COVID-19: Plan a safe holiday or celebration
Safety advice to reduce your risk and help prevent the spread of COVID-19 during holidays and celebrations.
On this page
- Follow advice from your local public health authority
- When to stay home and away from others
- Think about the risks
- Safety precautions at gatherings
- Holiday travel
- Shopping during the holidays
- Mental health during the holidays
Follow advice from your local public health authority
The safest way to celebrate or enjoy the holidays is with members of your immediate household. Your household is anyone who currently lives and shares common spaces in your housing unit. This can include family members as well as roommates or people who are unrelated to you.
You may be planning to take part in a holiday celebration with people outside your immediate household. If so, check with the local public health authority to find out about:
- gathering size limits
- event cancellations
The advice below should be considered with the advice of local public health authorities, not as a replacement. When making your holiday plans, assess the current COVID-19 activity in your community. This will help you decide if you should postpone, cancel or change your plans.
When to stay home and away from others
Stay home and away from others if you or a member of your immediate household:
- have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are waiting for the results of a lab test for COVID-19
- have been in close contact with someone who has or is suspected to have COVID-19
- are in quarantine or isolation
- feel sick or have any symptoms of COVID-19, even if mild
- have returned from travel outside Canada within the past 14 days
- have returned from travel inside Canada to a province or territory that has quarantine requirements
Think about the risks
Check your personal risk level and the risk level of your immediate household. Consider whether the activities you’re planning to take part in are safe. If you’re planning on going out during the holidays or for a celebration, plan lower-risk activities.
No matter your level of risk, show kindness and respect to others by following public health measures. For everyone’s wellbeing, help limit the spread of COVID-19 during holidays and celebrations.
Examples of lower-risk settings and activities include:
- indoor celebrations with members of your immediate household
- charity food or gift drives where organizers take appropriate precautions to reduce the risk of spread
- virtual holiday and religious celebrations
- drop-off or physically distanced doorstep gift exchanges
- outdoor celebrations in open spaces where people can consistently maintain at least 2-metres of physical distance
In-person gatherings or celebrations with people outside your immediate household are higher-risk activities. If local in-person gatherings are allowed in your area, ensure proper safety measures are in place to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Examples of higher-risk settings and activities include:
- close interactions with people outside your immediate household, particularly:
- in closed spaces with poor ventilation
- in crowded places where many people are gathered
- when in close-contact, such as close range conversations
- when singing, shouting or breathing heavily (for example, while dancing)
- gathering with people from different communities, particularly those from areas with high COVID-19 activity
- travelling to or from areas with high COVID-19 activity
- dining with members outside your immediate household
People at risk of more severe disease
If you’re at risk of more severe disease or outcomes from COVID-19:
- avoid higher-risk settings and activities
- consider how you can safely celebrate during the holidays, while maintaining social connections that are important for your mental health
Consider limiting your use of alcohol and drugs. Substance use may cloud your judgement and limit your ability to follow public health measures.
Safety precautions at gatherings
You should keep holiday gatherings and celebrations within your immediate household. Know how to limit the spread of COVID-19 if:
- your public health authority allows it and
- you choose to gather with those outside of your immediate household
Before and after gathering
Limit non-essential travel and activities 14 days before attending planned gatherings or celebrations to reduce:
- your risk of exposure to COVID-19
- the risk of exposing others to COVID-19
Those returning home for the holidays, like university or college students, need to consider what steps they can take to protect themselves and loved ones.
Self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 before and after gathering. If you show symptoms:
If you’re the host
If you’re usually the host for celebrations and holidays, it’s okay if you’d prefer to protect yourself and those in your household. Let your loved ones know ahead of time if you don’t feel comfortable gathering.
Should you want to proceed with hosting a celebration, follow public health measures to limit spread.
- Check with your local public health authority on gathering size limits.
- Have a gathering that’s as small as possible to keep everyone safer.
- Ensure that you have enough space so guests can consistently keep 2 metres apart.
- Ask guests to take a COVID-19 self-assessment before attending your celebration.
- Have a plan for how you’ll safely care for any guests who become sick during your gathering.
Have everyone wear a non-medical mask in shared indoor spaces. Masks should only be removed while eating and drinking. A 2-metre distance must be kept from others while masks are removed for this purpose.
Food and drink
- If sharing a meal, ensure a 2-metre distance can be maintained between members of different households.
- Have separate tables for each household if necessary.
- Serve pre-portioned appetizers, rather than dips and shared snack bowls that many people will touch.
Noise levels and ventilation
- Keep noise levels low (for example lowering music volumes), so guests can hear each other without needing to speak loudly or shout.
- Open windows (as weather permits) to allow for fresh air and to increase airflow.
Canadian citizens and permanent residents should avoid non-essential travel outside Canada until further notice to limit the spread of COVID-19. If you must travel outside Canada during the holidays, check the latest travel advice before you leave to reduce your risk. Public health measures may be less strict than in Canada, putting you at greater risk of infection while abroad.
Consider avoiding all non-essential trips within Canada, especially to areas that may have more COVID-19 spreading in communities. If you live in one of these areas, avoid travelling to celebrations.
If you must travel within Canada, check with the public health authority at your final destination for more information on travel restrictions. Also consider the risks associated with your mode of transportation and take steps to limit spread.
- Travel with members of your immediate household.
- Avoid long car trips with multiple stops along the way.
- Wear a non-medical mask.
- Avoid commuting during peak hours.
- Follow visual cues and signage to ensure physical distancing.
Rideshare, taxi or limo service
- Wear a non-medical mask.
- Keep your window open if possible.
- Sit in the back seat, away from the driver.
- Avoid layovers.
- Learn about the travel advice you’ll need to follow from the Government of Canada and your airline before boarding.
Shopping during the holidays
Follow standard COVID-19 safety measures while shopping in public spaces. Wherever possible, shop online or use curbside pickup to reduce your risk of exposure. If you do shop in person:
- plan ahead to avoid crowds
- limit the number of people who shop with you when possible
Mental health during the holidays
Feelings of stress are common during the holidays and may be amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic. While it’s normal to feel a range of emotions during this time, you may be experiencing:
- worry about finances and gift-giving
- sadness about breaking important family traditions or being away from loved ones
- fear of getting sick with COVID-19 or of making others sick
- family conflict resulting from differences in risk comfort level
Take care of your mental health. Try reaching out to a supportive friend or family member to talk about any difficult emotions you may be feeling.
Know that it’s okay to skip family gatherings to protect yourself, your family and your community.
Let your loved ones know ahead of time if you don’t feel comfortable gathering. Stay virtually connected to your friends and family through:
- phone and video calls
- text messages
If you live alone, consider spending the holidays with another household. Think about the risks and follow gathering precautions.
If you can, limit your use of substances. If you do use substances, consider ways to reduce your health risks.
- Canada’s low-risk alcohol drinking guidelines
- 10 ways to reduce risks to your health when using cannabis (PDF)
Use the Wellness Together Canada Portal for help if you’re experiencing social, mental health, emotional or substance use challenges.
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