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An Arkansas Thanksgiving is almost here, and we always something to be thankful for in the Natural State: beautiful landscapes, good people and home of some of the best food and recipes around. With the COVID-19 pandemic still affecting how we gather this year, though, the highly celebrated holiday will look different for most households. So, as people gear up, plan for their celebrations, and look forward to customs that mark the holiday, we crowdsourced to find out what Thanksgiving traditions Arkansans most love and how to adapt to the current situation.
Traveling to visit family this year will be difficult, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still celebrate together! Share recipes ahead of time and host a virtual dinner over Zoom, Skype or other platforms, so you can still spend time with the people you care about most while indulging in a homecooked, special meal.
Spice up your virtual Thanksgiving dinner by playing a game, toasting with a signature cocktail and sharing what you’re most thankful for this year. We love the idea to have the kids host an “opening” ceremony before dinner with a song, prayer, joke, speech, or dance.
Hosting Friendsgiving has become a tradition in many lives marking a special time to gather with friends and share a meal. Because of COVID-19 and possible travel restrictions on loved ones who live out of state, there might possibly be more Friendsgiving celebrations in Arkansas this year. Make the best of what you have and enjoy small gatherings with those around you.
Several people let us know that going to the movies on Thanksgiving night was one of their favorite family traditions. The current situation has affected this favorite tradition of some families. But, no worries, you can improvise and set up a Christmas movie outside with a projector and continue the tradition of a family movie night.
Grabbing matching shirts and mapping out a Black Friday shopping route has been a staple tradition for some families. This year, many businesses are putting their Black Friday sales online early to help prevent the in-person crowds. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still have your family’s Black Friday tradition. Go ahead and make those matching shirts, grab a laptop and get some shopping done together. Check out the Arkansas Made Pinterest Board we have curated. Let’s make sure we are supporting Arkansas businesses this year!
The CDC has said that being outdoors reduces the risk of exposure to COVID-19, and plus, fall foliage makes a wonderful backdrop to your Thanksgiving celebration.
Move what might have been an evening Thanksgiving dinner to brunch or lunch, and you’ll get more hours of natural light (and more time to celebrate, of course).
If you have yard or deck space, host a small gathering outside with tables, chairs, blankets, warm drinks (use that slow cooker or Instant Pot!) and maybe even an outdoor heater or fire pit. If you’re having a larger gathering, instead of one big table, break up seating into smaller parties based on households to make mealtime safer.
We talked to Arkansas families who look forward to a rematch from the previous year’s flag football, whiffle ball or volleyball game. One family we talked to said they even maintain a “Thanksgiving Winners” board to keep track of who wins what board games each year.
This is a popular elementary school activity that children participate in to disguise Tom Turkey so he won’t be eaten for Thanksgiving. This tradition has carried on past the school doors and into the homes of Arkansas families. The disguise-a-turkey tradition, based on the book Turkey Trouble, has become a big contest with a valuable prize for the winner. Adults are included in this contest.
No matter where in the state your celebration is, Arkansas is home to natural beauties and treasures right outside your front door. We heard from one family who let us know they plan an age-appropriate scavenger hunt for children by writing the items to be collected on the front of a paper bag. After the children collect their items, they all come back to grandma and show their nature treasures for a prize. The activity gets the children outside to move and explore.
Families who do not like the traditional Thanksgiving dinner menu opt for favorite foods with Italian or Mexican inspiration as their menu. When we practice being thankful and enjoying the company of those we love, it doesn’t really matter what we eat.
Photo courtesy of Arkansas Parks and Tourism
In nearly every part of the state, a beautiful place to hike isn’t far away. Join in the Thanksgiving tradition to go on a family hike when your people get together for the holiday. Make sure to investigate public parks and trails, find one in your area that will not be over-crowded.
In a normal year, some families never miss out on this tradition. They find a turkey trot event near them, don the homemade turkey apparel costume, and run or walk the 5K race. Even if races are not happening this year, consider organizing your own simple one with family. Grab some music and turkey trot all the way to the finish line.
The best bet for family gatherings is around major holidays. Photoshoots and re-creation of photos are a fun tradition. The Smith family from the Springdale area has been doing this photo tradition for over 45 years. The entire family piles into the living room to take their yearly photo in the same formation. They plan to continue this tradition with their grandkids in the years to come. The fun part of a photoshoot is having the memories to look back on throughout the years and to have photo proof of how families change and grow. If you haven’t started this tradition, it is never too late. Start it this year with your masks on!
Do you already do some of these traditions? If not, which ones would you love to add to your family’s Thanksgiving tradition list? What traditions do you love that didn’t make this list?
Happy Arkansas Thanksgiving!
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