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Just like Easter, Fourth of July and Halloween, Thanksgiving is going to look a lot different this year. Gov. Andy Beshear has published guidance advising Kentuckians to celebrate the holiday with only the people already in their households, following the same guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

But that doesn’t mean your more intimate holiday get-together can’t feel special. And frankly, with all that 2020 has thrown at us, why not try to make your mini-Thanksgiving feel just a bit more special?

“Thanksgiving can be a really long and overwhelming day,” Brittany Gilbert, formerly Brown-Forman’s “How-to Hostess,” previously told The Courier Journal. “Especially if you’re the host.”

Whether you plan to eat dinner virtually over a Zoom call or celebrate with immediate members of your household, Thanksgiving should be a holiday for everyone. Instead of struggling to recreate your mother’s formal dinner, try these easy and inexpensive ideas for decorating, indulging, organizing and enjoying your own version of a COVID-19 safe Thanksgiving.  

Here are Gilbert’s suggestions for Thanksgiving decorating, cocktails, food and more to keep your low-key holiday actually low-key.

Outside of the box decorating

Thanksgiving dinner centerpiece using cardboard leaf cut-outs, small clothespins and sticks, rocks and other items from the yard. (Photo: Brown-Forman’s How-to-Hostess)

Think outside of the box this holiday and take an inventory of what you already own before rushing out to a (potentially crowded!) store and purchasing more.

“Mix and match silverware, glassware and dishes rather than buying everything to match,” Gilbert said. An eclectic mix can be more interesting, especially when you don’t try to group the matching items that you do own together. If you are going to mix it up, really mix it up. 

Want to shop on Thanksgiving? You might be out of luck. Here’s what’s closed in Louisville

Get creative with mini-pumpkin bowls

Mini pumpkins can be used for salad and soup bowls this Thanksgiving. (Photo: Brown-Forman’s How-to-Hostess)

Both functional and decorative, using mini pumpkins to serve your salads, soup or dessert is definitely thinking outside of the box. Simply cut a circle at the top, scoop out the inside with a melon baller, rinse and fill with your choice of food.

“They are very inexpensive, about $1 apiece, and add interest and color to your table,” Gilbert said.

Set the mood

A couple of simple ideas for sharing what you and your family are thankful for this holiday can include writing messages on either a pumpkin or decorative cut-outs and using as a table centerpiece or decoration in your home.

Place a pumpkin in an area of your home where everyone will pass by. Ask each person in your immediate household to use a gold pen to leave a message on the pumpkin. Real pumpkins are nice, but if you want it for a keepsake, use a fake one. 

Gilbert has also asked family members to write messages on cardboard leaves. Once the Thanksgiving messages are complete, she attaches the leaves to twigs with mini-clothes pins. She uses a vase filled with rocks and natural-looking objects to hold the twigs. You can find a lot of these items in your yard or Gilbert purchased cardboard leaves, mini-clothes pins, twigs and natural-looking filler for a vase at a hobby store.  

More: How Louisville is adjusting traditions to creatively celebrate Thanksgiving in a pandemic

Add excitement with splashes of color

A colorful tray of cheeses, vegetable chips, olives and pickled cucumbers. (Photo: Brown-Forman’s How-to-Hostess)

Create festive decor by including pops of cheery colors in everything from your food to centerpieces. Gilbert likes to combine the traditional Thanksgiving shades of burnt orange, tan, heather and gold with more vibrant pink, yellow, purple and green.

A centerpiece for your Thanksgiving table is as simple as scooping out a pumpkin, adding water and arranging a brilliant combination of flowers. Gilbert adds a splash of color at every place-setting by sliding an unfolded bright-colored napkin under each plate.   

You can also brighten up your table and other food serving areas with a punch of color.  

“I love the way brightly colored vegetable chips, honey, jams, olives, hearty bread and pickled cucumbers look on a serving platter,” Gilbert said. “You might add a beautiful flower to complete give it an extra special look.”

Thanksgiving-themed cocktails

Specialty cocktails will add to a festive atmosphere to your pandemic Thanksgiving because they are something out of the ordinary.  

“I love to serve a champagne cocktail, because who doesn’t love bubbles for the holidays?” Gilbert said. “It screams holiday if you ask me.”    

Remember to stock up on non-alcoholic options, too. It’s a long day — in an even longer year — but it’s always a good idea to have other alternatives on hand.

Related: Cracker Barrel sees your holiday changes, puts together smaller Thanksgiving dinner options

Don’t forget to prep ahead

Again, no one needs extra stress this year, so prep as much non-perishable food as you can a day or two before Thanksgiving and store in the refrigerator.

You can also pull out serving dishes that need to be washed, clean extra silverware, count your napkins and iron the tablecloth a few days before the holiday.

Be sure to place a small note inside each serving dish to help you remember which food will be placed in each. 

There’s still time to create a timeline by counting backward from the time dinner is served and scheduling out prep time and oven time. Stick your timeline on the fridge so you can refer to it throughout the day.

Reach Kirby Adams at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @kirbylouisville.

Holiday Sparkler

One serving 

  • 1 ounce. Finlandia Mango Flavored Vodka
  • 2 ounces pomegranate juice
  • 1 ounce Korbel Brut California Champagne
  • Add vodka and juice to shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a champagne glass. Top with Korbel and cranberries.

Coopers Cup

One serving

  • 2 parts Coopers’ Craft bourbon
  • 1 part fresh lime juice
  • Top with ginger beer (roughly 6 parts)

Served over crushed ice in a tin cup, garnished with a mint sprig

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