Celebrating Holidays During COVID-19

This information reviewed by Carrie Horn, MD, Shannon Kasperbauer, MD, and infection preventionist Rosine Angbanzan, MPH (October 2020).

Holiday celebrations this year will need to place health and safety over some traditions because of how easily the coronavirus spreads, and how dangerous it can be for some people. The safest celebrations will be with your immediate family in your own home.

An important first step in making holiday plans is to check your local COVID-19 transmission rate. If COVID-19 cases have increased in your community, the risk of the virus being transmitted to you has also increased. Stay updated and follow public health guidelines regarding Stay-at-Home and Safer-at-Home orders.


Lowest Risk: Celebrating Virtually

The safest way to celebrate this holiday season is to stay home with the family members who live with you. Staying home protects you from getting exposed to viruses at holiday gatherings. Staying home also prevents you from sharing germs with other people, especially those in high-risk groups. Many traditions can be shared virtually via FaceTime or Zoom. Here are some ideas:

  • Have virtual baking parties
  • Have each person share something important to them – what they are thankful for, favorite holiday memory, favorite holiday food, etc.
  • Watch a holiday show, movie or parade simultaneously in multiple homes
  • Read a holiday classic or have a family talent show via Zoom
  • Virtually host a family game night
  • One way to keep the tradition of sharing holiday foods, is to prepare the food (while wearing a mask and gloves), wrap it up and deliver it without coming into contact with the recipient

Medium Risk: Celebrating Outdoors

Small gatherings outdoors that are appropriately distanced, have limited contact with commonly touched surfaces and limited number of people handling and serving food have some risk for exposure to COVID-19. Here are some suggestions for reducing that risk:

  • Have guests bring their own food and drinks
  • Use single-use food options for salad dressings, condiments, etc.
  • Use touchless trash cans
  • Have hand sanitizing or washing stations outside. Use paper towels for drying hands
  • Wear masks if less than six feet apart and when you have to be indoors
  • Follow local public health recommendations for gatherings
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends you quarantine after attending a group gathering 

Higher Risk: Gatherings of 10-20 People

Large indoor gatherings, even with close family, is not recommended. Even just talking can increase the risk of spreading the virus. If you feel like you must attend a large family gathering, consider the following ways to protect everyone.

  • Masks should be worn when not eating
  • Consider eating in smaller groups
  • Allow high-risk family members to participate remotely
  • Follow local public health recommendations for gatherings  

Highest Risk: Large Gatherings and Public Places

Avoid attending large public gatherings, especially those indoors, because they substantially increase your risk of catching many viruses, including SARS-CoV-2.

  • The CDC recommends avoiding shopping in crowded stores and attending indoor public events and large gatherings
  • Opt for participating in online concerts, virtual gatherings and phone calls to be safe
  • Follow local public health recommendations for gatherings  

Healthy Safety Reminders

  1. Stay home if you do not feel well or are at higher risk for getting very sick from COVID-19.
  2. Shop online to reduce your risk.
  3. Wear a mask when in public and stay at least six feet from others.
  4. Use no-touch greetings.
  5. Wash hands frequently.
  6. Disinfect commonly touched surfaces often.
  7. Follow public health travel restrictions.