Virtual Thanksgiving Events Creates New Family Traditions Online

By: Karen Dybis | November 13, 2020
Tree Lighting

Photo Courtesy of Downtown Detroit Partnership.

Families likely will celebrate Thanksgiving Day in a different fashion this year, following health and safety protocols while still looking for ways to enjoy one another’s company and participate in some annual traditions. 

Because of coronavirus and related concerns, many organizations are putting their regular events online so people can follow social distancing yet still gather people together for a different kind of celebration. 

In Detroit, the annual tree-lighting ceremony will be virtual for 2020, said David Cowan, Director of Public Spaces and Programming at the Downtown Detroit Partnership. For the first time, the ceremony will be televised on WXYZ-TV at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 20.

Cowan and the DDP is encouraging families with pre-existing conditions or who are maintaining quarantines to tune in for the re-recorded televised event. “Light up the Season,” will feature a performance from Motown singing sensation Smokey Robinson, a performance from U.S. Champion American figure skater and Olympian Karen Chen, some commentary and likely a few jokes from locally born comedian Tim Allen as well as ice-dancing duo Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko. 

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Plus, rumor has it that Santa Claus may get involved through a connection between Detroit and the North Pole, so kids of all ages may want to tune in that night and enjoy the tree in person when they can, Cowan added. 

“It’s a unique situation to be in this year because in some ways Detroit’s Christmas tree is a statewide asset. It’s there throughout the entire holiday season until January – it’s there for the whole holiday season,” Cowan said. 

Cowan said the DDP and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan hope that people will come to see the tree, the holiday lights as well as the rest of the retailers who are open for business in the area in the days and weeks before year’s end. These retailers need local support and the DDP hopes people will “Shop Small” around the city. 

Normally, about 100,000 people will attend the tree-lighting ceremony, Cowan said. But he hopes people will enjoy the television version because “we’re offering a really thought-through effort with public health and sanitizing in mind.”

Here are some other virtual Thanksgiving-timed special events to consider with family and friends during the unique holiday season.

Spice Up Your Thanksgiving

If you are tired of the traditional at your Thanksgiving Day meal and want to add some zing, then this online event is for you. Learn to make Cranberry Ginger Preserves that you can serve AND give as gifts to your family and friends. And you can do it all at home while sipping on a cranberry mule. You do need to register in advance and pay for this online course.

Van Maanen Studios Virtual Thanksgiving Concert

Even the best musicians started somewhere. Gather the family around the laptop or smart television to enjoy a student-led recital of holiday music from Van Maanen Studios. There will be a number of performances that are sure to showcase some up-and-coming talent. 

Virtual Dinner

Tired of turkey and want to try something new for Thanksgiving? Then Mirepoix Cooking School is the online place for you. The Saturday night cooking class will focus on Greek specialties, including Flaming Saganaki with Pita, Greek Spinach with White Beans and Feta and Soutzoukakia- Greek Baked Meatballs. The lesson will teach you to make a meal that serves four. Join Chef Robert will help you with knife skills and offer culinary advice throughout the evening. 

Thanksgiving Worship

Many places of worship, whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim or another faith, will have special holiday-related services. In Utica, Trinity is offering a Thanksgiving-themed mass online for individuals as well as a special family-focused service that takes place on Thanksgiving itself. There will be contemporary music as well as uplifting messages throughout.