Because of the relentless pandemic, many people are staying home for Thanksgiving this year. No technology can ever completely replace a personal holiday get-together. However, it is possible to recreate some family traditions online or even learn new skills – like roasting turkey.
Here are some ideas for digitizing the Thanksgiving experience.
Choose your platform
After living in coronavirus times for nine months, most families have likely found an option for group video conferencing. If not, services like Google Meet in Gmail and Zoom, which start with an email invite link and run in a browser, might be easier for less tech-savvy users. (While free Zoom accounts typically have a 40-minute limit on group calls, the company recently announced that it is lifting the time limit worldwide from midnight Eastern Time on November 26th to 6 a.m. on November 27th.)
There are numerous apps like Google Duo, which are great for group calls in web browsers and Android devices, as well as iPhones and iPads. For families firmly anchored in the Apple ecosystem, the FaceTime app’s group functionality for mobile devices and Mac computers brings everyone together on the same screen. Facebook Messenger’s Rooms feature is another option for group videos.
Devices such as the Amazon Echo Show, GrandPad, and ViewClix require some configuration, but can make video calls easier. Of course, if streaming sessions aren’t an option for everyone, everyone gets involved through a well-timed audio conference and photos via text or email.
Prepare the meal
Many supermarkets offer online delivery or roadside pickup for all of the ingredients in your meal. If a whole bird is too much for your household dinner, Butterball, Jennie-O, and others offer smaller turkey breasts and boneless roasts – and step-by-step videos showing beginners how to cook them. YouTube is also full of videos for creating regional variations like smoked turkey or Cajun-style turkey.
If you find yourself longing to mash yams and prepare other favorite dishes while chatting with relatives, give a kitchen group a call. Scan and share these precious recipes in advance via text or email – or present them on screen while everyone remotely prepares their own version (with the revamped Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on mute in the background).
Recognition…Indiana DAR cookbook
Can’t you cook In the Maps app on your phone you can find restaurants that offer a meal for contactless delivery. Boston Market is taking orders for Thanksgiving meals online nationwide until 11:59 p.m. Monday.
Enjoy family time
Eating in a group video chat brings the family to the virtual table, but it may not be for everyone. Restarting the webcam for the dessert class with cake and gossip is another approach – or waiting for the chatter after dinner.
Holiday gatherings are often a time for photos and storytelling. If your video chat platform has a screen sharing feature, a slideshow of digitized old pictures is one way to collect them all. (Holding these scrapbook pages to the camera is a low-tech workaround.)
Activities that specifically involve all family members can also create new memories via livestream, e.g. For example, get the 10-year-old to play her piano recital or get grandpa to talk about life before the polio vaccine. If everyone remembers, take the opportunity to interview relatives on a family history project or share other genealogical material you found online to keep the conversation going.
Relax after dinner
While the serious family gamers have their consoles lit up after dessert, those who prefer more old-fashioned entertainment like card games can find them online. Trickster Cards, for example, offers free hearts, euchre, bridges and other classics for multiple players on computers or mobile devices. The Houseparty platform also hosts games, including Uno and Word Racers.
If a group movie is a tradition, consider a “Watch Party” app or browser extension to sync the video and add chat functionality for all users. (Most of these work in a computer browser and require attendees to have accounts with the streaming service hosting the video.) The Teleparty extension for Chrome and Opera works with many videos on Netflix, Disney +, HBO Max and Hulu. The Disney + service has its own GroupWatch function and Amazon Prime has a watch party.
The Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys are still slated for their annual Turkey Day Games, and you don’t have to watch alone. The Yahoo Sports app for Android and OS allows up to four people to simultaneously stream the games on a phone or tablet.
A digitally controlled Thanksgiving Day is all about making the most of a bad situation, but there are benefits beyond safety: no airport delays or freeway traffic.