COVID-19 and the Holidays: Can We Navigate Both Safely?

By: Amy Gill (Mommy Monitor’s Youth Subcommittee)

Disclaimer: For the most up-to-date information, please visit the Government of Canada’s website on COVID-19.


From missed birthdays and cancelled graduations to postponed weddings and anniversary celebrations, most people can say that their social lives have been profoundly altered by the COVID-19 pandemic. With the holidays fast approaching, many of us are fondly thinking back to last year, when we were surrounded by friends and family without the fear of disease looming over our heads. After all, we look forward to the holidays; it is a time when most people are off from work and school, and when connecting with loved ones beats most other responsibilities. 


However, with record high cases being reported in four provinces, social gatherings are now being discouraged. In Toronto and Peel, public health professionals have advised residents to only have contact with people in their households and essential support persons. As of Monday, November 23, these regions have entered a four-week lock-down in order to address the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases. While this holiday season will undoubtedly look quite different from previous years, there are still ways that people can enjoy the holidays with loved ones amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Importance of Planning Ahead:

While it may seem tempting to wait until we are closer to the holiday season before making any plans, planning ahead for this holiday season is essential. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has already stated that the likelihood of a normal holiday season will be “right out of the question” this year. That being said and with the recent surge in COVID-19 cases, it is more realistic to assume that restrictions will not be lifted anytime soon, especially not anytime before the holiday season. This means it is time to start connecting with your family and friends now to discover unique ways in which you can celebrate together.

 

Virtual Celebrations:

This year, more so than ever before, the phrase, “there’s no place like home”, holds true. Staying home could help save a life. Let that sink in!

Thankfully, there are many different platforms that allow multiple different households to join a virtual call, such as Zoom and Google Hangouts. Many of these platforms have free versions that have great features.


So, consider meeting online when having your holiday dinner. Try to angle your device so that all members of the household can be seen on the camera. Attempt to converse  among the different households while enjoying dinner. You could also choose to meet online when opening gifts. In this case, angle the camera so that everyone can see the gift receiver’s reaction when they open their gift(s). If it is too difficult to organize an online session during an activity, such as eating or gift opening, you could always just meet and chat while sitting down with the household and enjoying a nice, warm holiday beverage.

Gift-Giving: 

Just because we are celebrating in our homes, without all of our family and friends present, does not mean that we have to halt gift-giving this year. With adequate planning ahead of time, exchanging gifts is still possible.

 

Are you someone who enjoys giving people cards more so than a physical gift? There are many different websites that now allow you to send free e-cards. You are able to pick a card style that best fits your needs and you are also able to personalize the card with a message. You can also consider sending your loved ones gift cards online. Most retailers provide an option to send a gift card via email. This virtual gift card can be used online or in-person. You also have the option to send a personalized message, along with the gift card.

 

If your family and friends prefer physical gifts, you can also shop online and ship the gift directly to the gift receiver. Most online retailers will allow you to select an option upon check-out that alerts them that the purchase is a gift. This means they will remove the price, not send a receipt, and wrap the gift as well. In case the gift receiver would like to return the gift, most retailers will provide a shipping label that will allow the gift receiver to send the gift back easily, without having to go to the store in-person.

 

Curbside gift exchange is also an option. Many retailers are now using curbside pickup, and following these safety tips as they do so, and you can do the same for your friends and family! Plan a no-contact gift exchange where the gifts are left on the patio or curb, and to make sure no germs are being spread, keep the following in mind:

  • Sanitize your hands and wear a face mask when wrapping presents.
  • Sanitize your hands and wear a face mask when dropping off presents.
  • Drop off presents in a no-contact manner and fight the urge to want to see your loved ones for a few minutes; instead, wave at them through the window!

 

As previously mentioned, schedule a virtual session with your family and friends so that you can capture their expression when they open your e-cards and gifts.

 

Supporting Local Vendors:

COVID-19 has also impacted the economy, and in turn has caused many small business owners to make the tough decision of shutting their doors and closing up shop. When buying gifts this holiday season, consider shopping locally and supporting the small businesses in your local area. After purchasing, if you enjoyed your purchase, tag the local vendors in your social media posts, leave positive reviews on their websites, and share your positive experience(s) through word-of-mouth with your networks so that those local vendors can get more business.

 

With these great tips and tricks, we can all enjoy the holidays with our loved ones while keeping everyone safe and healthy, all while trying to combat this pandemic effectively. Planning ahead can help people from different households stay connected during the holiday season. Remember that celebrating alone with our immediate household, does not mean we have to be lonely. We can hope for a holiday season next year that involves us being surrounded by all of our loved ones around the dinner table, enjoying a warm meal and opening presents together. In order for that to become a reality, keep the following message from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in mind when celebrating the holiday season this year: “The duration of this crisis will be determined by the choices we make right now. Do your part: Stay home.”