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As with so many events this year, Thanksgiving day is probably going to look a lot different than usual. While some people are skipping holiday gatherings altogether, others are searching for ways to maintain their favorite traditions while taking precautions to keep everyone safe.
Experts agree that one good way to minimize risk is to move your gathering outdoors. That way, there will be plenty of ventilation and room for distancing. TODAY welcomed lifestyle expert JJ Keras to share her essentials for an outdoor Thanksgiving celebration.
Aim to have your dinner earlier in the day for optimal weather. Otherwise, these are 23 things that will help your outdoor celebration be a success.
For a cozy backyard
If temperatures drop on Thanksgiving, this battery-powered seat cushion will keep your guests toasty. It has a large heating panel with three temperature options, and the brand says it will keep you warm for up to five hours.
Your guests will never want to leave the table when they're wrapped in one of these. The battery-operated scarf features built-in heating panels that warm up with a touch of a button. Plus it's made with fleece for an extra dose of comfort.
Keras suggests placing a blanket on each person's chair, so they can grab it whenever they're feeling chilly. You can use ones you already own, or try these soft sherpa blankets that she loves. They come in fall colors to match your decor.
These fun hats will keep everyone warm and happy. Place one on each person's chair or table setting and encourage them to take it home as a party favor when the meal is over.
Gather around the fire—from a safe distance. Keras recommends the Bonfire from Solo Stove, but they're backordered until early December. But the affordable fire pit we feature here comes with a smoke screen to block flying sparks or ash and a poker to safely move around the wood. You'll want to keep this in your backyard long after the holiday season is over.
For your Thanksgiving meal
Give your guests a warm welcome (literally) with a hot beverage at the ready. It's available at multiple retailers, but Keras recommends purchasing it from Sam's Club. Use it for coffee, hot chocolate or even to make mulled wine. The internal heater will keep your drink of choice fresh throughout the entire celebration.
If you're going the hot chocolate route, try a hot chocolate bomb. Keras loves to make her own, but you can also buy pre-made options. We like this close alternative on a stick from Uncommon Goods. It comes with four different flavors of hot chocolate, including peanut butter, peppermint, caramel and truffle. Just stir it into milk (which you can keep warm in the coffee urn).
These beautiful mugs will complete your hot drink station. Get enough for every guest, so no one is sharing a cup. Luckily, it's sold in sets of four.
This slow cooker will make both preparation and serving a breeze. Each section has its own temperature controls, so you can cook three completely different dishes at the same time. Keras recommends bringing the entire slow cooker outside and plugging it into an outdoor outlet (or using an extension cord). One family member can handle the serving for everyone to minimize contact. And the server should wear a mask and gloves, Keras adds.
To get everyone involved in the meal, Keras suggests turning one (or all) compartments of the slow cooker into a DIY mashed potato bar. Wrap potatoes in aluminum foil and cook them in the pot. Place toppings like cheese, sour cream, chives, and butter in these small disposable cups. Then everyone can create their own dish at the table and you avoid having multiple people touch the same spoon.
Instead of passing around a wine bottle, set up one of these wine stands for each family at the end of their table. You can also use a wine bucket and any small side tables you have on hand, Keras says.
For your Thanksgiving table
Get a table for every family that will be there and make sure there's at least six feet between each one. This table is durable and easy to clean, and it will make the perfect setting for your big meal.
These sleek chairs are great for an outdoor celebration, at dinners or around the fire pit. And they fold up for easy storage, so you can save them for your next socially distanced soirée.
To enforce social distancing, you'll want to make sure that everyone has a pre-assigned spot. These cute place cards will guarantee that happens. Make one for everyone who is joining and use gourds or mini pumpkins to hold them down if it gets windy.
As a centerpiece for each table, Keras opts for cornucopias because of what they represent for Thanksgiving — a symbol of plenty consisting of a goat's horn overflowing with flowers, fruit and corn. Keras already had her own, but we found this option that features faux pinecones, berries and pumpkins. It will be the perfect accent to your holiday table.
If you want a centerpiece that isn't a cornucopia, this elegant option is sure to wow your guests. It is assembled by hand with fresh fir, eucalyptus, pinecones, pumpkins and more.
Keras loves these chargers for your table setting. Each one is handmade by women in Uganda and they add a beautiful and colorful touch to the table. Lay one out for each guest right in front of their place cards.
You shouldn't be passing around the bread basket this year. That's why Keras recommends getting one for each family (or quarantine group). She recommends this beautifully crafted piece from Kazi.
These glasses have the look and feel of real glass, but are made of acrylic, so you won't have to worry about them shattering when one hits the ground. That's why they're great for both kids and adults to use, Keras says.
This flatware is complete with a touch of seasonally appropriate gold. Plus, they're sturdy enough that there's no chance they'll blow away.
This beautiful pattern will look perfect on your table. Throw them in the washing machine after the festivities are over and use them time and time again.
For the kids
Kids and adults will love partaking in this fun activity after dinner. Keras suggests getting a bunch of mini pumpkins (or using any leftovers from Halloween) and having everyone decorate their own with gold paint. It'll be a fun souvenir for them to take home when the party is over.
For the above activity, you'll want to make sure that everyone has their own brush. This pack comes with 36 so there will be more than enough to go around. The handles are blank, so you can decorate them with each person's name if you're feeling crafty. Place it on their table setting for a tease of what's to come after the meal.
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- 23 gifts we can't wait to give friends, family and more this year