6 Women on How They’re Adapting Holiday Plans to be COVID-Safe
‘My daughter and her husband will travel from house to house, doing contact-less pick-ups and deliveries — they’ll be Mr. and Mrs. Claus, and their trusty SUV will be the sleigh.’
A different holiday season
Like everything else in 2020, this holiday season is unlike any other. COVID-19 restrictions have made normal traditions, like travelling to be with family, gathering around a big festive meal, and exchanging gifts a no-go. Instead, families all around Canada are adapting their holiday plans to be virtual, or socially distanced, or way way smaller to keep their loved ones safe.
Here are 6 Canadian women on how they’re adapting their long-standing holiday traditions to be COVID-safe.
Arinn Dembo, 50, Vancouver, B.C.
“Normally our large extended family, four households and family friends from around the Lower Mainland [in B.C.], gathers together in one house on the holidays. We prepare a big meal together, exchange gifts, watch holiday movies, and spend the day with hugs, cuddles, and conversation. It’s very high contact and involves 10-15 people in close quarters.
Obviously, that isn’t possible now. Instead of meeting in-person this year, my daughter and her husband will travel from house to house on Christmas Day, doing contact-less Christmas pick-up and delivery of the gifts, cards and treats. Essentially, she and her husband will be Mr. and Mrs. Claus, and their trusty SUV will be the sleigh. We’re going to Zoom or conference-call our gift opening, and each house will make their own little supper over the course of the day. Those of us who have the energy can stream our holiday movies together, too.
I am stubbornly hopeful. I am still sad, scared and angry about the sacrifices we make to fight this disease. But there will come a day when the disease is no longer rampant. When that day comes, I want everyone I love to still be here. There is no way I’d trade one holiday gathering for all the years we have yet to come.”
Nadia Ali, 32, Toronto, Ont.
“My holiday season usually begins in September—I tend to start listening to Christmas carols around then. By October, I’m in planning mode and I usually create a holiday calendar with different activities from the Santa Claus parade to skating. So, the holidays are a really big season for me.
This year, a lot of the Christmas markets and big [events] are closed. So, we’re going to stay home and call our families virtually. We also went above and beyond with the decorations. Luckily, before the second lockdown [in Ontario] was implemented, we went up to Niagara-on-the-Lake for a walk and we went to this Christmas store and bought some new decorations. So, a new tradition for us is going to be to go back there every year and get some holiday decorations for the house. We’re leaning in to anything we can do at home, like playing board games. We’re trying to really build new traditions at home.”
(Related: 14 Ways to Celebrate the Holidays at Home)
Chantel Ouellet, 25, Midland, Ont.
“The biggest change is that we’re not traveling or having guests over. This is the first Christmas in my life that I can remember not getting on a plane or picking people up from an airport. It’s a huge contrast to last year when 30-ish family members flew into my parent’s house from across the United States and Canada. This year, we will be doing a family Zoom call. We considered trying to make it safe for my grandparents to join us on the actual day of Christmas but with the current spike [in cases], we decided against it.
My household is really embracing the small nuclear Christmas. We have puzzle advent calendars which seems very 2020. My brother and I do a puzzle and listen to Christmas music in the mornings, and we’ve been baking a lot. Basically, all the cliche COVID things but with a holiday spin!”
(Related: How to Start 2021 off on the Right Foot)
Vinnie Jain, 29, Toronto, Ont.
“I usually visit my extended family in Ottawa for Christmas, where we get together and exchange Christmas presents. Or I visit my mother in Abu Dhabi for holidays. This year, we’re sending online gifts with a personalized message.
The food, of course, won’t be the same. I live by myself in Toronto, so I’m not sure if I want to [make a whole meal]. I’ll probably end up just buying something [ready-made] instead of cooking everything on my own. Maybe I’ll just bake a small cake for myself or something, but yeah. It’s a little sad to be by yourself during the holidays. The Christmas spirit is all about meeting up with people, hugging them, and you know, being grateful for all that we have. It’s an excuse to actually get together. But the biggest thing is just the fact that everyone’s safe and happy and alive.”
Sandra Luscombe, 57, St. John’s, NL
“We usually have a party with about a hundred people at our house to start off the Christmas season—all the different people from our choir, our friends and family are invited. I work in a hospital, so I usually have all of my staff over to my house for a party too. Of course, this year, we won’t be able to do that.
At the beginning of December, since I knew I couldn’t see my sisters, I sent them some jam advent calendars [from Bon Maman], so they could have a nice build-up to Christmas. On Christmas day, we’re going to do a big virtual Christmas with [my husband’s brother] in Ontario, who would usually come to St. John’s over the holidays. We’ll have a smaller Christmas here in the house with my husband and three kids and dog. We have a couple families that we are bubbled with who we’re going to do a special fondue night with. So, we’re still trying to have activities, but it is very different than it would be.”
Kristin Kelly, 23, Waterloo, Ont.
“We’re a small family, so seeing the extended family is the biggest thing we do every year. I also always look forward to being able to see old friends over the holidays. I love volunteering over Christmas too, so it’s weird because a lot of these nostalgic things aren’t happening this year. It’s sad because this is the one time of year I get to a lot of people, and that’s not going to happen. Obviously, it’s nice to have FaceTime and Zoom, but it’s hard to replicate being able to see people in-person.
I’ve been trying to focus on doing what I can at home. I want to bake some Christmas cookies. We did some decorating around the house. At work, we’re going to have like a holiday Christmas cocktail-making party virtually to make up for the usual Christmas party. Just finding ways that I can still engage with people and get excited about it, you know?”
Interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.