Christmas is going to be different this year, there’s no doubt about it. We all want to see our families without putting their lives in danger and it’s going to require creative solutions. So we’ve put together a guide to hosting a socially distanced Christmas so nobody has to miss out on this year’s festivities.
When President Cyril Ramaphosa said, in no uncertain terms in his mid-December address to the nation, that we have to treat our vulnerable family members’ Christmas 2020 like it may be their last, it was sobering in many ways. At the end of the day, we can’t control what happens between December 26 and Christmas 2021, but family Christmas gatherings have the potential to be super-spreader events that unquestionably put the lives of our elderly parents, grandparents, as well as that uncle with a heart condition at risk. And the last thing you want is to live with the guilt of signing their death sentence.
So what are the solutions to this dilemma? The safest and most extreme measure, of course, is to stay home and just not go out and see the family, but it’s also obviously the least desirable option and the chances of getting the entire family to agree to stay apart without objection are slim. But if you think forward and harness your creative juices, you can strive to reach that middle ground that allows you to enjoy your Christmas while still respecting the grave danger that COVID-19 poses: a socially distanced Christmas. Here are a few ideas to help you get the creative juices flowing:
1. No hugs or handshakes
Touch is such a critical element to expressing affection and when you finally get home and see your mom’s face for the first time in six months, it will break your heart not to give her a hug… but its a sacrifice you’re going to have to make this year and is far better than the alternative of passing on the virus or staying home altogether. In your invitations, be sure to tell everyone that this year we’re going to be bowing or whatever else that doesn’t require physical contact. Bowing is a standard gesture in many Eastern cultures and we’d do well to take our first steps towards integrating it into our culture, given that communicable diseases like this probably aren’t going away.
It should absolutely go without saying that the first rule for your socially distanced Christmas party is to make sure your completely kitted out with sanitizers and other hygienic products. Give every place at the table its own small bottle of hand sanitizers and, if you’d like to have a bit of fun with it, why don’t you create personalised surgical masks by attaching reindeer horns or using fabric marker to paint fun Christmas patterns and add that bit of extra Christmas spirit to your safety protocols.
3. Zoom Table settings
So you’ve got two options here: The outdoor table or Zoom seats.
It’ll never be the same, but if you have a family member that doesn’t want to take the risk of attending, make a plan to create a Zoom-powered (or Skype/WhatsApp/Facebook video calls… whatever your preference may be) table setting for them.
Get phone stands so that they can get a good look at your beautiful table decor that you’ve been working on for months as well as the rest of the smiling faces in the room. Keeping them included in the conversation won’t be easy though. And in terms of food, you can just make your meals a little earlier and, if possible, drop off a serving for grandma a few hours before lunch starts so she can have a better immersed experience and get a little bit of that special festive spirit.
3. Outdoor table
For those who can attend in person, though, we can’t be sitting elbow-to-elbow like every other year. So you’re going to want to make sure that each table setting is at least 6 feet (1.8m) apart on the largest table you can find or, if possible, that people are spread out over several different, smaller tables. It’ll make conversation a little harder, but people tend to break into smaller groups at the long Christmas table anyways, so what are you missing out on really?
You might find that your tables are looking a little bare, but if you stock up on some additional decorations this year, extra Christmas crackers, sprigs of holly and so on, you can fill up some of the empty space on the table (if it’s not occupied by a mountain of food).
Outdoors is always favourable to an indoor setting in the COVID-19 era and, if the weather permits, you should always be favouring the option of an outdoor Christmas lunch/dinner. Poor ventilation indoors, combined with people not wearing masks is a recipe for disaster.
4. Support your local restaurants
Look, I know Christmas is all about homemade meals and nobody wants to be eating take-aways. But there are actually a number of advantages to this. Firstly, it saves you time and effort; Secondly, less dishes and clean-up; and, thirdly, in the spirit of Christmas, a gesture of goodwill would be to lend a hand to the industry that has probably suffered more than any other this time of year. It doesn’t even have to be the whole spread, you can just order starters or one of the deserts from them – any kind of support would go a long way for the struggling small businesses.
5. Consider a Christmas picnic
Yes, Christmas is a time for hearty foods like gammon and roast potatoes and puddings, but take full advantage of the opportunity to change up your menu and ask the family to bring along blankets. They can sit adequate distances apart from one another in your outdoor setting and you can prepare a picnic basket for everyone in lieu of the traditional menu and it can make for a pleasant change of atmosphere that has the added bonus of producing far less dirty dishes.
Catchmyparty created a list of a bunch of very interesting social distancing party food ideas, including picnic lunchboxes and food trays. They also recommend giving your guests personalised glasses so that you don’t make the mistake of mixing them up and almost certainly transmitting the virus.
Yes, Christmas is going to be different this year. And it may well be very difficult to pull off. And there’s no way you’re going to be able to please everybody – yet is that different from any other Christmas really? But when your loved ones’ lives are at stake, you’re practically obligated to host a well-planned, responsible socially distanced Christmas celebration this year. So we trust that all of our readers will be putting every measure in place to stay safe and that our tips can make things a little easier for you.
From all of us at the Essential Millennial, happy holidays!