With the holidays fast approaching and COVID-19 case numbers at a record high, we are all struggling to find ways to connect and celebrate with our loved ones safely this season. Many traditional holiday events like family gatherings carry a high risk for possibly spreading COVID-19, so just like the rest of 2020, this holiday season will have to be different—but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun and memorable. Here are some tips to help you enjoy meaningful holiday experiences and traditions, while keeping your family, friends and communities safe:
Follow guidelines. Unfortunately public health officials have had to recommend that the safest way to celebrate the holidays this year is with only the people in your immediate household. If you are planning on hosting or attending a holiday celebration outside of your household unit, make sure you double check indoor gathering limits for your area. If you live alone, government guidelines suggest spending the holidays exclusively with one other household, depending on your own risk factors.
Celebrate remotely. Whether your loved ones live nearby or across the country, virtual celebrations are definitely the lowest risk option. A little organization before your event will make sure it doesn’t feel like another Monday work Zoom call. Incorporate your own holiday traditions like a game or movie night, cookie decorating, drumming circles, sharing resolutions or candle lighting during your video chat. If you live in the same city as your loved ones, consider organizing a door-drop potluck or gift exchange, or ordering from the same local restaurant. For celebrations across distances, try sharing recipes and coordinating menus as a great opportunity to pass famous family recipes down to the next generation.
Get outdoors. If you live near family and friends, in-person outdoor visits are a great way to get face-to-face time, even if they are shorter (and chillier) than you’d like. Outdoor activities including walking, sledding, snow fort making, skating, holiday light tours or a happy hour chat will help keep you safe and connected over the holidays. While the weather can make things challenging, bundle up, enjoy hot food and drinks and consider sitting by a fire or an outdoor heater. As always, remember to wash your hands, keep your space and wear masks if you’re in close contact or serving food.
Be smart. If you are joining or hosting an in-person holiday celebration outside of your immediate household, you need to stay vigilant to keep everyone safe. Limit the number of people based on public health guidelines, practice physical distancing, masking and frequent hand washing and regularly wipe down high-touch surfaces. If possible, open windows for airflow, spread out in the house and try to serve your food all at once so that people can keep their masks on for most of the event. If guests are sharing a bathroom, have disinfecting supplies ready so visitors can do a quick clean up after each use.
Spread joy. One of the biggest takeaways from 2020 is how much the people in our lives mean to us. With all of these restrictions, it can be helpful to find little ways to spread kindness in your community and show loved ones that you’re thinking of them—especially if you can’t be together. Handmade gifts, handwritten cards, photo books and home-baked treats are all great ways to connect with people both near and far and these gestures will be appreciated more than ever this year. Organizing a toy or food drive, knitting baby hats for neonatal units in hospitals or dropping off treats for frontline workers or isolated seniors are others ways to lift your spirits and help others. Try involving your children, parents, siblings or neighbours to create a sense of community while making a bigger impact.
Stay merry. Travel and gathering restrictions and individual risk factors mean that for this year, more Canadians than ever will be celebrating the holidays alone. This can be especially difficult if you live by yourself and have already experienced a lot of isolation this year. If you can’t celebrate with family or friends in-person, try not to give up on all things festive—even if they seem pointless. If possible, decorate your home, wear holiday outfits, bake cookies and watch your favourite movies. And if you can connect with loved ones over video chat, on porches or over the phone during some of these activities, so much the better. Or, if a loved one or someone you know in your community is isolated, reach out and find ways to safely involve them in your activities this season.
One of the hardest realities of the pandemic is that staying away from the people you love is often the best way to show them how much you care. Coping with the disappointment of this holiday season can be challenging, but it may be memorable in ways we never expected. Being smart and safe this year will hopefully allow us to celebrate and make memories with the people that we love for many years to come.