Socially Distant Celebrations

By Kristen Castillo

October 31, 2020 5 min read

COVID-19 has made celebrating the holidays challenging. While the celebrations may look different this year, they're not canceled. In a poll of 2,200 U.S. adults by the market research company Morning Consult, 53% report their holiday get-togethers will continue as planned, and 47% say the events will be canceled. Of those who will celebrate, 85% plan to celebrate Christmas; 79% will celebrate Thanksgiving; and 51% will celebrate New Year's Eve. Seventy-four percent say their holiday gatherings will be smaller, and 49% say at least some of their family gatherings will switch from in person to virtual.

Here are a few things to think about as you plan your seasonal festivities for maximum safety and fun.

*CDC Recommendations

While members of the same household eating and socializing together is low risk, health experts agree in-person gatherings with others can be more risky. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends considering the following six factors before getting together:

-- Levels of the coronavirus in your community: Find out the number of cases and rate of spread in your community and the community where the celebration is being held.

-- Gathering location: Outside is safest, followed by inside with good ventilation, such as open doors and windows.

-- Length of the party: Shorter events may be less risky.

-- Number of attendees: Fewer people is less risky. Check local guidelines to see how many people are allowed to gather at a time.

-- Guest behaviors before the event: Does everyone social distance, wash hands and wear masks?

-- Guest behaviors during the event: Do you anticipate guests will follow the same health and safety measures?

*Making Space

Whether you're hosting guests inside with masks and good air flow or outdoors, make sure to clean clutter so everyone can move around freely without bumping into each other.

Consider designating 6 feet of space with festive decor, such as holiday signage. Minimize lines for food and the bathroom. Consider prepackaging food and drinks -- perhaps in your own holiday-inspired takeout boxes -- so guests don't have to share serving utensils or touch the same items.

*Virtual Merrymaking

Even if you're separated from loved ones by distance, you can still connect with video calls on platforms such as FaceTime, Facebook, Google Hangout, Zoom and more.

"Scheduling is always best," says Everette Farmer, a personal technology trainer with GroovyTek, which helps people navigate their technology. "Be considerate of the invitees and their time. A meeting between two close friends is usually informal and needs less notice than a family reunion of 20 people."

While it may be impractical for everyone to have video on for a whole afternoon, plan to video chat at a specific time. Tell everyone to have dessert ready to enjoy on the call.

*Gift Exchange

Give gifts differently this year. One idea to consider? Drop off gifts ahead of the holiday, or ship them to the recipients' homes. Then you can open the gifts during a virtual meetup.

*Recipe Swap

Food is an important part of holiday celebrations. Think about coordinating menus with family members and friends so you can all share a dish no matter the distance.

"Have everyone swap recipes so that you are all making the same dishes whether it's a recipe that's a family favorite or something new you want to try," says Maura Horton, chief community officer of content hub JUNIPERunltd. "Then when you sit down to your virtual meal you are all enjoying the same food. ... It's a simple way to make it feel like you're together and can help generate conversations about how much you love someone's family recipe." Alternatively, you could all order from the same caterer or order the same items from a restaurant, such as a holiday pie from a local bakery.

*Shared Themes

David Cusick, chief strategy officer and executive editor of the home-services research company House Method, says we're all "looking for ... a sense of togetherness" during the pandemic, especially during the winter holidays.

He suggests having family members and friends follow a shared decor plan, "with enough wiggle room for each household to put their own spin on the festivity." It'll be enjoyable to see each person's similar-yet-distinct background.

No matter how you celebrate the holidays this year, enjoy the moments as much as possible and know that these unusual festivities are not forever.

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