Four Ideas for Celebrating a Socially-Distant Thanksgiving

Use Technology to Stay Connected, and Thank Your Parents for the Care Package

“Holiday gatherings may look a little different this year.” You’ve heard the phrase over and over again, but rarely does anyone tell you how you should celebrate while still preserving family traditions and capturing the feeling of togetherness. 

If you’re a college student, you’ve possibly been away from home for the semester, while practicing social distancing during class, in the dining hall, and in your dorm building. With the Thanksgiving holiday coming up, you likely have one of two plans: stay in the dorms or your off-campus apartment for the holiday break, or head home to enjoy a traditional feast with your family.

If you find yourself a little farther away than you’d like, don’t let it get you down. (We know, it’s easier said than done.) There are still plenty of ways you can feel close with your family, even if you’re states away. Use your technical prowess to stay connected to your family or friends for Thanksgiving with these fun ideas for celebrating a socially-distant holiday.

Zoom to the Dinner Table

With Zoom removing time limits on video conferences even on the free version of the app in light of COVID-19, you can use this well-known platform to organize a group video chat. Everyone can dial in at meal time and enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner together, even if your food doesn’t look too typical for the day. 

If you don’t have access to Zoom, you can create a Facebook Messenger Rooms group and video chat with the group there. Take advantage of the silly filters to make memories, and capture some screenshots for posterity. We think even screenshots can be worthy of framing, especially with how strangely we’re asked to celebrate.

Play Games Together

If you’re hosting a group videoconference, take the opportunity to play games together for a family bonding experience. Even if you aren’t in the same room, you can still feel the warmth. Here are a few ideas for how to play together, for free:

  • Use the Whiteboard feature on Zoom for an old-fashioned game of Pictionary.
  • Everyone grabs their own set of five die to play Yahtzee. Take turns rolling and show your rolls on camera.
  • Stream a Jackbox game or two or three on Twitch, and invite your family to play along. Keep score, and ask someone to spring for a prize for the overall winner. (Maybe a care package from My College Crate?)
  • Lead a Kahoot game, filled with trivia about family members, the history of the holiday, or general knowledge.

Practice a Family Tradition, Wherever You Are

If you can’t be together for the Thanksgiving holidays, at the very least, you can enjoy your family’s traditions wherever you are, and they can enjoy them wherever they are. Pre-plan what you’ll do: which movie you’ll watch, what time you’ll eat, which signature dish you’ll prepare, or how you’ll decorate. 

People at each location enjoy the same activities at the same time. It’s kind of like when Fievel Mousekewitz from An American Tail sang “Somewhere Out There,” and realized that he and his family were both looking at the same moon. A phone call to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving can cap off your night.

Pool Your Thanksgiving Meal Money to Donate to a Good Cause

If you and your family aren’t going to be able to be together for Thanksgiving, why not forgo the big meal and donate the money you would have spent on it to a worthy local charity? In this way, you can spread the joy to families who are together for the holiday but don’t have the means to celebrate, or you can help to unite families who are unwillingly separated.

Consider donating to your local food bank, bail fund, or animal shelter, depending on your preference. You could also donate to international charities, like Heifer International, which works to eradicate poverty and hunger with livestock donations to needy families. No matter which charity or special cause you choose, it will feel really good knowing that you helped someone else have a special day this Thanksgiving.

Parents, Make Thanksgiving Special with a College Care Package or Prep School Gift Box

If your child is away at college or prep school and won’t be coming home for Thanksgiving due to COVID-19 restrictions, you can still help them feel so very loved and cared for.

First, get them involved in planning one of the socially-distant holiday ideas above. Then, send them their very own My College Crate, a monthly themed care package full of items they need to stay happy and healthy on campus. We like to think of it as a “hug in a box.” You can even send them a new care package every month through our gift box subscription service! Learn more at