How to celebrate the holidays during COVID-19

In a year of the unexpected, one thing has come to be expected: change. As COVID-19 case numbers rise and fall in your area, it’s best to check the CDC’s website and local guidelines for the most accurate Christmas COVID information. Assessing current case levels in your community can help you best make the right call for how to celebrate Christmas during COVID, whether that’s canceling entirely or limiting the number of guests you’re inviting. In addition to community levels of COVID-19, consider your party’s location, the party duration, the number of guests, and where your guests are traveling.

As much as we’d like for things to be “business as usual” this holiday, planning for Christmas 2020 requires a little more work to keep guests happy and healthy

Following recommendations from the CDC, we’ve put together a helpful guide to navigating Christmas during COVID this year. From outdoor holiday party ideas to social distancing guidelines, read on for how to celebrate Christmas during COVID and make your own Christmas party as safe (and special) as possible.

For five days over Christmas – from 23 December to 27 December – there will be a UK-wide relaxation of rules to let up to three households form a bubble so they can mix socially indoors and stay overnight to enjoy the festive period together

A COVID Christmas party needs space

Because indoor gatherings pose more risk than outdoor gatherings, consider hosting Christmas outdoors. If you can’t host outside, choose a well-ventilated space, or open windows and doors as much as possible.

While last year’s to-do list was all about decorating the front yard, this year’s Christmas to-do list is about winterizing the backyard. If you’re planning to host outdoors, investing in the right equipment will go a long way to keep your friend and family comfortable. Keep warm with an outdoor tent, wearable blankets, hot hands, a fire pit, and outdoor heaters. Place blankets on each seat for guests, set up string lights or set out pillar candles to add a dose of ambiance.

Serve warming foods and drinks

Stay warm from the inside out with hot cocoa, warm soup, fresh baked goods, or roasted chestnuts. Instead of a serve-yourself hot cocoa or s’ mores stations, provide individual servings. Serve drinks in festive thermoses and flasks (or ask guests to bring their own).

COVID Christmas party ideas

You know where to host and what to serve, now you’re probably wondering, “how can I make Christmas fun?” While cookie decorating and caroling work if you’re just with your household, these outdoor family Christmas activities are better for groups and extra guests.

Outdoor COVID Christmas ideas for kids

S’mores party: Bring your speaker to play a festive soundtrack, light a fire, and set out roasting sticks and individual kits for each guest.

Say hi to Santa Claus: Have Old Saint Nick make an appearance at an outdoor gathering, but skip sitting on his lap this year. Instead, have your mini guests hand Santa their wish list or drop it in his bag. If a member from your household can dress up as Santa instead of hiring someone, even better.

COVID Christmas party ideas for adults

Wreath making party: Set up individual stations outdoors where you can get a little messy. Look for all your materials at your local craft store like wreath rings, wire, pine cones, and ribbon.

Bonfire party: If you live in a more rural area, celebrate Christmas around the fire this year with hearty soups and individually prepared snacks.

Baked goods drop-off: If you’re looking for social distancing Christmas ideas to keep your family busy, try baking! You’ll keep the kiddos occupied all day in the kitchen and then all night driving to friends and family’s houses to drop off your sweet treats. While the baked goods are in the oven, have your little worker bees craft Christmas cards and notes you can attach to each box of goodies.

Make indoor COVID Christmas gatherings small but special

If you must host indoors, keep your guest list as small as possible, and look for ways to make your intimate gathering feel just as special as a large one.

Set the table: While disposable tableware is best when celebrating with groups outside your household, real dinnerware is fine to use with a small group. Use your micro-party as a chance to do something grand.

Use place cards: Even if it’s only your family attending, setting place cards at each plate makes your Christmas dinner feel less like another meal and more like a fancy feast.

Bring the outdoors in: Add nature to your table with pine cones, evergreens, or seasonal citrus.

Keep kids busy: After they wash their hands, give kids a task to keep them busy like folding napkins, making place cards, foraging pine cones, or arranging evergreens.

Set out Christmas crackers: Buy a set online or have little ones help DIY.

Adjust traditional family activities to be virtual

While Christmas is all about tradition, this year is more about traditions with a twist. With a little creativity (and a strong wifi connection), you can still pull off your favorite Christmas activities and do so safely. If you’re unable to get together in person this year or have a friend who is immunocompromised, so many holiday ideas can be done over Zoom.

Family Christmas pajamas 2020: Just because you aren’t celebrating in person doesn’t mean you can’t match! Send everyone the same pair of PJs to take a photo of the group on Zoom.

Holiday movie night: Use Netflix Party or another streaming service to watch a Christmas movie together over Zoom.

Game night: Choose a game you can play online together, like charades or team trivia.

Christmas crafting: Encourage kids who may be stuck at home to “help” decorate with paper snowflakes, popcorn tree trimming, or bead and pipe cleaner ornaments.

Cookie decorating party: Send each family a cookie decorating kit or gingerbread house making kit to get creative together on Zoom.

Stay organized with a COVID Christmas to-do list

Decorations aren’t the only important supplies you’ll need to host Christmas this year. Factor in extra cleaning supplies and sanitizers when setting your budget. Make your list and shop early if you can to avoid the holiday rush on essentials like these:

Hand sanitizer: Set up hand sanitizer stations at all entrances or exits, in the kitchen, and in bathrooms. Especially when hosting outside where access to running water is limited, make sure you provide alcohol-based hand sanitizer that’s at least 60% alcohol.

Paper towels: Swap regular hand towels for single-use disposable paper hand towels.

Disposable tableware: While not as eco-friendly, 2020 is the exception to our rule to avoid single-use tableware—stock up on paper plates, cups, napkins, and serveware.

Face masks: Ask guests to BYO face mask, but have extras on hand if anyone forgets. You can also provide festive Christmas masks as a 2020-friendly party favor.

Make it easy for guests to social distance

Along with hosting outdoors or avoiding overnights, there are other ways to minimize exposure and social distance while you’re together.

Skip welcome hugs: Fight the urge to hug friends and family (we know it’s been a while!), and go for elbow bumps instead. If you must hug, wear your mask to limit exposure.

Limit surface exposure: Limit how many surfaces guests have to touch. Wipe down tables. Disinfect surfaces throughout the event.

Separate personal items: Skip the giant pile of coats on your bed this year. Keep coats, bags, and personal items separate when possible.

Wash linens: Wash any reusable linens after each meal, or use hassle-free disposable napkins.

Think about food safety

Food safety is one of the most important parts of how to prepare for Christmas this year. You can still pull off the family feast with a few small tweaks and do so safely!

Instead of a pretty cocktail party punch…try single-serving options like cans or bottles. You can even bottle your own classics in advance to serve. You might not ever go back.

Instead of family-style, buffet-style, and potlucks…designate one person to handle and serve food for each meal.

Instead of passing around condiments…provide single-use options for spices, dressings, or salt and pepper.

Instead of abundant cheese boards…make small snack boards for each immediate family or individual. The same goes for bowls of nuts or candy.

Instead of going straight for the appetizers…encourage everyone to wash their hands before and after they eat.

But most importantly try and enjoy the festive season.

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