Mother and baby in Santa hats on a video call

For the winter months ahead, many people are focused on having a safe COVID holiday season.

While the holidays will look a little different this year, there are many things you can do to keep up the spirit of the season without putting your safety at risk.

COVID Christmas and Holiday Travel

Though traveling during the holiday season is typically a given, traveling increases your chances of contracting coronavirus. It can also increase the spread from one community to another.

Currently, there is a travel advisory in place that advises Marylanders to avoid travel to and from states with a 10 percent positivity rate or higher. If you choose to travel to or from states above that threshold, you must get tested and self-quarantine before returning.

Safest Travel Choice

From what we know about how the coronavirus spreads, the safest choice is to stay home when you can. This is especially important if you or someone you love are at high risk of severe symptoms from the virus.

You also shouldn't travel if you're feeling sick, exhibiting coronavirus symptoms, had a positive coronavirus test or were exposed to someone with the virus.

Safe COVID Holiday Activities

Preserving as many traditions as you can safely helps your holiday feel normal, but you can make new holiday traditions, too. Here are some ways to feel close to your loved ones without sacrificing the holiday spirit.

Virtual Religious Services

While religious services or celebrations are an important part of the holiday season for many, religious celebrations during the pandemic may be carried out differently. Yet these new ways of worshiping can be just as meaningful.

Currently, Maryland allows houses of worship to be filled to 50 percent capacity (though local jurisdictions may restrict capacity more). This has prompted churches, synagogues and mosques to come up with online video options to reach all their congregants safely.

Taking advantage of these virtual options could also be an opportunity to try a new church or experience services with friends and family of different faiths. 

Deck the Halls

If you're serious about holiday decorating, then 2020 is your year to shine. No matter which winter holidays you celebrate, make an event of decorating your home both inside and out and, if you can, go a step further this year. You can even take a walk with your family around the neighborhood to take in all of the holiday cheer at a safe distance. 

Enjoy a Drive-Through Light Display

Every year, some neighborhoods and parks across Maryland put on stellar light shows for the holidays. Because these displays often take place outdoors, this can be a safe way to get into the holiday spirit. The ideal scenario is to enjoy the show from the safety and comfort of your car, where you can maintain distance from others.

Participate in Outdoor Activities

There are many winter outdoor activities that you can enjoy this holiday season. This is a great way to get some extra vitamin D and fit in some physical activity, both of which can help you manage stress during this difficult time. It can also help you fight pandemic fatigue.  

Exchange Gifts

Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa all have traditions around exchanging gifts. Luckily, you can safely do this with people from your household and mail gifts to people who live elsewhere. It's safest to shop for gifts online this year when possible. However, be sure not to purchase gifts that aggravate financial stress, which can be a detriment to your mental health.

Create an Advent Calendar

Advent calendars have their roots in Christian tradition and can be used in a religious context, but people of many faiths use them today. They are popular because they give you something to look forward to every day. Instead of filling your advent calendar with sweet treats this year, fill it with slips of paper that have a different activity on them each day. There are many COVID-safe activities for winter that you can try and creative ways to stay connected with people outside of your household. This will give you and your family interesting ways to spend time together and try new things. 

Host a Virtual Holiday Meal

Want to enjoy the feel of a large holiday gathering without the risk? Host a virtual holiday meal. Set up a laptop at the table and dig in while enjoying great conversation with your loved ones!

You can also host video calls before or after your meal so that you can have more intimate conversations with people you love. Be sure to think about inviting someone who might be alone for the holiday to your virtual gathering.

A Holiday Season like no other info graphic with information about how to stay safe this holiday season

Have a COVID-Safe Holiday

Remind family and friends about how to stay safe this holiday season by printing this holiday placemat with tips and safety strategies for the pandemic. For a little extra fun, print the black-and-white version and color it yourself!

Celebrating New Year's

2020 may be coming to an end, but coronavirus is still a threat. Adjusting your New Year's plans will be essential. Avoiding house parties and other gatherings is the safest option. You can celebrate with members of your household and enjoy the traditional New Year's activities from the comfort of your home, such as watching the socially distanced activities at Times Square on television.

Reviewed on 12/3/2020.