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5 Ways to Make (Socially Distanced) Thanksgiving Memories That Last

Turkey and sides

Holidays are always a time for celebrating traditions while creating lasting and loving memories. While 2020 has changed a lot in our lives, it doesn't have to change that. CubeSmart started a blog series last month about making the holiday season extra-special this year – even when it has to be completely different than any we've ever experienced before.

So if you're looking for ways to celebrate a super-fantastic, socially distanced Thanksgiving, keep reading for our top five tips (and be sure to let us know how you're celebrating the season by leaving a comment below).  

Focus on Decorations for All to Enjoy

various pumpkins and hay

Thanksgiving typically gets the short end of the stick when it comes to decorations. Sandwiched between Halloween (which is always fun) and Christmas (which is always over the top), Thanksgiving skirts by with a few cornucopias, some paper Pilgrims, and all the orange and brown trimmings one could ever want – or need.

Since we've been strongly advised by just about everybody not to celebrate with our friends and neighbors during Thanksgiving 2020, take up your exterior décor a notch to put smiles on the faces of passersby. While we can't really experience Thanksgiving together, we can at least experience it in tandem. And the decorative possibilities are truly endless.

One of our favorite looks is to use a variety of gourds, pumpkins, squash, and greenery on top of hay bales or simply lining a walkway, window, or stoop. Even better if they have white lights strung among them for nighttime ambiance. And when it's time to switch out the look, you can donate them all to a local zoo – or just your local squirrels. Pumpkins that haven't been painted are also compostable.

cornstalks and maize

Bound cornstalks add nice height to your outdoor décor and are also easily compostable at the end of the season. You can tie dried corn or dried chiles together to display on doorways and in windows. And don't forget the scarecrow! Maybe you've got some clothes tucked away in your CubeSmart storage unit that would be perfect for a 2020 scarecrow – or several.

Why save the Christmas tree just for Christmas? Pull your artificial tree out of your storage unit early and turn it into a "Give Thanks Tree." Decorate it with lights, pumpkins, maize, mini cornucopias, and messages of things you and your friends or family are thankful for this year. It could be quite an exercise to come up with those messages after such a challenging year but it should bring you all some joy and optimism.

Give of Yourself

If you're looking for new, special ways to celebrate a socially distanced Thanksgiving this year, consider volunteering for part of the day. Many, many Americans are experiencing food instability and housing insecurity and will be seeking shelter, meals, and companionship this Thanksgiving (and beyond). Consider volunteering at a local food pantry or homeless shelter or do your own thing, such as passing out new socks or packing up turkey sandwiches to distribute, or writing a letter of gratitude to a serviceman or woman. Organizations that deliver meals to the homebound, elderly, or infirm always need delivery drivers – especially during winter weather – which can be a way to make a big impact in just a few hours. Whatever you decide to do, be sure to check in with the charity before showing up. (They often get an influx of volunteers around the holidays and may have very specific volunteer processes to manage it.)

While we may not be able to see our extended families and friends up close and personal this year, don't take that as a reason not to reach out. Make it a point to call, email, or write to those who may be alone or lonely this year. If you live close, swing by to leave a bottle of wine or small bouquet on the porch. We can't share the stuffing, but we can certainly share what's going on in our lives – and how much we look forward to seeing each other again.

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify

Dressed Turkey for Carving

If ever there was a year to simplify the Thanksgiving mealtime, it's 2020. But don't worry: simplifying something doesn't automatically mean making it worse. It means focusing your efforts on a few certain aspects to make them as strong as possible while letting the less important ones fall by the wayside. Ask yourself: Have you been making a green bean casserole every Thanksgiving because people like it – or because you feel like people will be disappointed if you don't? Do you really, really want to master how to cook a turkey – or would you rather master how to cook lobster? Or tofu?

Be bold! Don't give in to what everyone else wants or says that they want. Instead of making a buffet of options for every person at the table, limit the selection to one protein choice, two to three Thanksgiving side dishes, and one or two desserts. Buy quality ingredients and try out new recipes, if you're feeling bold. It's amazing how many options there are online – for chefs of every skill level. You can even order whole dinners to be delivered if you simply don't have any interest in cooking this year. Chances are no one will know you outsourced the meal unless you spill the beans!

When it comes to all the ‘add ons' that can make Thanksgiving Day quickly spiral into chaos, also remember to take a step back. Rather than going hog wild on the appetizers, slice up a simple baguette or rustic loaf and serve it with butter and salt. As for drinks, consider pouring only easy ones: beer, wine, and/or seltzers. No need for martinis or anything else that involves mixing, shaking, or stirring. Focus on quality over quantity, and you might be surprised how many new Thanksgiving Day culinary traditions you manage to create this year.

Move the Party Outdoors

Thanksgiving outdoor table

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued consideration for the holiday season that advise, among other things, that our activities this holiday season should be hosted outdoors rather than indoors whenever possible. If you do decide to host an outdoor Thanksgiving, take the opportunity to get creative. Some of our customers have been stopping by their contact-free storage units to pick up blankets and sleeping bags to layer on top of their patio chairs and picnic table benches. We've also seen a lot of folks grabbing pop-up tents to shield guests from the elements. Others have told us they've bought outdoor space heaters or even installed gas or wood fire pits to make socializing in the fresh air as cozy as possible – for as long as possible. 

One good tip for outdoor celebrations is to invest in seriously insulated serving dishes to keep food as warm as possible. Be sure to serve warm drinks (like teas, ciders, coffees, and cocoas – with or without alcohol) in insulated glasses to make cheeks rosy throughout the celebration. Also, think about lighting: flameless candles, lanterns, and even strands of Christmas lights (white or colored) will add a lot to the ambiance. Don't forget some low-key music and plenty of hand soap, sanitizer, and individual use towels in the guest-designated bathroom – and you've got yourself an outdoor celebration to rival any Thanksgiving Day of years past.

Get All Those Black Friday Savings – From Your Couch!

While many retailers have offered Black Friday (and/or "Cyber Monday") shopping deals online in the days after Thanksgiving for years, it's a sure thing that retailers in 2020 are going to make a huge effort to bring in sales via Internet-only offers. Do yourself a favor and start plotting now for which items you want to get – and your tactical plan for comparing prices on the go!

If getting together with your friends or family to hit the stores on Black Friday was half the fun, schedule a virtual hangout during the morning. Sip coffee and swap stories of the old days while comparing shipping speeds and coupon sites. It's always good to have a partner to take advantage of referral discounts, so be sure your strategy is in lockstep before you break out the credit cards.

While you're online, think about contributing to some nonprofits to help those struggling this year or fulfilling some online shopping ‘wish' lists. Nothing warms the heart like imagining a kid with a new, warm winter coat or a stray dog with a big bone. If Amazon.com plays into your shopping at all, don't forget to set your default to Smile.Amazon.com and pick a charity for Amazon to donate to with every purchase. It's an easy way to give back that costs you nothing.

While a socially distanced Thanksgiving may be hard to swallow at first, it's easy to have loads of fun if you go into the day with lightheartedness and a sense of adventure. Try to make it less about the traditions, maybe, and more about helping others and ourselves get through this peculiar time with joy and grace. And if that means canceling Thanksgiving and going for a hike in the woods, so be it.

However you decide to celebrate your Thanksgiving this year (or not!), we hope you have a wonderful and safe time while giving gratitude for the people, places, pets, and things that make you happy. We are grateful for you and wish you all the best!

About the author

Bree Neely

Bree Neely is a communications expert and former Brooklynite based out of Denver, Colorado. She is co-founder of Direct Object, a marketing firm serving national B2B and B2C clients. When not tapping away at her keyboard, she keeps busy traveling, skiing and overseeing a variety of children and animals.

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