All across America, people are missing their extended families – and now even more so with Thanksgiving and the holidays quickly approaching. What we’ll miss most this November are the warm hugs, embraces, and cheek kisses; passing dishes around the table; and piling on the couch with overstuffed, yet happy, bellies.

Many are skipping large gatherings this year, in favor of smaller dinners with only household guests. If you’re hosting a small family dinner this year, you may be wondering how to balance safety with the traditions that make Thanksgiving so special.

See the tips below for striking that balance and answering some common safety questions.


Can I have a Normal Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving may look a bit different this year for many different families. States all across the country have enforced strict guidelines limiting gatherings of more than 10 people and encouraging families to cancel their plans. However, millions of people still flocked to the airport this weekend to travel in preparation for the holiday.

So, should your Thanksgiving look normal this year? Yes and no. For some it is best to cancel, for others who don’t want to break tradition, it is best to limit your gathering to just immediate family (those in your household) or at least keep it under 10 people and have a small Thanksgiving. However, that will not change the food, or the laughs, or the memories you will make. Encourage relatives that are staying home and cooking their own meals this year to Facetime or Zoom in, so you can all still enjoy the holiday “together” while staying safe.


How Can I Keep My Small Gathering Safe? 

For those who are making the decision to continue on with a small gathering, hosts will be doing more work this year- that’s for sure. But with some planning and attention throughout the evening, you can serve a meal your guests will love and keep everyone safe in the process.

    • “Small Gathering” Must Mean Small Gathering. Only immediate family or no more than 10 people.
    • Lay the Ground Rules. As the host, you’re the one who sets the tone about safety. Remember that having safety measures doesn’t mean your holiday needs to be any less warm or wonderful.
    • Plan Ahead. If you are including a few family members outside of your household, send safety expectations ahead of time, to give people time to plan and adjust. Make sure everyone knows and agrees to the rules. Remind them that the precautions are meant to protect them and those they love, and if they would not like to follow them, they can stay home.
    • Sanitize Ahead of Time. Disinfect surfaces in bathrooms and common areas. Provide disposable paper towels instead of cloth ones. Put out multiple bottles of hand sanitizer to remind people to use them.
    • No Ifs, Ands, or Buts. If anyone in your household becomes sick or is exposed to the virus beforehand, the dinner must be called off – this goes for you as host as well as for guests.
    • Social Distancing and Safety from the Get-Go. If you invite family outside of your household, remember to maintain social distance inside of your home and to avoid kissing, touching, and handshakes. Guests should also wear facemasks whenever possible (supply a box of surgical masks).
    • Be the Designated Server. To cut down on cross-contamination, hosts should serve all food and drink (and be masked while doing so). If dinner has to be served buffet-style, make sure everyone sanitizes before going through the line.
    • Go Compostable. Consider disposable and compostable paper plates, napkins, utensils, and cups to reduce the chances of transmission.
    • Dine Outdoors if Possible. By now we know that dining outdoors versus indoors greatly reduces the chances of transmission, so if possible, plan for that.
    • If Inside- Space Out. If circumstances necessitate an indoor event, plan your gathering in a large room, spacing tables, and chairs apart. Open windows (have lap blankets available) to bring the fresh air in. Or you can set up multiple tables and have relatives eat in different rooms.
    • Mind the Alcohol. We all know alcohol lowers inhibitions and can change behavior. If folks begin to mingle, bunch together, or wander the house, remind them about social distancing. Use markers for wine and cocktail glasses so everyone keeps their own glass. Hosts should pour/serve drinks rather than lots of people handling the bottles.


Should People Be Tested Beforehand?

One of the things that makes the pandemic so frustrating is the difficulty around knowing for sure whether any of us is carrying the coronavirus. Part of that is due to issues around testing: the time lag between test and results, the false negatives, and even the lack of available testing in some places.

If family members coming to your dinner (or children that have been away at school) would like to get tested beforehand- encourage them to. This way you can all have a little piece of mind when sitting down at the dinner table. Even if everyone tests negative, still emphasize masking, handwashing, social distancing, and other proven preventive measures you can take as host.

At the end of the evening, remember to load glasses and any ceramic dishes in the dishwasher on high heat and sanitize all surfaces, doorknobs, and handles.


Should I Feel Bad for Canceling?

And finally, don’t feel bad for canceling or having to uninvite guests that usually come to your Thanksgiving feast. If you have any fears at all, or become overwhelmed with stress/anxiety about the day- don’t be afraid to cancel. This is a very crazy time (to say the least) and family members will likely understand. The health and safety of you and your immediate family should always be your number one priority.

Stay safe and have a happy Thanksgiving.


This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or

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