By Vinh Dang, M.D.

As much as everyone is dreaming of a non-pandemic holiday season, the fact of the matter is COVID-19 will still be a factor as we make plans to gather with loved ones and participate in festive events.

While it’s tempting to dismiss warnings by government officials and the CDC to keep gatherings to a minimum and still adhere to social distancing guidelines, with an uptick in cases around the country it’s crucial to err on the side of caution.

If you are having a gathering with people outside of your household, the CDC recommends:

  • Asking guests to quarantine for 14 days or get tested for coronavirus prior to attending the gathering
  • Always wearing a mask unless you’re eating or drinking
  • Opting for one person cooking and preparing plates (while wearing a mask and gloves) instead of a buffet-style or potluck meal
  • Taking the gathering outdoors if weather permits, or making sure wherever you are indoors is well ventilated
  • Making sure hand sanitizer is always within reach of guests
  • Organizing the gathering so guests from different households can remain six feet apart

Creative Ways to Celebrate

If you do stick to just gathering with your household members, this year may be different, but there are still ways to make it cheerfully memorable without giving loved ones the unwanted gift of COVID-19.

  • Visit virtually with loved ones in other households using an app like Zoom, Facetime, or Microsoft Teams. Share a meal or unwrap gifts together. Everyone will love watching family and friends reveal their presents in real time. Grandparents can read a classic holiday story to the grandkids. You can even play virtual games or sing Christmas carols.
  • Hold a Secret Santa gift exchange from afar. Start an email/text string or Facebook group for anyone who is interested in participating in the exchange. Randomly assign people their gift recipient and help participants plan no-contact delivery of their gifts. Then schedule a virtual meeting when everyone can show off what they were given, or encourage them to share what they received in the group or in email/text.
  • Get crafty with friends and family by holding a virtual craft session. Create Christmas ornaments, gift wrap, Stars of David or just about anything you can imagine. You can also have a contest to choose the best crafts, or volunteer to donate the crafts to a local hospital or charity.
  • Take a tour around the neighborhood or, better yet, drive around other neighborhoods to see the lights and sights of the season.
  • Drop off a treat or gift basket at the door of a friend, family member, or someone in need. Bake cookies, make a holiday meal, or create a basket of essential products and leave it at their door either anonymously or with a thoughtful card.

The holidays this year may not be like those in the past because of COVID-19, but with a little imagination, you can still make holiday magic while helping to keep your loved ones safe.


Dr. Vinh Dang is a Family Medicine physician at Kelsey-Seybold’s The Woodlands Clinic. His clinical interests include preventive medicine, chronic disease management, and in-office procedures such as joint injections.

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