Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and other year-end holidays typically involve family gatherings. For many people, these gatherings will be smaller than they have been in the past due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are hosting a meal-based gathering for family or friends, there are some precautions you can take to help everyone stay safe while you entertain during the holidays.
10 Tips for a Safe Holiday Meal and Gathering
1. Host Your Christmas, Thanksgiving, or Hanukkah Meal in the Afternoon
Hosting your party in the afternoon is preferable for a few reasons:
- The weather may be mild enough so that you can have most or all of the party outside, so you may be able to take advantage of the fresh air to help guests stay safe.
- People tend to drink less in the afternoon, so there will be less likelihood of your guests using poor judgment and getting too close to each other.
- If your garage is clean and you are having a small number of people, consider taking the car out, decorating the garage for Hanukkah, Thanksgiving, or Christmas, and converting it into a makeshift dining area. You will be able to keep the garage door partially or fully open to allow extra ventilation and air circulation.
2. Help Guests Stay Safe by Assigning Seats for Your Holiday Gathering
Rather than having everyone sit around the living room chatting before the Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner is served, assign each guest a specific seat to use the entire evening. Encourage guests to remain in their seats unless they need to use the restroom.
If desired, cover the seats with towels or sheets. After your guests leave, you can use gloves to remove them and put them in the washing machine. This may help prevent germs from getting on your furniture.
3. Extend Your Table to Its Longest Length
It is likely that your holiday celebration will be limited to family members and be a little smaller than in past years. Even if you do not need to extend your dining room table to its longest length, do so anyway.
The extra length can promote holiday safety because it allows you to space your guests farther apart while they eat. If possible, try to leave at least a seat or two between guests. Seat people who live in the same household near each other. Try to put seniors in seats that are farthest from guests that socialize the most frequently.
4. Don’t Cram Everyone at One Table—Use Multiple Tables to Maximize Social Distancing
Don’t limit yourself to serving all the guests at the dining room or kitchen table. Set up card tables at various places in the house, and put members of the same household at each table.
You may be able to fit a table in your downstairs home office or foyer. Play festive Christmas or holiday music and encourage conversation by texting or phone if everyone is unable to be in the same room.
5. Plate the Holiday Food in the Kitchen
Increase holiday guests’ safety by minimizing the number of people breathing on the Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, or Christmas food by plating it in the kitchen instead of putting it on serving platters. As host, you can wear a mask to plate it.
Prior to serving, ask each person what they want so that you will be able to give everyone their favorites. Consider texting everyone the menu in advance and asking them to let you know what they want before they come. Alternatively, you can tell everyone about the menu when they arrive, and they can text you what they want from their seats.
6. Use Pretty Plastic or Paper Plates
Not only will attractive disposable plates make your meal easier to clean up, but you will also minimize the chances of coming into contact with your guests’ germs. The BalsaCircle 11-inch square plates with silver trim. (Gold trim is available too.) These sturdy, festive plates have a slight slope, so gravies or sauces naturally slide towards the plate instead of sloshing out when you are transporting them from the kitchen to the table. I usually purchase the dessert and main course sizes. At the end of the meal, let each person put their plate in the trash.
7. Minimize Germs Spreading by Preparing Individual Condiment Cups
Use small muffin papers or dishes to give guests individual condiments. The fewer items passed at the table, the less likely germs are to spread. You can ask guests which condiments they want so you can include them on their plates.
8. Eat in Shifts to Promote Safety and Social Distancing
If you have a small place, and the number of people you want to entertain is large for your space, consider hosting the Christmas, Thanksgiving, or Hanukkah meal in shifts. It is easy to keep side dishes and main courses warm on a low setting in the oven.
Invite half of your holiday guests to come at one time and half to come at another. This allows you to keep guests socially distant, and it only takes a few minutes to re-set a table.
If you are eating in shifts, give guests a clear start and end time by telling them what you are doing. (If some of your family does not get along, this is a terrific way to entertain and keep everyone safe and happy.)
Use paper plates and a separate tablecloth for each shift. Take out everything in advance so resetting the table is a snap. Do not forget to replace the towels and sheets on your chairs if you are eating in shifts. (They will also protect your chairs from getting stained, especially if young children will be present.)
If you invite your guests in shifts, consider inviting seniors for the early sitting. Many seniors have poor eyesight and may prefer driving when it is light out.
9. Open Hanukkah or Christmas Gifts at Home
Try to limit the exchange of holiday presents across multiple households, or encourage guests to put Hanukkah and Christmas gifts directly into the recipients’ car trunks. This will help you avoid unnecessary gift-opening at the party and prevent children from multiple households from touching and playing with new toys at the gathering.
10. Make Sanitizer and Wipes Accessible
Leave a supply of sanitizer and wipes around the house so your guests can easily find and use them as needed.