When I woke up this morning and looked outside, there was “frost on the pumpkins” as my grandparents would say. That phrase meant a lot to me growing up: fall is in full swing; hunting seasons have begun (and the weather is just perfect); and the holidays are fast approaching. While drinking my coffee, I took in the view of my back yard too where I also noticed the “frost on my deck furniture”. Mind you, the deck furniture should have been tucked away for winter already, but as most of us can attest, this hasn’t been a normal year. So why do I still have my deck set up like it is June? My in-laws, of course.
Heather’s parents, Dave & Connie, have been living in Colorado for the past 23 years. Connie is having some health issues and Dave thought it best for them to not stay on their mountain with the 10+ feet of snow they get annually. They are wintering here in Ohio (I know: who “winters” in Ohio?) and we are lucky to have them just a few miles from our house. That being said, we still have to deal with Covid, thus the need for deck furniture to still accommodate guests. Heck, Heather has even purchased the outdoor heaters to extend our outdoor gatherings. With Thanksgiving less than two weeks away, we are forced to consider a new question: How does one enjoy the holidays during a pandemic?
At the time of year when we want to be closest to our loved ones, Covid-19 is still making it difficult to spend time together. Public health officials warn that indoor events pose a far greater risk of spreading the disease. Many of the people we're most anxious to see, such as grandparents and other older relatives, are the most vulnerable.
Still, as we near the end of a long and challenging year, we all have so much to be thankful for. Here are some tips I came across on how to enjoy these holidays while also preparing for a (hopefully) merrier 2021.
- Don't assume everyone is healthy.
One reason Covid-19 has been so hard to contain is many people don't realize they have it. In particular, asymptomatic youth sometimes don't experience coughs, fevers, or other flu-like symptoms. Even if your state has low levels of infection, out-of-town guests might be travelling from -- or through -- virus hot spots.
- Set clear guidelines for in-person events.
The same rules that you've been following for outdoor events are even more important when you gather inside: social distance, masks, and lots of hand washing. Try to limit your guest list so that everyone has space. Consider setting up pre-portioned plates to everyone versus family-style serving.
More importantly, make sure that your guests understand and agree to the rules your party will be following. Holiday get-togethers can be stressful enough without arguing about masks and whether the kids can hug grandma.
To review the CDC's recommendations on holiday gatherings during Covid-19, click here.
- Create meaningful experiences.
Virtual holiday activities can add a little extra fun to your regular Zoom routine. Plan ahead and move the annual Thanksgiving trivia contest online. Distribute Secret Santa names earlier so everyone has enough time to use the mail. Gifts from the heart might be particularly meaningful this year, so get going on baking cookies, knitting mittens, and printing family photo albums.
Parents have a tough task if they are keeping their families inside their household bubbles for the holidays. There's no replacing a beloved family party, but this might be a year to start some new traditions. Have your kids ever made a gingerbread house or strung popcorn? Are they old enough to start helping with decorations or wrapping presents?
Also check on how community events have adapted to Covid-19. Outdoor markets and drive-through light displays can give your family a chance to step outside your bubble safely while enjoying some holiday cheer.
- Start looking ahead.
In recent weeks, we've received very promising news on Covid-19 vaccines. Caution during the winter months combined with ongoing medical progress could very well lead to a more normal 2021.
As you're huddled together virtually or sipping eggnog six feet apart, you and your family can start making plans to catch up for lost time, missed parties, rescheduled vacations, and less-than-ideal holiday celebrations. Block off some calendar space for your next family event. Brainstorm flexible options that you can adapt around future health and travel concerns. Getting excited about all the special times that are still ahead will bring your family closer together no matter how far apart you are right now.
However you choose to celebrate, I hope that your holidays are happy and safe.
Please remember that we are “here” and available for you. If you have any questions or concerns, financial or otherwise, please do not hesitate to call or email. If you have friends, family, or neighbors you feel would benefit from a conversation with me, I’m more than happy to have a call or jump on a Zoom meeting with them.
As always, I hope that you are doing well, and staying safe & healthy!