Christmas will look a little different this year, just like everything else during the coronavirus epidemic. For many families, Thanksgiving was a smaller event than usual, with families staying at home to avoid spreading the virus.
Experts recommend that people take similar precautions during the Christmas season, asking that people try to modify traditional activities and avoid large gatherings to keep themselves and others safe.
"Outdoor activities are generally safe," said Dr. Dean Winslow, an infectious disease doctor and professor of medicine at the Stanford University Medical Center in Stanford, California. "They're not zero risk but lower risk, especially if people are wearing face coverings and stay a good six feet apart."
Christmas is NOT cancelled
Winslow recommended activities like taking walks as a family or driving around a neighborhood to look at Christmas lights and other decorations, or engaging in household activities like Christmas movie marathons or baking holiday-themed desserts.
"Those are really nice things and thinking of that brings back very fond memories of raising my own kids," he said. "Basically, try to do things that you can do outdoors and keep your face covered and keep distance from people outside of your family unit. Those things would be relatively low risk."
Avoid big holiday parties
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have issued guidance for the holidays that mirrors previous guidelines for Thanksgiving and other gatherings. According to the CDC, celebrations with members of your own household pose the lowest risk, while in-person gatherings that bring together family members or friends from different households can be more risky.
Health experts have also issued warnings about holiday travel, cautioning that people traveling from different areas of the country could lead to increased spread of the virus.
"Large indoor gatherings where you have people inside your house is where the highest risk is," said Winslow. "I have four children and grandchildren and we're really not going to be able to get together in person this holiday, because it does involve significant traveling ... That is kind of sad but it is safe."
What about Santa?
"Santa is exempt from this because Santa, of all the good qualities, has a lot of good innate immunity," Fauci told USA Today. "...Santa is not going to be spreading any infections to anybody."
Despite that "innate immunity," some of our favorite activities with the famous gift-giver will look a little different this year. Here are some ways kids can have a virtual "nice list" experience:
- This will mark the first time in nearly 160 years that Santa Claus won't be posing for pictures at Macy's — but the department store brand has set up a great virtual option where kids can sign up for visits to "Santaland" at home.
- Some stores and malls are setting up ways for children to take contactless photos, allowing for six feet of distancing between Santa and his guests.
- Sittercity.com is offering free, 50-minute virtual visits.
- Santa: The Experience offers an "elf-guided journey" where kids can explore the North Pole and find out if they made the Nice List during a conversation with Santa.
- Parents looking for something shorter can set up a "JingleRing," where kids can have a short phone conversation or Zoom call with Mr. and Mrs. Claus.
- Other sites, like Cameo, offer personalized visits with Santa.
- Some photo sites like Chatbook make it easy to turn your child's moment with Kris Kringle into a holiday card.
- Kids can also get a good old-fashioned letter from the big guy: As always, the United States Postal Service has instructions on how your child can write a letter to Santa and receive a personalized response.
When Christmas Eve does roll around, the official Santa tracker will still be operating, just as it has for the past 65 years. NORAD confirmed in November that they would still track Santa's path across the globe, and their website is now live with plenty of fun games and virtual activities for kids.