you live near your family, you might be used to seeing them often, and the pandemic may have put a damper on your plans this year. Don’t let Thanksgiving be another missed chance to connect! Organize a “round robin potluck” with your family members, giving everyone a chance to show off their cooking skills with a signature dish and dropping them off at another designated family member’s home. While your grandmother may normally be in charge of the entire meal, this year, the work (and the reward!) is shared. You can send photos of the dishes to each other, turn it into a contest with a rating scale, or simply enjoy the novelty of having already-prepared food dropped off at your door. 

My mom is part of the at-risk population, and the abnormality of this holiday will be tough for her. We are planning on rotating socially-distanced visits and bringing goodies over daily throughout the long weekend since she will be alone. 

If the weather is warm…

There is nothing more Midwestern than embracing uncharacteristically warm weather by getting outside and enjoying the sun. If you have been blessed with mild temperatures this Thanksgiving, think about getting your family together for a socially-distanced outdoor picnic. Picnic blankets are a great way to ensure that people stay six feet or more apart (they create natural boundaries!). You can pack your own food or perhaps order from a local restaurant to keep serving utensils out of the mix.

Or, if you’re set on keeping Thanksgiving a solo activity, consider incorporating an outdoor event into the day. We’re hoping it will be dry, and are looking to pack a backpack, take a hike somewhere new, and have a fire. We’re big fans of hiking and camping, so this feels like a new extension of that interest.

If your relatives are far away…

Finally, if your relatives are far away, you may not have planned on gathering in-person anyway, or, maybe, the holidays were going to be a special excuse to head home. This year will be a bit different but it can still be so fulfilling. Set up a group chat or a family FaceTime to share what you’re grateful for this year and what you’re looking forward to in the next. The love and connection you’ll feel with your family will make them seem as if they’re right there beside you. When it’s time to log off, you can still cherish the holiday by cooking yourself a special meal, maybe getting out the dinnerware that you normally save for entertaining, treat yourself to a glass of wine, and whatever activity makes you feel most whole.

The holidays aren’t going to look the same this year, so why not embrace the opportunity to start a new tradition? Whether you’re able to see your family through a screen door, over the phone, or maybe you’re looking forward to the magic that is starting your own routines for a solo holiday, let yourself see this holiday season not as “different”, but as “fresh and exciting”. It’s all about how you frame it. Stay safe out there everyone, and have a happy Thanksgiving!

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