Ah, the holidays. It’s a season we all look forward to each year. The beauty of fall may be over, and winter is coming. Yet, the holiday season gives us some hope and excitement for good things to come. There is something magical in the air.
For many of us, the thing that we look forward to during the holidays is gathering with family and friends, sharing a meal, and celebrating all of life’s givings. At Thanksgiving we sit down at the table, pass the potatoes, revel in the stories of relatives we haven’t seen in a long time, and give thanks for the blessings we have. For Christmas or Hanukah, we connect with loved ones over hot beverages, exchange gifts to show gratitude, and of course, show off our best ugly sweaters.
It’s the warmth and in-person connection that we crave over the holiday season. Sadly, this year it will look a bit different for all of us. With the Minnesota guidelines of indoor gatherings set at 10 people max, many of us simply have too big of families to gather around that big table at Thanksgiving. Others have elderly or medically compromised relatives or friends which makes exchanging Christmas gifts in person impossible. Some of us are just plain scared.
With this in mind, here are some things to consider as we approach the holiday season this year…
It’s okay to be scared.
It’s okay to know and acknowledge that the holidays are going to look different this year. While we all hold different opinions on how to handle this pandemic, a big thing to keep in mind when thinking about our holiday plans this year is that although we may have different perspectives, we can all be respectful of each other’s choices.
It’s okay to say “no” to a holiday party invitation.
However, don’t berate that person for wanting to find a way to connect with loved ones. According to the state, it’s okay to host a small gathering for your family and friends. It can be very COVID friendly with masks, temperature screenings, pre-event quarantines and appropriate social distancing. The key thing to remember in any situation is to be transparent with all of your guests.
If you are planning on having a gathering over the next couple of months, it is critical that you communicate with your guests your plan for COVID safety. No one wants to be put in an awkward position where they have to leave an event because they feel uncomfortable. Give your guests the opportunity to politely decline your party invitation, and be sure to respect their decision.
In fact, if you are the one planning on hosting Thanksgiving Dinner or throwing a holiday party or gathering, here are a some tips on how to do it safely and in compliance with current Minnesota mandates…
Keep your gatherings small.
The current Minnesota mandate for indoor and outdoor gatherings states holiday get-togethers need to be a maximum of 10 people, and limited to 3 households. If you have a larger family, or want to invite more people to your event, I suggest looking at restaurants or event venues to host your gathering. Currently restaurants are able to host 50% of their capacity indoors, and event venues are able to host 25% of their capacity indoors. This could be a popular option for people who still want to meet and connect with people over the holidays while still maintaining enough space for social distancing. With that in mind, I would suggest reaching out to these restaurants and venues sooner rather than later. [Keep in mind the updated regulations as of Tuesday (11/10/20) stating no food or alcohol will be served in bars or restaurants after 10:00pm.]
You can ask your guests to quarantine before coming to your home.
I know this is a hard question to ask Aunt Ellyn from Seattle over the phone, but it is one way to help lower the risk of transmission. Having your guests stay away from potential infection two weeks prior to coming over helps lessen the chances that the virus makes its way into your home. For your out-of-town guests, driving is most likely the safest mode of transportation. If they have to fly, have them follow the airlines guidelines on COVID safety. You could even might consider asking them to get tested once they arrive.
Have your guests get tested the week before your event.
This is a really hard ask for some people, and I totally get it. The protocols surrounding testing vary from daycares, to schools, to workplaces. Sometimes it can be a huge disruptor to peoples’ lives. I don’t want to get into the politics of testing, I will just say that if you are looking to have the safest possible holiday gathering, testing can play a role in that. Guests might also be inclined to get tested post-event.
Do a pre-gathering health screening.
Do a quick text, email or phone call to your guests (you can find a guideline of screening questions and even a script on the CDC website, and once they arrive take a quick temperature scan. If anyone isn’t feeling well or has a fever upon arriving, don’t feel awkward to ask them politely to leave.
Wear masks and socially distance yourselves.
Per the mask mandate in Minnesota, masks must be worn indoors, unless there is a medical condition. Everyone is aware of this fact now in public spaces. Where it gets tricky is when you are moving into indoor spaces that are the homes of your family and friends. According to the mandate, masks should still be worn indoors when not with immediate family members, except when eating or drinking. Now, it’s the holidays, there is lots of eating and drinking going on. Use your best judgement on wearing your mask. The big thing is to keep socially distant from other guests (guidelines recommend 6 feet). Because of this guideline, you may have to get creative with your seating arrangements. Try to keep your table sizes small (4 people or less) and keep immediate family members together.
Also, if you choose not to get together over the holidays, that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate with your loved ones! Here are a few creative ways you can get in the holiday spirit, even when you can’t physically get together…
I know, I know. Zoom meetings, Zoom events, Zoom birthdays, Zoom, Zoom, Zoom. We are all Zoomed out. But, doing a Thanksgiving or Christmas Zoom meal might be the easiest way to see all of your family members. One way to mix it up is to enlarge your screen. Instead of setting up the small computer screen, try a projector or TV screen where everyone on the call can see what is going on at your table. When it’s time to go around the table (or the Zoom squares) to say what we are all thankful for, don’t forget to press the record button on your meeting. 2020 is going to be a year that none of us will ever forget. But five or ten years from now, how cool will it be to go back and watch a video with your family and friends saying despite the craziness, they still found reasons to be hopeful and thankful this year?!
Create a cooking experience to do together.
Being in the kitchen and cooking a meal is the crux behind the holiday get together. Even when you physically can’t get in the kitchen together, try to recreate that experience by inviting your family members to cook with you! Put together a list of grocery items for each family to purchase. On Thanksgiving or Christmas eve, everyone jumps on a call together and works through the cooking process together. Who knows, you might find a hidden cook in your family that you never knew about! Another option to do this is to use a meal service like local business Nosh & Gather. Everyone can order a box and not have to worry about the mess in the kitchen! Or even try out one of the many Take and Bake options all around the Twin Cities!
Still make it an event.
Even though you could stay in your pajamas all of Thanksgiving Day, why not celebrate the day and dress it up! You can pick out a special outfit that you haven’t worn in months, decorate your table with the fancy china and candles, or put out a beautiful centerpiece like a cornucopia or a lovely fall flower arrangement. Don’t let COVID bring your holiday celebration down. Embrace the joy of getting dolled up and share it with your family and friends. You can even send a pie or flower arrangement to your loved ones who you won’t get to celebrate with this year. Revel & Flourish is doing fall and winter floral arrangement specials, and everyone’s favorite winter planters are now available! Spruce is offering home schooling arrangement courses if you want to get really creative over the holidays or Luna Vinca has quick delivery service options downtown. Either way, it’s a great way to let your loved ones know that you are thinking about them!
These are just a few ideas to get in the spirit over the holiday season, even when you can’t physically be with your family and friends. We are all going through a tough time right now. Finding connection and celebration and reasons to still be thankful this year is key to making it through 2020. And don’t forget, we are just two short months from 2021! Happy Holidays!