The winter holidays are the most wonderful time of the year! It’s the season to spread love and kindness. But with COVID on the rise, we need to be careful that our hugs and kisses and songs of good cheer don’t accidentally spread something that might ruin the holidays…or much worse!

Traveling and get-togethers go hand-in-hand with the holidays—plus cooler weather means gathering people indoors. However, celebrating like we would any other year could fling open the door to the worst kind of uninvited guest…a nasty virus that causes painful and deadly infections and could put you…your family…and your whole community in danger.

But before you let the Grinch swoop in and steal your joy—take heart! With a flick of flexibility and imagination, you can still enjoy this magical season while also keeping your loved ones safe.

How risky is celebrating the holidays with family and friends?

Before you send out the party invites, take a minute to think if a risk of infection comes along with your plans, like a slimy side-dish. 

Low-Risk Revelry

The safest way to celebrate the holidays is to skip the journey and limit your merriment to your immediate household. Since you already live together, you can drink your eggnog without trying to sip it through a straw that you sneak through the side of your face mask.

Virtual festivities are another safe bet. It’s so easy for friends and family to gather via video chat to say a prayer, toast, or even sing carols together without fear of COVID exposure. It could be a fun touch to spruce up your backdrop with tinsel and lights and challenge your family to a virtual decorating contest…feel free to think outside the (red-and-green gift-wrapped) box! (And, you’ll save precious hours…not having to clean the whole house and wash all the pots and dishes the next morning!) 

One more excellent way to enjoy the frivolities without tempting fatalities is to have an outdoor gathering; share a meal, desert, or mugs of chilled wine or hot chocolate with one or two friends and family outside your home. It’s a safer way to share those special meals…without high risk of transmission.

Medium-Risk Merriment

If you have a pandemic pod (a small group of friends and family who agree to make low-risk choices) then you could consider feasting with those folks as well. Another medium-risk option would be a small (less than 10 people) outdoor gathering, where other precautions, like masking and social distance, are in place. You may not need to “lock down” your life, but it is smart to think of ways you can “dial down” your risk. These get-togethers aren’t as safe as ringing in the holidays with just your household, but they’re a whole lot better than opening up your celebration circle wide. 

Outdoor outings in public places, like parks—or pumpkin patches—are also considered medium risk. Just bring along hand sanitizer, face masks, and keep your distance (six feet…at least).

Unsafe Celebrations

A few seasonal activities are as cruel as a stocking full of coal, like indoor parties with strangers, shopping in crowded stores (especially during the buying crush), or participating in parades, concerts, or other super-spreader, high risk COVID stewing pots. (And, it should go without saying that kissing under the mistletoe will get you placed on Santa’s naughty list this year!)

Preparing for in-person partying:

Are you planning to celebrate in-person with people with whom you do not live? Besides, roasting the turkey, lighting the menorah, cheering Kwanzaa, or decking the halls…you’ll also want to put some COVID-prevention precautions in place before opening your home or heading to someone else’s. Here are a few things to help keep everyone safer: 

  • Ask out-of-town travelers to quarantine for two weeks before your event to lower everyone’s risk of infection.
  • Ask guests to take a coronavirus test. (Best to do a few days before the festivities.)
  • Put a sign on the door to welcome everyone…and thank them, in advance, for using their masks and social distancing.
  • Ask your guests to skip the party if they feel ill or live with someone who is sick.
  • Keep hand sanitizer readily available for each guest, especially near food stations.
  • Frequently wipe down high touch surfaces such as doorknobs and drawer-pulls with alcohol or a paper towel moistened with hand sanitizer.
  • Consider using a touchless garbage can (one you step on).
  • Open a few windows, keep the exhaust fan on, and get as much ventilation as is reasonable.
  • If weather permits, celebrate outdoors.
  • Make face masks part of the dress code.
  • Put a colored rubber band on each glass so guests remember which is theirs…and don’t accidentally swap drinks.

COVID-proofing your holiday plans may make you feel like a bit of a Scrooge, but it only takes one careless COVID carrier to turn your party into a super-spreader event. (Which will leave your visitors with a bitter taste.)

Ultimately, the holidays are about sharing love and giving thanks. And, unlike COVID, those warm-and-fuzzy feelings can be spread just as well virtually as they can in person. So, do your part and give your family and community a huge gift. Once we stop this pandemic, once and for all, we will have one more HUGE reason to give thanks. We wish you and your family a safe, happy, healthy holiday season!

More COVID Tips:

About Dr. Harvey Karp

Dr. Harvey Karp, one of America’s most trusted pediatricians, is the founder of Happiest Baby and the inventor of the groundbreaking SNOO Smart Sleeper. After years of treating patients in Los Angeles, Dr. Karp vaulted to global prominence with the release of the bestselling Happiest Baby on the Block and Happiest Toddler on the Block. His celebrated books and videos have since become standard pediatric practice, translated into more than 20 languages and have helped millions of parents. Dr. Karp’s landmark methods, including the 5 S’s for soothing babies, guide parents to understand and nurture their children and relieve stressful issues, like new-parent exhaustion, infant crying, and toddler tantrums.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.