Memorial Day Weekends of old boasted barbecues, parades, and oodles of red, white, and beer (🤔) everything. The holiday recognizes those who have fought in the armed forces while also unofficially kicking off summer. This year is bound to look a little different even as restrictions ease up. Large gatherings, parades, and public fireworks displays are canceled. But you know what can’t be canceled? Kindness. The outdoors. Watermelon. We’ve got all that and more in our list of suggestions for how to celebrate and connect in a different way this year.
10 ideas to put a social-distancing spin on your summer kickoff
- Host a watch party with yourselves as the stars: You picked your friends for their shared sense of humor and values. Now’s the time to create entertainment only you and yours can fully understand. Use all your stupid inside jokes and shared experiences to create a satirical mockumentary (like this one for the theater crowd), a commercial for a fictional product, or a music video. Decide ahead of time what the prize will be and how the results will be judged. Everyone should be encouraged to participate: Don’t let production value weigh too heavily in the judging. To get extra fancy and provide a space for all the snark you’d expect from your tribe, host a watch party. If you’d rather not create your own entertainment, conduct a poll and pick a favorite flick to watch “together.” Bonus if you make it 80s-themed and add a costume party to the mix!
- Have a virtual experience: Everyone from The Bash to AirBnB is offering experiences you can take part in online. If ever there was a time to learn to do magic or cook Spanish tapas, it’s now! You’ve probably had a lot of hot dogs and watermelon in your life. Why not mix it up and go Greek for one of the most patriotic holidays around?
- Learn the history: I know I can’t be the only one who has celebrated a holiday without having any real idea why it exists, right? Whether you just want to find out for yourself or you want to turn it into a lesson for your kids, brush up on your Memorial Day trivia.
- Host a virtual game night: Incorporate all your new knowledge into a trivia night or coordinate your outfits (a must) for a round of Family Feud or Pictionary. You could also play some improv games like the one where you make up a story by taking turns adding one word or sentence at a time. This one is extra fun because kids can participate (likely with hilarious results) too. However, you choose to virtually gather your tribe and have everyone throw in for a cash prize or something silly. I remember a jar of long-expired homemade jarred pickles that made its way through white elephant gift exchanges for decades in my parents’ group of friends. Every year, it showed back up. I can still the seedy green slop now. You never know what beloved traditions could come out of this time.
- Virtual bake-off: In one of the most wholesome side effects of stay-at-home orders, people are suddenly baking all the things. Selfies in exotic locations have been replaced by bubbly sourdough starter in jars and glamour shots of crusty, drool-worthy loaves of baked perfection. Honor this new pastime with a doughnut or cake-making contest (if you can find some flour, that is) where everyone sends in a picture of the final product. Assign the judges (the younger, the better) ahead of time and let all participants watch the judges’ live critique. Take the feel-good factor up a notch by having a $5 buy-in where the winners get to pick a charity to donate to. Thanks, Krisi Olivero of Live. Laugh. Film. for this idea and for donating the winnings from your bakeoff to Frontline Foods (a Colorado charity that donates meals to healthcare workers)!
- Take a vacation from electronics: I wouldn’t have thought it possible, but I do think we are leaning on technology now more than ever. After all of those virtual gatherings, spend a little time electronics-free. We’re all attached to our devices at the wrist, so it will be a worthwhile challenge. Go for a long walk. Grow something. Have a distraction-free conversation. Even if you think you have nothing left to talk about with those people you’ve been around 24/7 for the last 2.5 months, step into it. Sit with the discomfort of not having something to reach for and see what kind of magic comes from it.
- Take a road trip: There’s a weird phenomenon that happens the longer I live somewhere. Colorado was my home for most of my life, but when I was packing up to move, I mourned all of the many attractions that were always a drive away and on my “someday” list. Somehow the longer I live somewhere, the less likely I am to get out and see it. Because life. But with life as we know it on hold and the current state of air travel, now is the perfect time for a weekend road trip to some outdoor attraction where you can still practice social distancing.
- Teach your kids (even the littles!) to make their own breakfast: I’ll be tackling this challenge this weekend with my 4-year-old at the helm, her little brother in tow, and the newborn in a carrier. And then, with a little luck, I will move on to one of my most prized holiday weekend activities: a nap.
- Make the food anyway! Of course, like so many holidays, food takes center stage at most Memorial Day celebrations. Take advantage of cooking for a smaller crowd! Instead of lining up a bunch of generic patties on the grill, up the ante with some extra special burgers: think homemade sauces and caramelized toppings. There are some stellar vegetarian options, too! And what’s Memorial Day without watermelon? There’s something for everyone—from the vegans to the meat lovers—at this Memorial-Day-themed Food and Wine page. Wash your hands a lot while you cook and then deliver some baked goods to a neighbor. Bonus if they’ve served in the military!
- Share a thank you card or video: Along the same lines, take a little time to thank someone who has served in the armed forces—whether they’re close to you or just an acquaintance. Some people are really suffering during this time and the little acts of gratitude can do a lot for recipients as well as givers.
I’ve heard from a lot of friends that they’re getting back to some of the simple pleasures of life—sitting down to a meal as a family, dance parties in their pjs, and growing something under the warm summer sun. Get outside, eat some food, and enjoy your family or the quarancrew of your choosing. You may find yourself a little slower to jump in on “business as usual” even when the opportunity comes back around.