With cases of COVID-19 rising across the country, Thanksgiving and the other upcoming holidays will look very different, and likely much smaller, this year. It might not feel like the holidays to you unless all of your closest relatives are gathered around your dining room table. However, health experts recommend celebrating holidays differently during the pandemic.
Traditional holiday celebrations – with everyone kissing hello, enjoying appetizers from shared plates, and crowding around the TV to watch the game before a buffet dinner – may encourage the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). But no fear, you can still have meaningful celebrations this year, even if you can modify your usual plans. During Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, honor precautions over tradition to keep your loved ones safe, especially if some of your familiar guests are older or have underlying health conditions. You will not regret it.
Keep celebrations small. Limit your guest list to people in your household and your COVID bubble. If you want to invite other people, see if everyone will agree to self-quarantine at home for 14 days beforehand to limit the spread of COVID-19. For a quarantine to be most effective, guests should be able to drive to your home without stopping for meals or extended bathroom breaks. (Flying would likely negate a quarantine.) And as usual, anyone who is sick or has been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or is awaiting COVID-19 test results should stay home.
Some other considerations:
- Indoor gatherings generally pose more risk than outdoor groups. Indoor gatherings with poor ventilation pose more risk than those with adequate ventilation, such as open windows or doors. If weather permitting, choose an outdoor venue, like your backyard.
- Keep the guest list short and with your COVID bubble.
- The duration of the gathering.Gatherings that last longer pose more risk than shorter groups. Keep your dinner length shorter than prior years.
- Skip the hugs, kisses, and handshakes. An alternative is a fist and elbow bump. It may sound corny, but these alternative greetings have far less exposure.
- Have everyone wear masks when they aren’t eating.
- Keep people from separate households at least 6 feet apart.
- Keep your windows and doors open to increase air circulation.
- Encourage your guests to wash their hands often.
- Put paper towels near your sinks, so people don’t dry their hands on a shared towel.
- Stagger seating to keep separate households 6 feet apart during dinner, or have staggered eating times.
- Appoint one person to place food on everyone’s plate so people don’t touch shared utensils.
- Consider using disposable plates, flatware, napkins, and tablecloths.
- Consider an alcohol-free event since drinking lowers inhibitions. Maybe make a fun mocktail as a substitute.
- If you are the host, be sure to give your space a deep clean to prevent any chance of germs. That can be done by a local service like Rain City Maids to take one thing off your to-do list.
- Community levels of COVID-19 – Higher levels of COVID-19 cases and community spread in the gathering location and where attendees are coming from increase the risk of infection and spread among attendees. Family and friends should consider the number and rate of COVID-19 cases in their community and the city where they plan to celebrate when considering whether to host or attend a holiday celebration. Information on the number of cases in your area can be found on the area’s health department website.
- The locations attendees are traveling from. Gatherings with attendees traveling from different places pose a higher risk than gatherings with attendees who live in the same area. Keep distance from those from places with higher levels of COVID-19.
- Evaluate the daily behaviors of attendees before the gathering. Gatherings with attendees who are not adhering to social distancing (staying at least 6 feet apart), mask-wearing, hand washing, and other prevention behaviors pose more risk than gatherings with attendees who are engaging in these preventative behaviors.
Another approach is to have a virtual holiday gathering. Here are a couple of steps to plan a great virtual experience.
- Set up a virtual party space on one of the many platforms.
- Zoom is around $14.99 for up to 100 guests.
- Google Hangouts is free for up to 10 guests.
- Houseparty is free for up to 8 people.
- FaceTime (for iPhone and iMac users) is free for up to 32 people.
- Group Video Chat on Facebook Messenger - free for up to 50 people.
- Have everyone place their laptops on the table so that you can talk while eating a holiday meal
- Share recipes ahead of time so that everyone can eat the same food in different places, or if you are somewhat local to one another, have someone prepare all the food and people to pick up or drop off; that would be great as well.
- Honor your usual traditions if you can, like having each person say what they’re thankful for
- If you are tech-savvy, you can connect your laptop to the TV and dine on the couch to get a broader view of everyone.
This year has been challenging; with the ongoing pandemic and other issues, it is now more important to still engage with loved ones. You can still share the love and traditions with some modifications, which is why we thought you could use a guide on how to celebrate holidays during the pandemic. You will not regret the changes if that means everyone in your circle stays and feels safe.
Happy Holidays from the Rain City Maids family!