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10 Long-distance Thanksgiving Celebration Ideas

Can’t be with loved ones this Thanksgiving? Check out these unique ways to celebrate Thanksgiving Day with far away family and friends.

10 Long-distance Thanksgiving Celebration Ideas

How to Celebrate Thanksgiving Day Long Distance

We all know how difficult it can be for far-flung friends and family to gather for Thanksgiving. Making travel plans, finding accommodations, and syncing schedules doesn’t always work out during a busy holiday season, and that’s okay! Just because we can’t physically be with loved ones on Thanksgiving doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate together. With a little bit of creativity and coordination, family and friends far and wide can partake in Thanksgiving festivities. 

thanksgiving dinner

Let’s take a look at how you can incorporate old Thanksgiving traditions into your long-distance celebrations and a few ways to create completely new traditions for Thanksgiving Day.  

Digital Greeting Cards

If you can’t be with loved ones this year, share Thanksgiving greetings from afar with online Thanksgiving cards. Digital greeting cards are the perfect way to keep in touch and let friends and family know you’re thinking of them. Select your favorite design, include a personalized Thanksgiving message, upload a photo, and record a heartfelt video to share with loved ones. 

thanksgiving cards

Once your cards are ready to send, you can email or text them from any digital device. Worried you’ll be too busy to send the cards out on Thanksgiving Day? You can easily schedule delivery of your cards ahead of time so you don’t have to do it the day of!

Group Video

If you’re missing someone special this Thanksgiving, let them know they’re missed with an online group video from friends and family. Loved ones can start their video clip with warm Thanksgiving greetings for the recipient and then share what it is about the recipient they’re most grateful for. Combine the video clips into a thoughtful group video you can share through email, text, and social media. The recipient will be surprised to see so many familiar faces and will love to hear messages from loved ones!  

Another fun group video idea is to have family members dig up Thanksgiving pictures from years past to show during their video and share any fond or funny memories associated with the photos. The recipient will love to see family pics from different Thanksgiving celebrations over the years! 

Virtual Gatherings

virtual thanksgiving invite

Bring loved ones far and wide together for a virtual Thanksgiving gathering. Whether it’s to share some turkey, watch a Thanksgiving movie together, or simply say hello and catch up, online Thanksgiving invitations make it easy to get together when loved ones are apart. Customize your invitation with important gathering details like the date, start time, and video conference platform info, then email or text your invite from your phone. Easily gather RSVPs and use the message board to chat with guests one-on-one or broadcast announcements to your whole guest list. 

An important step for a successful virtual gathering is to ensure that everyone can easily use the video conference platform you choose. Make sure to include a link to your video platform so that guests can download any software needed well in advance of the gathering. Be sure to tell guests to sit in a well-lit room that is close to their router to ensure a strong internet connection, and encourage them to dress up their space with holiday decor. The more festive the better!

Thanksgiving Dinner Ideas

For many families, turkey is a Thanksgiving essential. Thankfully, a virtual gathering doesn’t mean that you have to say goodbye to sharing traditional Thanksgiving food. Here are some ideas for how to eat together and share a Thanksgiving meal virtually.

thanksgiving dinner turkey

  • Potluck Drop-off. For friends and family who are local but can’t participate in a full gathering, share homemade food with a potluck drop-off. Have each guest create a dish, portion it, then drop it off to other guests before the virtual dinner.  Potluck drop-offs ensure that everyone participates and gets to enjoy the same meal even if dinner is held over video chat!

Hosts can use the Potluck feature as part of their Thanksgiving invitation to specify what they’d like each guest to make or allow guests to write in their own contribution. Make sure to include important details in your invitation like participants’ addresses, any allergies or dietary restrictions, and guidelines on when to drop food off. 

  • Coordinated Menus. For those that don’t live locally, hosts can create a Thanksgiving menu that each household can make themselves. This is a great opportunity to share Thanksgiving recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation, or try new variations of old favorites! Be sure to include full instructions or links to any recipes with your invitation so guests can easily create the dishes. Once meal time arrives, everyone can sit down to a virtual dinner, share their experience cooking, and enjoy their meals together!
  • Take Out. Who says you need a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner of turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce for your virtual dinner? Save yourself some serious time and try something new by ordering out for pick up or delivery. Guests can order from a favorite local restaurant and when it’s time to log in for dinner, everyone can compare what they’re eating. Just remember: it’s important that guests call their restaurant ahead of time to confirm that they’re open on Thanksgiving Day! 

Thanksgiving Quotes

thanksgiving dinner toast

Not sure what to say in a Thanksgiving card, group video, or virtual dinner toast? Here are some Thanksgiving quotes you can use for inspiration! 

  • Gratitude is when memory is stored in the heart and not in the mind. - Lionel Hampton
  • Thanksgiving comes to us out of the prehistoric dimness, universal to all ages and all faiths. At whatever straws we must grasp, there is always a time for gratitude and new beginnings. - J. Robert Moskin
  • Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer.  - Maya Angelou
  • Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. - Melody Beattie
  • Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds. - Theodore Roosevelt
  • Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance. -Eckhart Tolle
  • Thanksgiving Day is a jewel, to set in the hearts of honest men; but be careful that you do not take the day, and leave out the gratitude. -E.P. Powell
  • As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. - John F. Kennedy

Thanksgiving Games & Activities 

thanksgiving centerpiece

Create a new Thanksgiving tradition and get into the holiday spirit with these Thanksgiving activities that can be done virtually or from afar. 

  • Thanksgiving Trivia. Put together some fun Thanksgiving facts and trivia questions for your guests and gather online to battle it out! Divide your guests into smaller breakout groups of 3-4 people and give them a set time (45-60 seconds) to answer each question. Award points for correct answers, tally up the results, and name the champions!  

Celebrating Thanksgiving in Canada? Here are some Canadian Thanksgiving trivia questions for your virtual gathering. 

  • Volunteer.  Carve out some time to volunteer right before Thanksgiving, or if you can manage it, the day of. Family members can choose to volunteer for a similar cause like a soup kitchen or food pantry, or each pick a unique cause that means something to them personally. Don’t fret if there aren’t many local charities near you: there are plenty of remote volunteer opportunities available! 

After everyone volunteers, gather with your loved ones online and share what your experience was like. How did it feel to give back and make a difference? 

  • Thanksgiving Movies. Many families enjoy spending part of the Thanksgiving holiday watching movies together. Luckily there are tons of movie sharing apps out there so loved ones can watch films together online even when they’re apart. 

Once you find a movie sharing platform to use, it’s time to pick a movie! Here are a few films that have Thanksgiving references or themes and will keep loved ones happy and entertained!

  • A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
  • Planes, Trains & Automobiles
  • What’s Cooking? 
  • Miracle on 34th Street
  • For Your Consideration
  • Pieces of April
  • You’ve Got Mail
  • The Ice Storm
  • Friendsgiving 
  • The Turkey Bowl
  • Free Birds
  • Home for the Holidays

Even if you’re not able to be with loved ones this Thanksgiving, we hope you can use some of these ideas to create lasting Thanksgiving memories for years to come!