As cases of COVID-19 continue to surge across the U.S. and a vaccine has yet to be released, Thanksgiving will look a lot different in 2020.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued its guidelines for how to have a safe Thanksgiving amid the pandemic, promoting alternatives to traditional celebrations. These means some of the ways that Americans historically celebrate Thanksgiving Day will be radically altered this holiday season.

Thanksgiving Dinner

For many Americans, it is a right of passage to have family and friends gather for a large Thanksgiving feast on the fourth Thursday of November. These large gatherings are now off the table as the CDC and state and local guidelines prevent large indoor social events to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Instead, the CDC suggests having a smaller dinner with household members or holding a virtual dinner with friends and family that would normally be invited to Thanksgiving dinner.


Thanksgiving parades are another big event being discouraged this year. The CDC recommends that Americans forgo participating in any local parade events as it said that attending crowded shows is a high-risk activity that can spread the coronavirus.

One of the biggest parades that garner as many as 3.5 million spectators is New York City's Macy’s parade. This year, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade will not play host to its usual sidewalk attendees. Parade organizers made the decision in September to hold the parade virtually to "safely bring magic" to its more than 50 million viewers.

"In order to avoid gathering large crowds of spectators along our traditional 2.5-mile route in New York City, we have shortened the route to focus solely on the last section of our annual march," parade organizers said in a statement. "To ensure a safe experience for all involved, we are not marching down the streets of Manhattan this year and instead will bring all the magic of this American tradition to you on television and online."

Black Friday

In years past, Black Friday shopping kicked off on Thanksgiving Eve. as retailers across the U.S. opened their doors for one of the biggest shopping days of the year. This year, several retailers have said that they will change course by staying closed on Thanksgiving. Most have also already started their Black Friday sales online to allow consumers more time to shop and to keep crowds down during the pandemic.

While major retailers like Target, Best Buy, Walmart, Kohl’s, and Dick’s Sporting Goods, among others, will be closed on Thanksgiving, those that do decide to venture out to shop should note there will be a number of safety measures in place.

Outside of stores hosting limited capacities to holiday shoppers, many retailers are requiring face masks and are promoting social distancing. Additional sanitization measures will be implemented in many stores, and plexiglass shields are now the mainstay at checkout lanes.

Retailers are strongly encouraging consumers to shop online when possible and use curbside pick up to manage the spread of the coronavirus, keeping in line with CDC guidelines.

Turkey Trots

Another popular tradition that many American’s partake in on Thanksgiving Day is races that extend across the U.S. Many of these popular Turkey Trots have gone virtual as being a participant in a large race runs too high a risk of spreading the virus.


Getting out of town the long weekend is a must for some during the holiday, but this year it will have a different spin as many travelers choose to stay home. The CDC has said that “staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.”

For those that do decide to travel over Thanksgiving, the CDC says taking flights with layovers and traveling on a cruise ship or riverboat present the highest risk of contracting the coronavirus.

Airports put travelers in contact with others in terminals and security lines, which the CDC said poses travels with a high threat to contracting the virus. Traveling by bus can also put a person in close contact with others for extended periods of time without the ability to maintain six feet of social distancing.

Even traveling by car can be high-risk for spreading the coronavirus as the CDC said, “making stops along the way for gas, food, or bathroom breaks can put you and your traveling companions in close contact with other people and frequently touched surfaces.”

RV travel may make it easier to avoid stops and contact with others, but the CDC warned about coming in contact with others at RV parks and while getting gas and supplies at public places.

The CDC encourages travelers to stay home during the Thanksgiving holiday, but for people that do want to travel, it suggests making short trips by car with members of the same households without any stops along the way.

Thanksgiving Turkey
Share a funny one liner about the turkey ahead of Thanksgiving dinner. A Guatemalan immigrant is pictured carving the Thanksgiving turkey on Nov. 24, 2016 in Stamford, Connecticut. John Moore/Getty Images John Moore/Getty Images