You can give the best present ever to yourself, your family and friends, your community, your country and this earth by planning a safe celebration. It isn’t very difficult, and it doesn’t mean you won’t get to see your loved ones.

Lots of intelligent, educated people, experts in medicine and epidemiology, have brainstormed ways to be both merry and safe during the holidays.

Beware of False Either-Ors

An interview with one of these experts (which I wish I could find again but so far have not) stated that the idea that we must choose between minimizing cases of COVID-19, on the one hand, or a healthy economy, on the other hand, is false. On the contrary, taking the precautions to reduce the number of cases ASAP is the way to get the economy back on track ASAP. Large numbers of COVID-19 cases are, in themselves, a threat to the economy.

To take just one example, when hospitals are completely overwhelmed with critically ill patients, they can’t do elective surgeries. Elective procedures are what keeps hospitals solvent. Keep the hospitals overwhelmed, and we’ll soon see hospitals forced to close.

More generally, while a few people attending large gatherings without masks or proper distancing can spread a lot of disease, much larger numbers are staying home as much as possible, ordering things for delivery rather than shopping in person, watching video streams instead of going to theaters, etc. They will continue to do so, not just till the vaccines are available, but until the numbers of cases are so low that danger is negligible. The sooner it’s safe, the sooner they will go out for dining, shopping and entertainment.

A perfect example of how minimizing cases gets an economy on track quickly is the way that New Zealand eliminated COVID-19 in record time and returned to normal business in record time.

So please don’t celebrate in crowded night clubs and restaurants or big private parties, telling yourself that you’re helping the economy.

Rest assured that there are safe ways to have happy holidays.

The Holiday Bubble

Here’s a short video on what a Baylor College of Medicine doctor calls “the holiday bubble.” The general idea is to keep your gathering small, preferably immediate family. (I have suggestions for other friends and distant relatives below.) Everyone who intends to be there should avoid gatherings for two weeks before the event. A gathering can include three or four people riding in a car together for an extended period of time, a party, dining out (even outdoors), theater, etc.

So beginning two weeks ahead, stay to yourself as much as you can. Try to order groceries and other goods for pick up or delivery. Wear your mask and keep six feet distance if you must go into a grocery, pharmacy or other place of business. Either don’t travel by public transportation, such as plane or train, or get tested if you do.

Enhancing Your Bubble

Here are some other ideas I have read for keeping your small family bubble gathering safe:

  • Of course, everyone should wear their masks, except while eating and drinking, and stay six feet apart whether eating or not. Don’t gang around one dining table. Rather, have food that people can eat on their laps or on trays or smaller tables, and spread out.
  • If weather permits, eat outdoors. If the weather isn’t good enough to eat outdoors, but is good enough to open windows, do that.
  • Keep the party shorter. A few hours, rather than the better part of a day.
  • Be mindful of things everyone tends to touch. For example, everyone pets the pets. Be sure and wash hands before handling food, passing out presents, or the like.
  • Don’t lay out open serving dishes. Rather, serve food in covered dishes or, for example, a slow cooker. Always replace lids immediately after removing food. And of course, everyone washes their hands before handling dish lids, serving spoons, etc. In fact, wash or sanitize your hands frequently throughout the event.
  • And an idea of my own: Let one masked person wash their hands, serve the food onto each plate and carry the plate to the person it’s intended for.

Extend the Holidays

You can see extended family and friends without seeing all of them at the same time in the same place. One of the things I miss about my childhood holiday seasons is that we didn’t put the Christmas decorations up the day after Thanksgiving and take them down on Christmas Day. Christmas was a season. We decorated a few weeks after Thanksgiving. On Christmas, we had our nuclear family dinner and presents. On other days until New Year’s, or even until Twelfth Night, we visited our aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and neighbors, and they visited us. You can do that with your extended family and friends, visit on different days and in smaller numbers. And of course, wear masks and maintain distance. Not only will you remain safer, you’ll have a longer and more enjoyable celebratory season.

Season’s Greetings

And let me take this opportunity to thank all of you who follow this blog and give me feedback. I am especially grateful for your patience with my less-frequent posting during this past year after dealing with my flooded apartment, then playing catch up drafting my new book (which BTW is coming along nicely).

I wish you all the happiest of holiday seasons and the best of 2021. Let’s hope at least about half of the new year will see COVID-19 cases reduced so low by proper precautions and vaccines, that we can return to more normal lives.