Man and woman sitting at the dining table, having dinner, drinking Champagne and having video call with senior parents on laptop. Staying home, quarantine and social distancing celebration of event.

Family and holiday get-togethers go together like turkey and gravy. This year, however, prioritizing health and safety comes before menu planning and hosting discussions. While seeing loved ones feels especially vital in the holiday season, it’s even more important to protect yourself and other family members from the novel coronavirus.

Says Jennifer McNeil, Amica’s National Clinical Educator, “Keeping your social bubble small remains an important measure to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 transmission. You might be accustomed to having large, extended family gatherings with family members such as aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins. Reducing gatherings to immediate family is an extra precaution you can take to safeguard your health. Remember, your social circle consists of select people that you may not be physically distanced from, and you may not be wearing a mask. You must also consider who other members in your bubble are interacting with. Otherwise, your social bubble becomes much larger than you realize.” Here’s how families can stay connected and celebrate the holidays in new ways.

Get the guidelines

Amica has been proactively taking COVID-19 safety measures since early 2020 to mitigate the risk of transmission of COVID-19, staying in close contact with public health officials. Before planning any visits or outside gatherings with seniors living in a private retirement residence or a long-term care facility, check with team members about visitor restrictions. Likewise, review municipal and provincial health advisories and safety guidelines about indoor and outdoor gatherings before scheduling events at home or elsewhere. Restrictions may require creative thinking about how to connect — such as hosting a virtual holiday gathering or a trivia game via Zoom, or scheduling a short outdoor porch visit with warm blankets, mugs of hot chocolate and themed cupcakes.

Highlight hygiene and mask up

Whether you’re visiting or hosting, share holiday cheer with clean hands and masked faces. Frequently wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand rub with at least 70% alcohol when soap and water aren’t available. In addition, wear a mask any time that you’re closer than two metres (six feet) away from someone, whether outdoors, indoors, in a car or in transit to a gathering. Remind reluctant family members that wearing a mask shows caring, and that it protects them and others from droplets that can transmit COVID-19. We’ve learned that transmission can occur with or without symptoms. Masks also prevent you from touching your own mouth and nose with hands that may be unclean. Be sure that your mask covers your nose and mouth; return to wearing a mask after eating or drinking.

Show you care, at a distance

Spruce up an outdoor patio with seasonal decorations, heaters and blankets or, if regional regulations permit, space out a small number of guests indoors, always ensuring that people stay two metres (six feet) apart.

Remind family members to stay home if they have travelled outside the country within 14 days, are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or are feeling even slightly unwell. Keeping everyone safe is more important than seeing everyone for a few hours: even your closest family members may be exposed to a large number of people outside your own bubble. (Check the latest regional guidelines about social circles or bubbles.) If a get-together has to be cancelled this year, why not get creative to stay connected: ask extended family members and friends to send lively pre-recorded video greetings to each other, complete with festive hats, banners or signs.

Feast smart

Savoury roasted turkey, butter-laced mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole and fragrant stuffing — every family has favourite holiday recipes. Luckily, you can still enjoy them during COVID-19 using safe serving tips. With clean hands, for example, pre-plate dinner or lunch and serve it with disposable cutlery and holiday napkins: that way you avoid buffets and shared serving utensils that could spread the novel coronavirus. Get more COVID-19 entertaining at home tips from Gary McBlain, a Red Seal Chef and Amica’s National Director of Culinary Services, in this recent article and video.

Spread the holiday love

Although we may not be able to gather with extended family and friends this year, we can be more imaginative about sharing holiday spirit near and far during COVID-19. Brighten someone’s day by sending colourful seasonal flowers, a holiday cake, animated holiday cards, children’s artwork, a pre-recorded holiday song or message or treasured photos from holidays past. Or, go all out and organize a drive-by Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter car parade with homemade signs and streamers for someone who is sick at home. Everyone can agree that keeping our loved ones safe is the best holiday gift of all.

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