This year our holiday celebrations will likely be different than in years past.
We may not be able to be together with loved ones and friends, but we can still celebrate together while maintaining social distancing and staying safe. Our traditions may need to be adjusted so we can still enjoy the season and have fun with friends and family.
Here are some ideas for celebrating the holidays virtually:
Watch seasonal movies together. Select a family favorite and have each household watch it at the same time. You can call or video call during the movie and it will be like watching it together in the same room.
Set up a virtual scavenger hunt. Kids will especially enjoy this activity. Schedule a day and time for the hunt. Establish a time limit for gathering the items on the list. Right before the hunt begins, text or e-mail a list to everyone. Use a video platform like FaceTime or Skype for everyone to check in when time is up.
Hold a gingerbread house competition. Set a date, time for the competition and a time limit for making the gingerbread creations. You can share your handiwork with the other participants via video or everyone can post their houses on social media and whomever get the most likes wins.
Send surprise gifts in the mail. Everyone loves a surprise package, especially if it’s grandma’s famous fruitcake or mom’s fudge.
Make a favorite family recipe together. Maybe you have a tradition of making sugar cookies with grandma. Have everyone get their ingredients and recipe together. You can bake them at the same time over video chat.
Enjoy holiday meals even though it may not be possible to be together physically. Prepare traditional dishes and family favorites for family and friends and deliver the food or have family members pick it up “curb side” to avoid contact with others.
Host your holiday dinner virtually. Choose a video chat platform like Zoom, FaceTime or Skype. The type of platform will be dependent on how many people you will be having and the type of devices people have. After you’ve determined who will be joining, decide what time the dinner will start. You can also discuss the menu and if there is a dress code. For example, do you want people to dress up? Will you be eating the same meal or cooking your own dinner? If you cook different dishes, one way to start off the conversation is to show your meal and talk about the dishes you’ve prepared.
Keep in mind carrying on virtual conversations might be challenging if you have several households joining the party so you may have to take turns talking and sharing. Nonetheless, virtual holiday dinners are a great way to stay connected during this time of physical distancing.
If you are planning on having a holiday dinner with others not in your immediate household, consider these safety suggestions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
Make sure everyone washes their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before and after preparing, serving and eating food. Use disposable paper towels to dry hands rather than a common terry towel. Designate a bathroom for guests to wash hands.
Limit people going in and out of the areas where food is being prepared or served, such as in the kitchen or around the grill, if possible.
Have one person who is wearing a mask serve all the food so that multiple people are not handling the serving utensils.
Avoid buffet tables and potluck dinners where everyone brings food from their homes.
Wash dishes in the dishwasher or with hot soapy water immediately following the dinner.
For more tips on holiday gatherings during COVID, visit the CDC’s website at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays.html.
Karen Thomas is a food, families and health educator at the Penn State Extension in Lackawanna County. Penn State Extension is dedicated to delivering science-based information to people, businesses and communities. They partner with and are funded by federal, state and county governments. For more information on what they’re doing in Lackawanna County, visit extension.psu.edu/lackawanna-county.