Thanksgiving is bound to look a little bit different this year than previous years. It's surely a staple of fall and one of few times a year we get to gather with the people we love. But, with COVID-19 on the horizon, you will have to make a difficult choice about if you want to host/attend a celebration this year. If you decide to take the risk (which is NOT something to take lightly), here are some my tips to through a safe and fun Thanksgiving for the people you love. 

1. Decide how many people you plan on inviting to your Thanksgiving celebration.

As if planning for a family get-together wasn't already hard enough. You should also be conscious of the space you have relative to social-distancing measures. It might not be possible to squeeze thirty people into a dining room like you have in previous years.

Deciding on who to invite is also an important consideration. Do you plan on inviting people from out-of-state who will have to quarantine on arrival? If this is the case, you should consider making/having others travel plans early. You might also want to consider if you want kids running around while you're trying to carve a turkey. 

2. Send out your policies regarding mask-wearing and social-distancing beforehand. 

If you're hosting and feel comfortable inviting people into your space, you need to set ground rules first. Masks should be worn at all times, except when directly eating. You can also leave hand sanitizer strategically throughout your space to encourage people to use it. It might not be fun to police your own gathering, but it's important to keep everyone safe and healthy foremost.

3. Decide who will be cooking (and serving). 

Health officials are advising colleges to limit the amount of hands the food touches before it's served, so this is something you should consider when serving food at your gathering. Rather than opting for a buffet-style, you might choose to have one person serve everyone or have people use gloves when touching serving utensils. 

As far as cooking goes, you can serve a potluck-style meal where each person brings a dish with them. This cuts down on your load a lot and allows creativity to infuse your gathering. If you're worried about everyone bringing mashed potatoes, try to prompt your guests with a category (e.g. appetizers, mains, sides, desserts) before the event. 

4. Accommodate those with dietary restrictions, but don't feel obligated to serve their every need. 

How the hell are you supposed to know the difference between paleo and keto? And if you're the one cooking, you probably won't care much anyways. If you feel uncomfortable cooking a particular way, you can always say something like "I want to do my best to accommodate your dietary needs- would you mind bringing something to share with the group?" Ultimately, people with dietary restrictions often want to just have their presence recognized and valued- just recognizing that you are unfamiliar (but interested in learning more) about a particular type of diet is very powerful.

5. Make a cooking and set-up itinerary. 

First, start with a list of foods you plan to make (or what your guests will bring with them). Go shopping as early as you can (nobody wants to deal with traffic the morning-of) and start your prep work. See what you can cook at the same time to save space and make the process easier on yourself. As you go through your day, check everything off. Oh, and don't forget to shower and get dressed! 

6. If all else fails, plan a virtual Thanksgiving. 

COVID-19 is surely an era of uncertainty. Although health officials are begging Americans to be safe this Thanksgiving, gathering in groups always poses a risk. If you're worried about the health and wellbeing of your guests (and maybe want to skip the dishes), you can try to organize a virtual Thanksgiving over a platform like Zoom. Have everyone prepare their own mini-Thanksgiving dinner at home and "share" with the group. You can put together a photo slideshow, share your gratitude, and relish in the idea that there will always be next year!