The new rules for celebrating Christmas and New Years together

Many people will hang out at parties with an elderly parent, grandparent, or others who are at high risk. The key to a safer celebration is this: plan the celebration with the most vulnerable person in the gathering in mind.

People at high risk may feel more comfortable wearing masks and asking others to wear them too.

Here’s what you need to know:

Communicate the ground rules

People have different levels of comfort when it comes to covid-19. So be direct and clear in your invitation about your levels.

“The best host is the one who provides the most information,” said Mary Giuliani, a catering entrepreneur in Manhattan. “The more information the better.” And he added: “We are all re-entering in different phases. I find that it is actually useful to establish in detail what is going to happen at the party ”.

If the party is indoors, will the windows be open? If so, remind guests to bring a sweater. If the event will be without a mask, notify the guests before they arrive. Set your vaccination rules too. If you plan to restrict the guest list to those who are fully vaccinated, tell the guests and explain how you will enforce that policy. Will you trust them or will you check the vaccination cards at the door?

Many larger event hosts have required guests to undergo a PCR or rapid covid-19 test before the party and bring their results with them. You can set the same rules for a smaller gathering or just suggest tryouts before the party; especially if some of your guests are at higher risk of serious illness.

“You can just say to people, ‘Right beforehand, let’s get all the exams so we can feel comfortable, comfortable and able to hang out together,'” said Amanda Hudes, a wedding and event planner in New Jersey.

The space to socialize

Create an environment that feels spacious so guests can spread out. If you have outdoor space, make it accessible, even if the party is largely indoors. Install a fire pit or outdoor heaters and have seating available so people can breathe fresh air. If you’re planning an indoor dinner, don’t clutter the tables and group people based on their homes or their closest friends, rather than mixing them up.

Create corners in the space where people can comfortably stay alone or with another person without feeling like they are hiding.

“It’s a good idea to have the chairs separated a bit, have disinfectants available and open some windows,” Hudes said. “Whatever keeps the air flowing and people really feel good and comfortable with each other and they can just have fun again.”

Remember hygiene with subtlety

As tempting as it may be to set up a table with cold cuts, it’s wise to avoid shared dishes. Instead, offer each guest an individual plate or box of appetizers. “You can have crackers, cheese, salami, whatever you want to put. And you wrap it with a nice bow, ”says Kertzner.

Instead of serving mixed drinks, offer individual cans of beer, wine, or soda water. With a wide selection, your guests will be happy and you will have fewer glasses to wash at the end of the night.

Place bottles of hand sanitizer to make guests comfortable. Leave some paper towels in the bathrooms to dry your hands after washing. And even if you’re hosting an event without a mask, put out a basket of disposable masks, just in case someone is feeling anxious overnight.

“Keep it simple,” Kertzner said. “If in the end it turns out that you want a mask, here you will have a mask.”

And so you can celebrate your party.

More tips

  • Before the party, check in with everyone to find out if they are taking the same daily precautions as you (like wearing masks and avoiding crowded places).
  • Having less contact with people who don’t live with you will lower your risk of getting COVID-19 before the party.
  • If you’ve been invited to other end-of-the-year gatherings, consider skipping those events, especially if the family reunion will be with your grandmother or someone else at high risk.
  • Having a New Year’s Eve celebration with few people is a good way to minimize risks. When the gathering is limited to only people living in two houses, it is easier to track risky behavior and potential exposures. If you are three or more families, it sounds fun, but remember that when family and friends who live in multiple houses get together, it creates more opportunities for the virus to infiltrate. This does not mean that large families should not spend time together.
  • Improve ventilation by opening windows and using exhaust fans. If possible, place portable air purifiers in the rooms where the meeting will be held.

If you travel

  • Avoid crowds and keep your distance in lines, use hand sanitizer gel and avoid touching your face.
  • Consider canceling invitations your children have to play with friends, parties around this time, and indoor meals in the previous week, especially if you live in a high-risk location for COVID-19.
  • It is still a good idea to wear a mask in public spaces, even if you are vaccinated.
  • If you are going to a place with a lot of covid infections, you should take extra precautions. Avoid eating indoors, especially if someone in your group is at high risk.
  • Stay tuned for the local situation regarding covid-19 as you would with the weather.
  • Be sure to wear a mask and keep your distance if you are heading into an area where cases and spread are high and vaccination rates are low.
  • If you live in an area with a high risk of contagion of covid-19, the possibility of carrying the coronavirus with you when you travel is high.

* This is an excerpt from articles by Ronda Kaysen and Tara Parker-Pope and Kenneth Chang c.2021 The New York Times Company

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