Celebrating the Holidays During COVID-19

October 22, 2020

As the holiday season approaches, many families are debating whether to attend their annual celebrations due to COVID-19. And while this holiday season may look a bit different because of the pandemic, Larry Kociolek, MD, Infectious Diseases, says, “Parents very much want to allow their children to have as much of a normal childhood as possible during this pandemic and maintaining holiday celebrations is part of that.”

However, parents should understand that COVID-19 activity is rising throughout the US, and holiday activities can carry significant risk for COVID-19 transmission. “It has been shown that holidays are typically associated with spikes in COVID activity in the community. Recent guidance from the CDC is very helpful for parents to better understand risk-mitigation strategies,” says Dr. Kociolek.

Dr. Kociolek stresses that while some traditional celebrations such as trick-or-treating on Halloween or gathering with a large group for a Thanksgiving meal pose higher risks for spreading or contracting COVID-19, there are alternative lower-risk activities that can be considered that still permit celebrating these holidays.

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued COVID-19 Holiday Guidelines. Holiday celebration activities are broken down into low, moderate and high risk.

Even though some traditional celebrations might be considered high risk or may not fit into your family’s level of comfort, Dr. Kociolek advises to approach the holidays with an open mind and perhaps even start new traditions.

Count on being flexible if more last-minute changes happen. “COVID-19 has forced us to approach every decision in our lives with a significant amount of flexibility,” he said. “Whether it’s going to school, participating in sports or planning vacations, changes in COVID-19 activity or personal exposure to those who are infected may result in having to promptly change plans at the last minute.”

Think about new alternative ways to celebrate the holidays in fun and meaningful ways. For example, if trick-or-treating is off the table for this year, go on a Halloween scavenger hunt around your neighborhood. Have your child look for spooky Halloween decorations, a jack-o-latern and more. Each item they find could earn them a piece of candy you bring along with you.

The CDC has issued guidelines that individuals and families not travel for Thanksgiving. As cases of COVID-19 continue to surge, the CDC's guidelines urge families to postpone travel and stay home. These actions are the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 and the safest way to celebrate the holiday.

Think of different ways to be "together" and consider hosting a virtual Thanksgiving meal. Share personal recipes with a group of friends and family and enjoy the meal to give thanks virtually. Take part in traditional Thanskgiving activities such as watching the parade, go on your own Turkey Trot run, and make a gratitude board that shares what you and your family are thankful for. 

Whatever way you, your family and friends decide to celebrate the holidays, make sure to practice the preventive measures that have shown to help reduce the spread of COVID-19: wear a mask, practice hand-hygiene and social distance. 

Click here to view CDC’s holiday guidance.