We'll never have a holiday season like 2020 and, hopefully, we never will in the future. That still leaves Thanksgiving 2020 and Christmas 2020 to worry about, not to mention Hanukkah 2020 and New Year's Eve 2020, and New Year's Day 2021. Heck, what about Halloween 2020, for that matter? These festivals and holidays usually see families and friends getting together for a time of bonding, sharing, enjoyment, and love - and maybe a little candy with a little 'tricking' thrown into the mix?
This year, it's going to be a very different story. So, what do you do during a pandemic holiday season when you can't travel
to see long-distance family members and constantly have to worry about social distancing and being infected, and you fear putting your kids at risk with a traditional evening of trick-or-treating? Since moving around is out of the question, here are some ideas you can throw about to see what might work best for you, your family, and your circle of friends during the 2020 holiday season.
What the Experts Say about Celebrating the Holidays during the COVID-19 Pandemic
But first, let's see what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say about celebrating a safe COVID-19 holiday season. Per the CDC, you can minimize risk by having a virtual celebration or hosting a simple affair with just the members of your household. As you expand your invitation list, the level of risk starts to increase exponentially rather than in a linear fashion, and some of the factors that elevate risk are as follows:
Community infection rates - People coming from areas with higher infection rates are obviously putting others at risk when they travel.
The venue - The location of the gathering plays an important role due to factors like poor ventilation.
How long is the event? The shorter the duration, the lower the risk.
How many people will attend the event? "The more the merrier" has never been more untrue than at this time. The fewer the number of people, the better.
How people behave before and during the gathering - If your invitees are socially irresponsible and aren't adhering to the norms of social distancing, frequent hand-washing, mask-wearing, etc., either before or during the event, the risk of infection will be considerably higher.
Keep this in mind: More than one "study has found that a COVID-19 patient can infect 406 people in 30 days if preventive measures such as lockdown and social distancing are not implemented." All it takes is one contact for the virus to spread from one person to another, and not everyone is lucky enough to be asymptomatic. In the United States alone, there are currently 223,948 reasons not to risk it, which is the total number of COVID-19 deaths as of this writing.
Whether you've considered all the risk factors and are willing to hazard a family gathering anyway or you've decided it's not worth the risk, here are some things you can consider doing for the 2020 holiday season.
#1 - Meet Virtually
If catching up with friends and relatives is your goal for this holiday season, why not try video conferencing as an option. Today's free platforms allow up to 25 or more participants per call. As long as the host has a fast Internet connection, you should face any lags like in the old days of Skype on broadband. Fiber connections are best for calls with a lot of participants. This is definitely something to try out, but make sure you have it set up in advance and everyone knows to download the Zoom app. Alternatively, if all of you have Gmail accounts, you can use Hangouts or the new Meet, or even Google Duo on mobile.
#2 - Celebrate at Home with a Few Close Friends and Neighbors
It's almost impossible to isolate yourself during normal times, let alone the holiday season, and we recognize that. If you must host a party or a gathering, make it as small as possible, with just close members of the family, a couple of friends, and possibly a couple of your favorite neighbors. It's much better if nobody is traveling long-distance to get there, especially from a high-infection zone. In short, keep it small and keep it local.
#3 - Host an Outdoor Event
Of course, if you're in a state that gets extremely cold as we head into winter, this won't be such a great idea. On the other hand, if the weather is still a little warm or at least tolerably cold, you can consider having a barbecue in your back yard. Put out a few patio heaters around the yard if you think the evening might be particularly chilly. An outdoor event greatly reduces the risk of infection, according to the CDC. Nevertheless, make sure your guests are following pandemic protocols like social distancing, hand-washing, etc. Also, whenever you're not with someone from your own household or a neighboring area with zero or no infections, wear a light-weight mask at all times.
#4 - Decorate your Home!
So what if nobody's going to see it? You can always make yourself happy by decorating your private space. There's always social media to share your photos on, after all. In fact, decorating your personal living area will put you in a much better mood to handle the loneliness of a pandemic-hit holiday season. There's no reason for you not to be cheerful about the good state of your own health and that of your household members. Go ahead and bring down those boxes of decorations and lights from the attic and lighten up the mood in and outside your home. Putting up lights around the exterior of your home and your front yard might prompt your neighbors to do the same, giving everyone a sense of festivity through these difficult times.
#5 - Order In, but Do Single-Serves
Why not skip the strenuous work of cooking up a Thanksgiving meal or Christmas dinner and order one from a local restaurant instead? You'll be helping out local businesses that have suffered the worst during the prolonged pandemic as well as saving yourself some trouble. However, if you have guests over, don't do it buffet-style or pass-the-potatoes-please-style. Serve the food on separate plates and then pass them out. There's much less of a chance of spreading any infection that way. Do make sure everyone washes their hands frequently, and maybe leave some bottles of hand sanitizer around to let everyone know that they're expected to do in the new normal.
#6 - Spend on Gifts Instead of Travel
Doing a round of visits with relatives and friends can be quite an expense. Save that money and stay at home, using the extra cash to buy better gifts for everyone on your shopping list. Don't forget to give yourself a gift
Looking for gift ideas for the extended family living across the state or country, or in another country altogether? Why not consider purchasing some Friendship Lamps
and having them shipped to each of your family members or friends living far away from you? These are essentially a group of touch-activated lamps that work in a closed network using their respective local Wi-Fi connections. Once they're hooked up together, touching one lamp makes all the other lamps in the network light up in a pre-chosen color. When you touch your lamp, all the lamps at your friends' and family members' homes will light up in your color at the exact same time, letting them know instantly that you're thinking of them. Each lamp can be assigned a different color so you'll know exactly who it is that's thinking of you. It's an innovative communication tool that gives you instant results. Check it out here
#7 - Cook for your Elderly Neighbors
The holiday season is all about sharing, so why not cook your best dishes and package them for elderly neighbors living alone without their families. With the elderly being at greater risk, it's very likely that they won't be able to travel to see their family, and equally unlikely that their family will want to visit and expose them to a possible infection. They're very likely to be feeling very lonely, as would anyone who has to spend holidays and festivals alone. That's where you step in with a hot Thanksgiving meal just for them! The effort you put in will not go unrewarded. Do remember to maintain COVID-19 safety protocols at all times, especially when cooking and delivering the food.
#8 - Do Some Volunteer Work
If you don't mind braving the front lines, there are ample opportunities to volunteer at a local charity, or even volunteer to shop for groceries for those under quarantine or unable to move out of the house for some reason. There are bound to be several local movements specially formed during the pandemic so you shouldn't have trouble finding the right one for you. However, do follow safety guidelines at all times and never put yourself at direct risk of getting an infection, especially if you are the sole breadwinner of your family. Put your family first at this crucial time, but do what you can for your community.
#9 - Throw a Virtual Reality Party
Online portals like Teeoh, Xperiment VR, and Expert VR Arcade, among others, allow you to celebrate special events in a virtual party space, where invitees can join in with their VR headsets. Some of them even offer "full service", with virtual staff to wait on you, etc. These more elaborate set-ups will cost you some, but not nearly as much as hosting a real party. Besides, it's 100% safe because you won't be coming into contact with anyone. You can invite people from all over the world, giving you the perfect opportunity to 'virtualize' your Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, or Christmas celebrations in 2020.
Things to Avoid During the Holiday Season 2020
While it's important to figure out what to do to safely spend the holidays with your loved ones, it's vitally important to know what NOT to do. Here are some tips from the CDC to keep you and your family safe from the risk of a COVID-19 infection:
Stay away from large indoor gatherings - Even if you're only planning to invite family members and close friends, unless you can safely assess the risk in terms of where they come from, whether they've been following the safety protocols prior to the gathering, and so on, don't take the risk of having a physical get-together. It's much better to forsake one year of celebrating than put yourself and your loved ones at risk by not listening to what the health experts are telling us.
Do your holiday shopping online - Even though a lot of retail stores are open with restrictions, why take the risk at all when you can order stuff from the safety of your own home? True, it's not the same thing, but when you weigh the risk versus the benefits of going physical shopping, it clearly tilts in favor of safety.
Avoid large outdoor gatherings where strangers are present - Indoor gatherings are definitely more dangerous, but even outdoor settings can be hotspots for infection. This is especially true if there are strangers there or even friends of friends whom you have not met before - you don't know where they've come from and what they've been exposed to. Moreover, it's hard to maintain social distancing at crowded gatherings, so it's better to stay away altogether. After all, what gathering could be more important than preserving your own life?
Keep your outdoor movement to a bare minimum - There are ways to reduce the number of trips you have to make to the grocery store, etc. Try and consolidate your trips. If you typically go grocery shopping once a week, go once in two weeks and purchase what you need for a two-week period. You can stock up on non-perishables for the entire month, which will help you avoid going out repeatedly for things you use on a regular basis, such as soap, toothpaste, paper towels, laundry detergent, and so on. Besides, in the long run, buying in bulk is a lot cheaper than buying smaller packages. If you're not a Costco member, for example, get a membership and go there to shop for the entire month; it's well worth the extra upfront expense if it'll help you avoid going out.
Follow all the CDC's and WHO's guidelines - Health experts in the country and globally have arrived at certain safety measures you can take to minimize the risk of infection. Take their advice and don't play it by ear. This is not the time to go maverick on health matters. Adhere to these simple norms and greatly reduce your chances of getting infected.
With that, we leave you with heartfelt wishes for a safe and happy pandemic holiday season 2020!