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10 Ways to Keep Your Holiday Gathering Safe During COVID-19

Abby Slutsky enjoys hosting and entertaining during the holidays.

Assigned seats and plastic plates help keep the guests safe.

Assigned seats and plastic plates help keep the guests safe.

Safe and Enjoyable Holiday Gathering

Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and other year-end holidays typically involve family gatherings. For many people, these gatherings will be smaller than they have been in the past due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are hosting a meal-based gathering for family or friends, there are some precautions you can take to help everyone stay safe while you entertain during the holidays.

10 Tips for a Safe Holiday Meal and Gathering

  1. Host the holiday meal in the afternoon.
  2. Assign seating for the holiday gathering.
  3. Make your table as long as possible.
  4. Don't cram everyone at one table.
  5. Plate the holiday food in the kitchen.
  6. Use pretty plastic or paper plates.
  7. Prepare individual condiment cups.
  8. Eat in shifts.
  9. For Christmas or Hanukkah, open gifts at home.
  10. Make sanitizer and wipes available.

1. Host Your Christmas, Thanksgiving, or Hanukkah Meal in the Afternoon

Hosting your party in the afternoon is preferable for a few reasons:

  • The weather may be mild enough so that you can have most or all of the party outside, so you may be able to take advantage of the fresh air to help guests stay safe.
  • People tend to drink less in the afternoon, so there will be less likelihood of your guests using poor judgment and getting too close to each other.
  • If your garage is clean and you are having a small number of people, consider taking the car out, decorating the garage for Hanukkah, Thanksgiving, or Christmas, and converting it into a makeshift dining area. You will be able to keep the garage door partially or fully open to allow extra ventilation and air circulation.

2. Help Guests Stay Safe by Assigning Seats for Your Holiday Gathering

Rather than having everyone sit around the living room chatting before the Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner is served, assign each guest a specific seat to use the entire evening. Encourage guests to remain in their seats unless they need to use the restroom.

If desired, cover the seats with towels or sheets. After your guests leave, you can use gloves to remove them and put them in the washing machine. This may help prevent germs from getting on your furniture.

3. Extend Your Table to Its Longest Length

It is likely that your holiday celebration will be limited to family members and be a little smaller than in past years. Even if you do not need to extend your dining room table to its longest length, do so anyway.

The extra length can promote holiday safety because it allows you to space your guests farther apart while they eat. If possible, try to leave at least a seat or two between guests. Seat people who live in the same household near each other. Try to put seniors in seats that are farthest from guests that socialize the most frequently.

4. Don't Cram Everyone at One Table—Use Multiple Tables to Maximize Social Distancing

Don’t limit yourself to serving all the guests at the dining room or kitchen table. Set up card tables at various places in the house, and put members of the same household at each table.

You may be able to fit a table in your downstairs home office or foyer. Play festive Christmas or holiday music and encourage conversation by texting or phone if everyone is unable to be in the same room.

5. Plate the Holiday Food in the Kitchen

Increase holiday guests' safety by minimizing the number of people breathing on the Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, or Christmas food by plating it in the kitchen instead of putting it on serving platters. As host, you can wear a mask to plate it.

Prior to serving, ask each person what they want so that you will be able to give everyone their favorites. Consider texting everyone the menu in advance and asking them to let you know what they want before they come. Alternatively, you can tell everyone about the menu when they arrive, and they can text you what they want from their seats.

6. Use Pretty Plastic or Paper Plates

Not only will attractive disposable plates make your meal easier to clean up, but you will also minimize the chances of coming into contact with your guests' germs. I use the BalsaCircle 11-inch square plates with silver trim. (Gold trim is available too.) These sturdy, festive plates have a slight slope, so gravies or sauces naturally slide towards the plate instead of sloshing out when you are transporting them from the kitchen to the table. I usually purchase the dessert and main course sizes. At the end of the meal, let each person put their plate in the trash.

Skip passing bottles of condiments and give everyone individual portions on their plates.

Skip passing bottles of condiments and give everyone individual portions on their plates.

7. Minimize Germs Spreading by Preparing Individual Condiment Cups

Use small muffin papers or dishes to give guests individual condiments. The fewer items passed at the table, the less likely germs are to spread. You can ask guests which condiments they want so you can include them on their plates.

8. Eat in Shifts to Promote Safety and Social Distancing

If you have a small place, and the number of people you want to entertain is large for your space, consider hosting the Christmas, Thanksgiving, or Hanukkah meal in shifts. It is easy to keep side dishes and main courses warm on a low setting in the oven.

Invite half of your holiday guests to come at one time and half to come at another. This allows you to keep guests socially distant, and it only takes a few minutes to re-set a table.

If you are eating in shifts, give guests a clear start and end time by telling them what you are doing. (If some of your family does not get along, this is a terrific way to entertain and keep everyone safe and happy.)

Use paper plates and a separate tablecloth for each shift. Take out everything in advance, so resetting the table is a snap. Do not forget to replace the towels and sheets on your chairs if you are eating in shifts. (They will also protect your chairs from getting stained, especially if young children are present.)

If you invite your guests in shifts, consider inviting seniors for the early sitting. Many seniors have poor eyesight and may prefer driving when it is light out.

Put Hanukkah or Christmas presents in the recipients' trunks to avoid the temptation of opening them at the family gathering.

Put Hanukkah or Christmas presents in the recipients' trunks to avoid the temptation of opening them at the family gathering.

9. Open Hanukkah or Christmas Gifts at Home

Try to limit the exchange of holiday presents across multiple households or encourage guests to put Hanukkah and Christmas gifts directly into the recipients' car trunks. This will help you avoid unnecessary gift-opening at the party and prevent children from multiple households from touching and playing with new toys at the gathering.

10. Make Sanitizer and Wipes Accessible

Leave a supply of sanitizer and wipes around the house so your guests can easily find and use them as needed.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2020 Abby Slutsky


Abby Slutsky (author) from America on October 02, 2020:

Thank you so much for reading.

Lora Hollings on October 02, 2020:

Thank you, Abby, on how to keep your holiday entertaining safe. They are all great suggestions, to keep guests safe while still being able to celebrate these special times. I really liked the one of keeping the food in the kitchen with the host serving the guests. I will share your wonderful article with others.

Abby Slutsky (author) from America on October 01, 2020:

Thanks so much for reading and sharing your thoughts.

Alyssa from Ohio on October 01, 2020:

What a wonderful list of helpful ideas! I think you've given plenty of options for those who still want to have a family gathering for the holidays, but also want to do it in a safe, mindful way.

Abby Slutsky (author) from America on October 01, 2020:

Yes, that is true. One positive sign. Let's hope it continues.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on October 01, 2020:

Our family members will be small this year and paper plates sound perfect. These are very good suggestions. Fortunately, the number of Covid illnesses are steadily getting lower in our area.

Abby Slutsky (author) from America on October 01, 2020:

So sorry you do not have family nearby. Although it may be safer that way. Wishing you a happy, holiday and safe season. Thanks you for reading.

Virginia Allain from Central Florida on September 30, 2020:

You've put some good thinking to this situation. I'm many states away from my family, so won't be gathering with them anyway. Perhaps we can talk via Zoom after dinner is eaten.