The holidays will certainly look a lot different this year with many of us avoiding travel to prevent the risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19. Restrictions across the country will likely keep many of us from attending the in-person gatherings with our friends and families that we are so used to. These barriers should not dampen your holiday spirit, however. There are many ways to celebrate while still staying safe. Read on for tips on gatherings, and do your best to keep your family members and friends safe this holiday season.
WHO SHOULD ATTEND GATHERINGS?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend the following people should not attend in-person holiday gatherings:
• People with or exposed to COVID-19.
• People with symptoms of COVID-19.
• People waiting for COVID- 19 viral test results.
• People who may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the past 14 days.
• People at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
In addition, if you are an older adult or person with certain medical conditions who is at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19, or live or work with someone at increased risk of severe illness, the CDC recommends that you avoid in-person gatherings with people who do not live in your household.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER
Before planning your small gathering this holiday season, here are some questions to consider from the Nuvance Health system based in Connecticut:
• Will the event be held indoors or outdoors?
• How many people will be at the event?
• Will participants be willing/able to wear masks?
• Will participants be willing/able to practice social distancing?
• Will participants be willing/able to practice proper hand hygiene?
• Will the visit be brief or prolonged?
• Will the event include shared food or beverages?
• Will alcohol be served at the event?
• Will participants be traveling to or from areas that are experiencing high COVID-19 infection rates?
• Will the event follow public health guidelines for gathering size limits?
• What are your personal, family and community risk factors?
Keep in mind that older adults and people who have certain health conditions — including lung disease, heart disease, diabetes or a weakened immune system — are at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill and experiencing COVID-19 complications. Always take the appropriate steps to stay safe and to keep your family safe this season.
Host a Virtual Celebration
Technology has made it possible for us to still connect with families during difficult lockdowns and quarantines. Choose from a variety of online platforms to build a virtual forum, send invitations, and plan fun activities. The last thing you need in 2020 is more stress, so enlist the help of a family member or friend if you’re not familiar with these types of online programs.
HOW TO THROW A VIRTUAL PARTY
Virtual holiday parties require the same amount of planning as in-person holidays. Taking the time to incorporate special details will make your guests appreciate the party even more. Some essentials are an internet connection, an easy-to-use software platform, plenty of notice for your guests, a holiday theme, and a couple of fun group activities. Whether you’re planning a party for your family, friends, or office, remember to keep things light and enjoyable. The last thing you want to do when hosting a virtual party is to make your guests feel like they are wasting their time.
Remember that many of your friends and family may be suffering from video conference fatigue due to the increased number of online calls their jobs may have required in 2020. Be flexible with guests joining and leaving when they can, especially given their extra responsibilities juggling work, kids, school, and chores around the house these days. If you have a theme in mind, be sure to share it with your guests ahead of time so they can buy any materials, food, drinks, or outfits that you recommend. Picture planning a virtual wine and cheese tasting but forgetting to tell your guests to buy wine and cheese! If you’re throwing the party, it’s your responsibility to make sure these details aren’t missed. Sending supplies to your virtual guests in advance is an easy way to get everyone excited and prepared for the party, so make sure you bud- get for any extra costs you may have to incur or ask guests to chip in.
Follow these tips and you’ll be on your way to throwing a perfect virtual holiday party this year.
Ways to Celebrate at Home
With many of us facing the reality of a homebound holiday this year, there will be opportunities to start new traditions with our immediate families. Even though this may be different than what we’re used to, a positive attitude and creative thinking can make this holiday one to remember. Read on for a few ideas of how to create a fun, festive holiday.
HOLIDAY MOVIE NIGHT - Is there anything more enjoyable than binging your favorite holiday movies with a healthy helping of snacks and goodies? Choose a few of the all-time great holiday flicks and plan a movie night with your family. You can even use the extra time to introduce older, classic movies to your kids. You never know, they may enjoy some of the same movies you grew up watching as a child.
SANTA VISITS - There probably aren’t a lot of options to visit a mall and sit on Santa’s lap this year. That’s OK! You can still give your kids a visit from Old Saint Nick. It just may take some creativity. If a member from your household can dress up as Santa instead of hiring someone, have them make a Christmas day visit to not only your house but any other nearby family homes (from a distance) to bring some joy to the holiday.
KEEP IT SAFE - Stay organized with COVID precautions. Factor in extra cleaning supplies and sanitizers when setting your budget for decorations, especially if you plan to safely decorate with friends or family members. If you’re hosting a small gathering, make sure to set up hand sanitizer stations at all entrances or exits in the kitchen and in bathrooms.
Don't Forget the Needy
Generosity is needed more than ever this holiday season. This year has been extremely difficult for underprivileged families and the homeless across the world. If you have some free time or have been fortunate enough to be financially unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic, there may be an opportunity for you to make a big difference for these populations.
HOW TO SAFELY VOLUNTEER - Volunteers make a profound difference in the lives of others. Did you know that volunteering can benefit your own health as well? Research shows that volunteers experience a “helper’s high,” increased trust in others and enhanced social interaction.
Here are a few common benefits of volunteering, according to The Mayo Clinic:
• Decreases the risk of depression, especially for individuals 65 and older.
• Gives a sense of purpose and teaches valuable skills.
• Helps people stay physically and mentally active.
• Enhances a person’s social network by helping you meet others and develop new relationships.
SAFELY VOLUNTEERING - Even with COVID-related restrictions on gathering and events, there are many ways to safely volunteer. Here are a few ideas from AmeriCorps:
• Volunteer at a food bank that needs help packing and sorting food using safe practices. Visit Feeding America or Food Pantries to find an organization near you.
• Deliver meals and groceries to vulnerable seniors.
• Check with your local schools to see if they need volunteers to distribute food.
• Blood donations have decreased dramatically, so you can help fill the need by contacting your local Red Cross or other blood donation sites.
MAKE DONATIONS TO YOUR FAVORITE CAUSE - Nonprofit organizations have been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Without the ability to host annual fundraising events, their budgets and ability to help those in need have lessened dramatically. You can make a big difference this year by making a financial donation to their cause. Find a reputable organization in your local area to support. Once you decide, challenge your friends and families to join your mission. You can do so through regular conversations at your holiday gathering, or by starting a campaign on your favorite social media platform. No matter how you decide to get involved, you can be a light to your community through volunteering or donations for these critical nonprofit organizations.