How to Navigate Holidays During Pandemic 2020
To gather or not to gather during COVID holidays.
Posted November 23, 2020
With COVID-19 infection rates surging again, the decision to get together or not get together for the holidays has become an urgent matter. As families debate and consider how to do this, the risks of being together must be rigorously weighed against the benefits of celebrating the holiday. In fact, the decision not to gather this year for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Year's Eve may be the most loving of all gestures your family can make.
Ground Yourself in Science
It can be hard to shut down the thought of celebrating in person, but if you're uncomfortable with putting the kibosh on your family tradition, ground yourself in science. Using scientific guidelines can help take the sting out of saying "No" to your family members — or modifying how you see your friends and family during the holidays.
The CDC recommends celebrating holidays with people from your household. This "household" definition means children and adults who are living in the same house as you two weeks before the holiday. For those who want to travel or host others from different households, the CDC suggests maintaining social distance, spacing seating, celebrating outdoors and using protective measures like masks to help reduce infection.
More specifically, the CDC outlines risk in the following way:
Lowest risk: Virtual-only activities, events, and gatherings.
More risk: Smaller outdoor and in-person gatherings in which individuals from different households remain spaced at least 6 feet apart, wear masks, do not share objects, and come from the same local area (e.g., community, town, city, or county).
Higher risk: Medium-sized in-person gatherings that are adapted to allow individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart and with attendees coming from outside the local area.
Highest risk: Large in-person gatherings where it is difficult for individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart and attendees travel from outside the local area.
Managing Family Expectations
Once you've used the science to help decide how to go forward with your holiday, it's time to finesse how this will go over with family and friends.
1. Communicate early: Talk openly with family and loved ones about how they feel about holiday celebrations during the pandemic. Assess the risk and the benefits — and make a decision that works uniquely for you.
2. Acknowledge loss: If you decide to insulate yourself by celebrating holidays with just your immediate family — and no one else — allow sadness, loss and disappointment to wash over you. But also encourage yourself to feel empowered that you're self-caring and trying to be proactive about pandemic infection.
3. Set the stage: If you've decided on allowing others in your home for the holidays, consider their adherence to guidelines. Communicate via text or email early and often about how the day will go and what mindful precautions you'll be taking.
4. Virtual visits: If you're thinking about connecting virtually to celebrate with friends and family, make the visit a realistic one. Remember, only so many people can fit on the screen and there may be noise and holiday chaos that limits hearing. Remind yourself that if you can't be in person, a virtual visit is a meaningful compromise.
5. Recognize uncertainty: Though the pandemic has upended everyone in the world, there will be a time when our lives become predictable again. Right now, accept the circumstances by asking "what" you can do to make the holidays better, instead of falling into a circular worry of "why" thinking. Creating a new way to experience the holidays during COVID is about being resilient in the face of uncertainty.