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Holiday gatherings during COVID-19 Children's Wisconsin

How to celebrate the holidays during COVID-19


I know most of us didn’t think we’d be here — preparing for the holiday season while facing rising COVID-19 cases. No matter what you’re celebrating — Diwali, Thanksgiving, Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas or New Year’s — the holidays will look different this year, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still be celebratory and filled with love. 

Communication is key

Many people are already having conversations about what their holidays will look like this year and I want to encourage continued communication. Talk to those who you typically celebrate with ahead of time, and discuss risks and expectations. Each person may have different risk factors, like a weakened immune system or family member who may be at higher risk of complications from COVID-19. Those at a higher risk should strongly consider adjusting their celebrations this year (read more on how to do that below). Having those open conversations will help everyone come to an agreement on how you’ll celebrate this year and be more comfortable during your celebration, however it looks. 

Be kind and understanding

Everyone is dealing with different family considerations, such as an elderly grandparent or family member with an underlying disease, and it’s an important reminder that you don’t know what other households are considering. Everyone is making decisions that are best for them and the holidays may look different for each family this year. Respect their decisions and don’t pressure or judge others.

Recommendations and considerations

No matter how you celebrate holidays this year, remember COVID-19 is still in our environment so precautions need to be taken whenever possible — wear a mask, maintain distance from others as much as possible and wash hands frequently. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provided considerations that are meant to supplement any state, local, territorial or tribal health and safety laws, rules and regulations. Their considerations include:

  • Make sure you understand current COVID-19 levels in your community and use that information to determine what’s best for your holiday celebration. High levels may require you to postpone, cancel or limit the number of attendees.

    • If you will be hosting a celebration, the CDC provides a few tips:

    • Stay outside or, if that’s not an option, at least avoid crowded, poorly ventilated or fully enclosed indoor spaces.

    • Increase ventilation by opening windows and doors when possible.

    • Don’t host people from outside your local area.

    • Limit the number of people you invite.

    • Remind everyone to follow local guidelines.

    • Provide supplies like unused masks, hand sanitizer and tissues.

    • Consider encouraging quarantining for all those you invite 14 days before you get together.
  • For more information, visit the CDC website where they breakdown what activities are lower, moderate or higher risk. 

Wisconsin is currently one of the states with the highest community spread of COVID-19, so it’s important to follow the recommendations of our local health departments. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) provided guidance for celebrating the holidays this year, which includes: 

  • Avoid travel if possible. If you must travel, know the risks involved.

  • Avoid these events:

    • Gatherings with people from outside your household.

    • Bars, especially those where you have to be inside.

    • Indoor dining at restaurants.

    • Shopping in crowded stores.

For more information and considerations, visit the Wisconsin DHS website where they have a decision tool for individuals and families.

New ideas for the holidays

COVID-19 has forced us to adapt and get creative in nearly every aspect of our lives — from work and school, to birthday celebrations and more. The holidays can be a part of those changes. While being together physically may not be an option for your family, there are plenty of ways to connect virtually to spread holiday joy.

The Wisconsin DHS provides ideas on their website for a safer holiday celebration, which include:

  • Shop online for gifts and send them rather than giving them in-person.
  • Stay home. Share a meal and watch big sporting events, parades and movies with those in your household.
  • Consider a virtual dinner and celebration with family and friends outside your household.
  • Deliver meals and treats rather than sharing in-person together. As long as you deliver the items without contact, it’s a much safer way to share the holidays, especially for those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

People are being more creative than ever and I’ve heard so many great ideas for making this holiday unique and celebratory, including:

  • The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel partnered with some local restaurants to talk about how to make meals even more special this year. Check it out here.

  • Some families are splitting up their typical holiday meals, putting each household in charge of an item to make, split up and drop on the doorsteps of others without contact.

  • Online games have become very popular during the pandemic and they can be a great way to interact with other households for the holidays. Check out Jackbox Games.

  • Consider a virtual holiday celebration with your typical traditions, like taking turns saying what you’re grateful for this year.

  • Set up a holiday-themed movie viewing from your individual households. Tools like Teleparty allow you to watch a movie together and chat throughout.

  • You could make something together to help remember this unique holiday season. For example, you could set up a video chat on your phone or computer while you make ornaments from your own households.

This year’s holidays may look different, but I hope with these recommendations and a little creativity, they can still feel celebratory and filled with love.

Accidents still happen and all of these considerations may lead to questions. Should anything come up related to your child’s health, please do not hesitate to call your child’s doctor’s office. If they don’t have a doctor, visit our website or impactinc.org/impact-2-1-1. You can also call 2-1-1, where an operator can direct you to the nearest community health clinic or other needed resources.