This holiday season, due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, things are going to look and feel quite different than what we’re used to. While restrictions vary from place to place, those who reside here in British Columbia are being asked to put a pause on their holiday celebrations and travel plans, and instead stick close to home in effort to help slow the spread of the virus. This means that all non-essential travel should be avoided and that you shouldn’t be going to visit any friends or extended family (whether in or outside of the province), as well as hosting or attending any holiday parties. Because large gatherings such as these are where the highest transmission rates of COVID-19 tend to happen, it’s crucially important that we do everything we can to be as vigilant and proactive as possible in preventing this from happening – and while the restrictions that are currently in place might certainly put a damper on any holiday plans that you did have, there are still unique (and safe) ways you can celebrate the holidays and ring in the new year.

While you may not get that in-person interaction with friends and family this year that you were so looking forward to, there are still other ways in which you can interact with them. One way to do that is by having a virtual gathering via video conferencing by using your computer, tablet, or smart phone. You can pre-plan this by setting a time where everyone can connect, and maybe even cook your holiday meal together, watch a holiday-themed movie, or open gifts together. So, while you might not exactly be spending time together face-to-face, this can still be a fun and unique way to interact with each other.

For families with younger children, it may be difficult for them to understand why they don’t get to visit their grandparents, cousins, or other family members, or spend time with their friends during the Christmas break from school – which is why it’s important to try to keep the holiday season as normal as possible for them. As mentioned above, virtual visits are a great way for kids to keep in touch with friends and family over the holidays. Because social distancing measures can’t be met, many shopping malls have cancelled photos with Santa and are instead offering virtual visits instead. You can also plan fun things to do with kids surrounding the holidays, like driving around your neighbourhood to see light displays, creating fun games that the family can play together, doing holiday baking, etc.

For some individuals, the holidays can already be a tough time of year. Coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic, the uncertainty that surrounds it, and increased isolation, this can make things all the more difficult – and, as a result, some people may develop depression or start to notice an increase in feelings of stress or anxiety. If you know someone who might be struggling during the holidays, set aside time to do a virtual check-in with them to see how they’re doing and let them know you’re there to talk. If you’re someone who happens to be struggling yourself and need someone to talk to, don’t be afraid to reach out to a person you trust.