We all know 2020 has been difficult, from health concerns to work challenges to financial issues. But the pandemic has also disrupted traditional celebrations. Thanksgiving tested our ability to adapt and modify how we celebrate with family and friends, and now the “holiday season” is upon us. Will this mean forgoing everything that we cherish and look forward to during the holidays?
In a word, no. Since this year has been so stressful, health professionals are highlighting the mental and emotional benefits of normalizing life as much as possible. However, the pandemic is dictating what people can (or cannot) do regarding the holiday season, and you must stay practical given the unusual limitations pertaining to gatherings.
Celebrating the holidays, 2020 style
Most people consider the holiday season as a time to reconnect with loved ones and enjoy themselves. This year is no different, but the top priority is to keep everyone safe amid all the celebration.
When planning an in-person gathering over the holidays, think about location. The more activities you hold outdoors, the easier it is to maintain a safe distance. Of course, the Canadian winter may influence how much you do outside, so when you and your guests are indoors, try opening a window periodically to help circulate the air. Also spread out as best you can so groups don’t congregate in tight quarters.
Limiting how many people attend your holiday event may also help, and remember the good habits learned over the course of the year, including wearing masks when possible, trying to keep your social distance and washing hands regularly. Keep plenty of soap, sanitizer, disposable wipes and facemasks handy in case your guests need them.
Tips for dining
Let’s face it, one of the highlights of holiday parties is savouring great food and indulging in decadent treats. Sure, sometimes people overdo it, but eating is an anticipated and important part of socializing. Here are a few tips for indulging safely:
- Everyone should wash their hands before eating, and minimize touching food, serving dishes and utensils. Don’t share plates, cutlery, drinking glasses, etc. Of course, no double dipping!
- Try to avoid any self-serve food or drink options, such as buffet-style settings, salad bars, dessert tables and beverage stations
- Extend the option for each household to bring their own food and drinks. This reduces cross-contamination and, as a bonus, ensures guests have access to food they prefer
- Limit how many people are involved in food preparation, cooking and handling, and make sure they follow all safety rules and best practices
Sometimes an in-person gathering isn’t practical. Maybe friends and family members live far away and travel is not a reasonable option. Perhaps you don’t want to put older loved ones at risk, while others may have pre-existing health conditions to consider. Whatever the reason, this should not prevent you from enjoying a holiday celebration. A virtual gathering might seem unusual at first, but there are ways to get festive from a distance.
You and your loved ones can send gifts and holiday cards through the mail or by courier, or simply leave them at the door, as the “drop-and-dash” approach has become popular now! Similarly, if your group typically makes treats or other food items, consider dropping those off as well. An alternative is to provide cherished recipes to loved ones and then, virtually, walk each other through the preparation process so everyone can make the dishes together. It’ll be fun (and maybe inspirational) to see how each person puts their own special touch on things.
Families in separate households can simultaneously sit at their respective dinner tables and connect by video, which might help create a sense of sharing the meal. The same thing applies to opening gifts, showcasing holiday decorations or singing/listening to your favourite holiday music.
Undoubtedly, this holiday season will be different, but if you’re resourceful you can still enjoy a wonderful, meaningful celebration. Stay safe but don’t allow the pandemic to ruin the holidays. You just need to get a little imaginative and find creative ways to celebrate the season with your loved ones.