We’re entering the widely-celebrated winter holiday season, marked by Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year, Kwanzaa, and others. Are you concerned that COVID will hold you back from social gatherings this holiday season?
With fewer opportunities for physical contact and a concern for health, it might seem challenging to make connections with the people you love and care about during these special times … but there are always creative workarounds and safe ways to take part in time-honored traditions. Read on for some ideas.
Setting the Mindset and the Mood
There are lots of alternative ways to plan or take part in just about any festivity and gathering. It’s just a matter of deciding what you would like to do and making adjustments that work for you, your family, and friends.
Be flexible. Acknowledge that holidays will be different this year but that it doesn’t have to diminish your enjoyment.
Focus on the intent of the occasion, not on its limitations. Celebrate the spirit of the holiday rather than getting caught up in what you’ve done in the past and can’t do now – love, gratitude, family, friendship, and peace. Doing just this can remove a lot of the stress you might be feeling.
Some things don’t have to change. Dressing up is one of them, so put on your holiday attire and look the part. The other is creating a festive atmosphere. Set the stage at home. Surround yourself and your family with the sights, sounds, and smells that conjure up the look and feel of the holiday. Decorate the house with wreaths, a Christmas tree, mistletoe, dried fruit and vegetable wall hangings, table arrangements, and other holiday items that are a part of your culture and background.
Aromas evoke memories. You can almost relive a past experience that brought you joy. Capture the essence of the holiday season with the smells of the holidays: pine cones, cedar, fresh-baked cinnamon cookies and gingerbread, a crackling fireplace, the aroma of hot apple cider. Smells are also great de-stressors. Add frankincense, eucalyptus, or other wintery essential oil to a diffuser, dab your favorite holiday scent on your pulse points, or add to the bathtub and soak with soothing aromas.
Remember that you’re not alone. We’re all in this together.
Ideas for Celebrating Virtually
Virtual celebrations … What a concept! Use teleconferencing to replace physical gatherings. Teleconferencing isn’t just for business meetings or one-on-one chat sessions. With apps like Zoom and YouTube, moving your party, dinner, or other event online is easy. It’s as close to the real thing as you can get.
Take a camera (Facetime and Skype are great apps that let you move around as you record) around the house to give your virtual friends a tour of your holiday decorations around the house. Then it’s their turn to do the same.
Coordinate a virtual dinner. Set up a video and have holiday dinners together remotely. Pretend you’re all at the same table. Talk, share recipes and stories, and enjoy each others’ company while meals are served.
Play a game of online Scrabble, Monopoly, or other online party games. Check out these 16 games you can play together on Zoom.
Hold a virtual beverage-tasting session. Create new cocktail or mocktail recipes in advance of the gathering. Share the recipe with the virtual group so that on the day of the party, you can all enjoy it together. Tejava is perfect as the base to any crafted cocktail or mocktail.
Keeping Safe in Person
If you decide to host or attend gatherings, the CDC has many tips for keeping safe here. These are some of the tips:
Request guests who are sick or show symptoms to stay home.
Hold your get-together outside on the patio or deck, picnic-style, or under a gazebo or picnic shelter at a local park. Offer blankets and seat cushions, light a fire pit, or place portable heaters around the table and serve warm drinks if it’s cool outside. Downsize holiday parties to smaller numbers of guests. Consider asking all guests to strictly avoid contact with people outside of their households for 14 days before the gathering
Greet through non-contact ways such as a friendly wave
Break up seating into smaller tables and set them 6 feet apart. Ask guests in the same households to sit together.
Minimize handling serving utensils. Have one-person plate and serve food individually to minimize passing along something contagious.
If you are hosting indoors, try to open doors and windows for better ventilation.
Liberally place hand-sanitizers and paper towels around and clean frequently touched surfaces (like door handles).
Instead of gathering around the TV inside the house to watch that holiday game, set up seating and a projector in the back yard using a projector screen or abed sheet.
Replace contact sports like football with low contact sports like badminton, croquet, cricket, volleyball, archery, or bean toss.
And, of course, wear masks whenever possible and keep a 6 ft distance.
Many neighborhood lawns get decked out during the holidays. Take a caravan of cars on a tour of Christmas lights and holiday displays.
Some communities have scheduled tree-lighting ceremonies, holiday displays, or caroling choirs in the town square or municipal park. Plan ahead. Check your local parks and recreation department, chamber of commerce or online neighborhood groups for times and places. Some communities ask participants to sign up and have limits on the numbers of people to stagger attendance and keep the crowd sizes down.
If you’re itching for a holiday getaway, think about short-term, short-distance travel. Book a local bed and breakfast stay that’s a day’s drive or less from home. VBRO, Booking.com, and Airbnb are a few of the portals for listing and booking lodging around the country and in your neck of the woods. Read the CDC recommendations here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/travel-during-covid19.html
Gift-giving and Staying in Touch
Let the people in your life know you’re thinking of them during these special occasions. Send family photos, share home videos, or post selfies to them directly or through social media.
Call the special people in your life on the day of the holidays. A short phone call can mean so much on a holiday, especially those to whom you haven’t spoken for a while.
Gift-giving is a big part of the holiday season tradition; no need to change that. Shopping online has become ingrained in the way we purchase goods and a convenient way to shop for gifts, holiday or no holiday. Order gifts from the comfort of home rather than driving and walking around from store to store in crowds to look for what you want and get them delivered right to your home or directly to the recipients.
Send hand-picked and signed holiday greeting cards, especially to the people you can’t otherwise connect with. Customize your card with personal photos, art. Instead of hand-delivering or mailing a gift separately, tuck a gift card in the greeting card envelope. Also popular are eCards that you can customize. Many eCard websites offer not only an array of greeting cards but a way to customize your messages and store your contact list. Here’s a list of some popular eCard sites.