The Holidays and COVID: Keeping family traditions safe

gingerbread men with masks

Happy Holidays 2020: Keeping Family Traditions Alive and COVID-19 Away

From mask-wearing to social distancing, COVID-19 has forced us all to rethink our approach to everyday activities. As the holidays approach, some of us wonder how we can celebrate safely and if it is possible to enjoy the traditions we love with the people we love.

According to Morning Consult , 79% of Americans plan on celebrating Thanksgiving this year, but 47% have canceled their usual holiday get-togethers. So people will be celebrating, but most will be doing it with COVID-19 safety measures in mind.

“Modifying traditions may be hard to do, but the health risks associated with large gatherings are  real. Taking steps to protect your and your family’s health is an easy choice,” says Dr. Marcus Salo, a family medicine doctor with Roper St. Francis Physician Partners.

How to reimagine your holiday parties during COVID-19

If you are an experienced holiday party host, you know how important planning is. The coronavirus pandemic requires an additional layer of planning. You’ll need to look at everything, including guest lists, timing and menus, through the lens of COVID-19 safety.

It may sound a little overwhelming, but the good news is that you will be looking for ways to scale down. The guest list should be smaller. And the amount of time spent together should be less. These changes will help make the planning activities and menus less complicated.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) provides detailed guidelines for safe holiday party planning during COVID-19. The first recommendation is to assess the risk of any potential in-person gatherings and then consider ways to mitigate those risks, such as:

“If you are invited to a holiday party in 2020, ask the host about whether you’ll be able to visit outside and what safety steps they’ll be taking. Bring your own masks and supplies and consider limiting your contact with people who are not in your household before the event,” suggests Dr. Salo.

If traveling for the holidays during COVID-19, prepare ahead

Any time you travel, you increase your risk of getting and spreading COVID-19, so staying home is the safest thing you can do. “If you have been sick or have symptoms of COVID-19, do not travel — stay home,” stresses Dr. Salo.

If you choose to travel during the holidays this year, take extra precautions to protect yourself and others. Wear a mask, maintain a six-foot distance between yourself and others, wash your hands frequently, carry hand sanitizer, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth and avoid people who are sick.

Brainstorm all the safe ways to celebrate holidays during COVID-19

Once you’ve considered all of the risks and the precautions you should be taking, you’ll have a good idea of how to plan a celebration that will help keep you and your loved ones safe.

If COVID-19 keeps you from your traditional holiday parties and travel plans, 2020 might be the perfect year to try something new. Perhaps something you’ve always thought about but never had the time to do or to resurrect an old tradition that has fallen by the wayside.

Pull out the family recipe file. Get creative as you plan holiday meals. Revisit favorite meals and treats from your childhood, or tackle something entirely new. You might land on something that makes its way into regular rotation on holiday menus in years to come.

Deck the halls and then some. Many of us have spent a good part of the past year at home. And while working and learning remotely, we’ve been doing a lot of nesting. The holidays are an opportunity to make your home even warmer and more inviting, with twinkling lights, scented candles and holiday-themed linens. Consider decorating early to get in as many weeks of holiday spirit as you can.

Cruise the holiday lights. This activity is made for social distancing. Find out what neighborhoods have the best holiday light displays or check out local parks with drive-through displays like Charleston County Parks’ Holiday Festival of Lights and Celebrate The Season in Moncks Corner.

When far from family, Zoom. One thing we’ve gotten more comfortable with in the past year is virtual gatherings. Use FaceTime or Zoom to raise a toast, sing carols together, pray, open gifts or light the candles on the menorah.

Get some rest. Smaller, scaled-down gatherings and less in-person holiday shopping presents the opportunity to do a little less this year. Embrace this time to slow down. If you have vacation time, take it, even if you have been working remotely. Now is a great time to practice self-care.

Know how and where to get a COVID test during the holiday season

Before you start any holiday plans, make sure you know where the COVID testing locations are near you. If you find out that you’ve been exposed to COVID-19 during the holidays, you’ll know where to go and what to expect. At Roper St. Francis Healthcare, you must have a doctor’s order to get tested. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control offers free mobile and pop-up testing clinics — visit their website to find a location near you.

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