Holidays Traditions Must Change Amid COVID-19


COVID-19 will force many changes to holiday traditions (Courtesy of Flickr).

Just like every other milestone or major event during 2020, the end-of-year holiday season might not be cancelled, but it will be different. In the United States, COVID-19 became rampant at the beginning of spring, when the weather was beginning to warm up. This allowed people to get outside and avoid feeling trapped indoors. Now that we are entering fall and winter, the weather will become cold again and push all gatherings back indoors. 

Due to the warm weather in the spring and summer, many events could be held outside, albeit with a smaller crowd than originally anticipated. Intimate wedding ceremonies, small Fourth of July barbecues and simple dinners with friends could all be enjoyed outside. However, with major holidays that can garner large crowds such as Halloween, Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve approaching, how can families and friends celebrate these holidays while remaining socially distant? 

Halloween is a major event on most college campuses. Our generation likes to celebrate by throwing large costume parties that usually end with a large group of people squished together in a small space. These parties are obviously not advisable with COVID-19, but that does not mean Halloween cannot be celebrated. Small gatherings are still an option. Consider spending this Halloween watching spooky movies with a few friends rather than going out in a large group. 

Luckily, epidemiologists seem less concerned with trick-or-treating than with massive Halloween parties. Sandra Albrecht, assistant professor of epidemiology at Columbia University, told The Guardian that with a few protective measures, such as wearing masks while trick-or-treating or giving out candy, then the tradition should be fairly safe. 

A holiday similar to Halloween that will need to be modified is New Year’s Eve. New Year’s Eve is another holiday where large groups of people gather to party. The CDC offers a few recommendations on how to make holidays that usually bring a large group of people together safe, which can be applied to New Year’s Eve. Limiting the number of people invited, not having people come from far locations, wearing masks and trying to celebrate outdoors are all important recommendations.  

While people may have to make changes in how they celebrate Halloween and New Year’s Eve, another holiday that will look different is Thanksgiving, but for other reasons. Halloween has to look different because of large parties in a tight, enclosed space, but Thanksgiving has an added risk: traveling. 

Thanksgiving usually involves some sort of travel for most families whether by flying, taking a train or driving. Albercht says the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving with loved ones is by video conference

However, since the start of the pandemic seven months ago, many people are experiencing a phenomenon known as Zoom fatigue. Psychiatric Times defines Zoom fatigue as “the tiredness, worry, or burnout associated with overusing virtual platforms of communication.” Using video conferencing for work and catching up with friends for months on end have caused this “burnout.”

Albercht recognizes this feeling and says if families would rather be together for Thanksgiving, they should plan ahead and potentially try to organize a way to be tested beforehand, especially if the gathering includes someone in the high-risk group. 

Another aspect of the holidays that will be different this year is end-of-year travel. While winter traveling plans may seem less important than whether a family can gather for the holidays, there are places that generate a large portion of their income from tourism during the winter months. 

Warm destinations and popular ski resorts are seeing a slowdown of bookings for this winter season, according to The Guardian. This could negatively impact jobs at these locations. 

Airlines are also seeing a slowdown, which according to USA Today, is due to the fear of COVID-19 exposure on airplanes. To entice flyers to book tickets, airline prices are at an all-time low. 

While these changes due to COVID-19 may not be ideal, the most important thing to remember is why we celebrate these holidays in the first place. Halloween can be a fun time to dress up and eat heaps of candy, but it is also an opportunity to have fun with friends, which you can still do in a COVID-19 safe way. New Year’s Eve is always a blast celebrating with friends, but maybe letting 2020 end quietly is not such a bad idea. I can’t deny that I love Thanksgiving food — so much that with an abundance of free time this past spring I decided to make a mock Thanksgiving meal for four people — but the reason to celebrate is to take time to actively acknowledge everything we have to be grateful for, which can be done with any size group. 

Celebrations this year may not be what people originally looked forward to, but the pandemic shall pass. When we come out on the other side, the holidays will still be there to be celebrated and gathering together will be made even more special.    

Jamison Rodgers, FCRH ’24, is an English major from Silver Spring, Md.