This article first appeared in the Vail Daily on November 25, 2020.
Many of us have been celebrating the holidays in a particular way for as long as we can remember. The way we celebrate was passed on to us by our family, and we pass these traditions on to our own children. There are parts that we love, and parts that we dread, but it is hard to imagine holidays any other way. This year, holiday celebrations might look a little different from what you are used to. Hopefully the following tips can help prioritize the health and safety of family and friends while celebrating this holiday season.
Zoom or other virtual platforms are a great option. However, many of us are tired of sitting in the same “Brady Bunch” style screen. Perhaps over the holidays, join your loved ones for a shared “Meal Prep” event. This could be joining others virtually to all cook a traditional item from your typical gatherings or perhaps the identified “chef” in your circle could lead everyone on the video call in cooking something new, something complex, or something you all want to try.
Often coming together through a shared experience, such as cooking or baking (even when virtual) can create incredible connections. Additionally, in time for the holidays, Zoom has eliminated its 40-minute time limit for free accounts, so you can watch the turkey roast together.
Sharing stories, memories, and connection is an important part of the holidays. This can still happen in a virtual manner! Ask each person within your circle to find three pictures that they want to share. Perhaps add in a theme and ask everyone to select pictures that represent different times or ages in their life. Come together and share your photos, stories, laughter, grief, happiness, and sorrow.
Many of us have holiday traditions that we hold dear. Rather than viewing COVID-19 as a time where everything has to be abandoned, recognize that many of these traditions can be present in your celebration, even if families are apart.
It may take a little creativity and coordination. If your family watches a particular movie each Thanksgiving, pick a start time and everyone can watch together, yet apart. Do you usually shout movie quotes during the movie? Create a group text and send them out! Does your family usually partake in a competitive (or friendly) board game after pie? Play virtually!
Although physical distance from anyone who is not in your immediate household is the most protective and safe option, there are things you can do to help minimize risk.
Although there is no way to engage in activity that is zero-risk, we understand that being outdoors consistently demonstrates less risk. We live in a community where Thanksgiving can be 60 degrees and sunny or 15 degrees and ice. This may involve some planning, and use of fire pits, heat lamps, and layers. It also may change your timing of celebration to correspond with the weather.
Stay Protected with Masks
When we are around family or close friends (framily), we often feel safe. As such, we often take more risks, such as not following mask guidance with the same vigilance. Please remind yourself that the mask is not just to protect you, it also protects others. Although some vulnerabilities are visual, like age; some are not, such as a medical diagnosis. As such, just because you feel safe, it does not mean you should risk the vulnerabilities of others.
Many of you have seen the Swiss cheese approach to protection for COVID-19. This graphic demonstrates that although there is not one measure that is 100% protective, the more we layer different tactics, the more protected we are. It can be difficult to remind ourselves to keep distance, however, we learned at an early age to sit in assigned seats. Be conscious and intentional in your seating layout. Strategically placed and distanced seating can help everyone not just establish, but maintain distance.
Limit Time and Avoid Meals
Prolonged exposure to others could also mean prolonged exposure to COVID-19. Remember that even when you feel safe, you may not be.
One of the most effective ways that COVID-19 can be spread is through touching your face (mouth, nose, eyes). When we eat or drink, there is naturally more exposure and paths for transmission. Meals and meal sharing is an incredibly important part of our culture and most family traditions involve this activity in one way or another.
We recognize that choosing safety over shared meals will be a loss for many of us over the holiday season. However, prioritizing safety is prioritizing your family. If you cannot imagine a holiday without your mom’s pumpkin pie, perhaps ask her to make two and share it with her over zoom.
COVID-19 is forcing us to get creative. Holidays are not canceled. Connection is more important than ever. We look forward to hearing how our community connected over the holiday.
Dr. Casey Wolfington is a licensed psychologist and the community behavioral health director with Eagle Valley Behavioral Health. Dr. Wolfington has been embedded within Vail Health’s COVID-19 Response Team since January 2020.