The winter holidays are upon us, but things are different this year. The current climate means typical holiday celebrations are risky, especially for more vulnerable communities, like seniors. However, that does not mean that a fun holiday is entirely off the table. With some concessions and a bit of creativity, everyone can still savor the good cheer that they so deserve after a tumultuous 2020.

Virtual Holidays

Nothing can replace an in-person gathering with friends and family. However, virtual meetups can at least ease the quarantine blues. Thanks to numerous programs and apps, anyone can video chat with their loved ones, regardless of where they live. Eat together, unwrap gifts on camera, and enjoy the holiday while staying completely safe.

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Shop Early or Online

One of the best parts of the holidays is shopping for gifts for everyone. However, spending time in stores picking out the perfect present amongst hundreds of other shoppers dramatically increases the risk of infection. Rather than trying to combat the crowds, do some early shopping. Alternatively, stay home and shop online. This option might be good for both your immune health and your general stress levels.

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Drop Off Food

Some of the things that make a holiday special are the memories we attach to food. After all, what is a get-together without Nana’s legendary apple pie? Just because meeting in person is not possible does not mean that we should miss out on those seasonal classics. Consider dropping food off for loved ones so they do not have to miss out, or arrange a front-stoop swap so every family member and friend can assemble a delicious dinner.

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Consider the Risk

When planning a holiday celebration, consider the risk of infection. People who live in rural areas have a significantly lower chance of exposure than those in urban areas. Stay up-to-date on a region’s levels of the virus by checking a local health department website or using the CDC’s tracker.

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Make a Temporary Bubble

One of the best ways to celebrate safely is to make a temporary pandemic social bubble. A good social bubble has 10 or fewer trustworthy people. Everyone in the bubble should limit themselves to essentials, like trips to the grocery store, for at least 14 days before the gathering. Those unable to isolate themselves due to work or other needs can always join virtually.

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Masks Stay On

People who are capable of having in-person gatherings should do their best to ensure that guests wear masks as much as possible. Additionally, guests should avoid leaving their masks out when not wearing them. Any type of dry, breathable bag is the perfect place to store masks temporarily and keep them clean between uses. Paper or mesh fabric bags are widely available and work well. Obviously, you'll be removing your masks to eat, but don't pull them down below your chin — take them off completely to avoid spreading any particles.

older adults masks holiday Ivan Pantic / Getty Images


Celebrate Outside

When gathering for the holidays, try celebrating outdoors if possible. With better circulation and wider spaces, infection rates drop. If this is not possible, improve the circulation of the gathering area. Some people may be able to do this by opening windows throughout their home. Others might be able to use central heating or air conditioning to ensure continuous airflow.

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Save the Meal

While food has long been a major part of any holiday get-together, it doesn't have to be. Because everyone has to take their masks off to eat and drink, virus transmission rates increase. Try eating before or after a gathering instead of making the meal the main focus. Instead, spend your time together unwrapping presents, decorating the house, watching your favorite seasonal movies, or working on some homemade crafts together.

family crafts holidays AlenaPaulus / Getty Images


Limit Exposure

Celebrating with others presents a risk because of the many different points and methods of exposure. Try to simplify the gathering to limit some of these methods. For example, rather than having a potluck-style meal, have one person prepare and serve the food. Alternatively, try contactless food delivery. Avoid hugs and handshakes where possible and make sure that everyone washes their hands frequently.

grandma serving food VioletaStoimenova / Getty Images


Travel by Personal Vehicle

Public transportation, even if everyone wears masks, has some of the highest risks of virus exposure. If possible, people traveling during the holidays should use personal vehicles that they have cleaned and sanitized. When stopping for bathroom breaks or to get gas, take precautions. Wear gloves or use disinfecting wipes when touching gas pumps and door handles.

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