Hosting this year has been no small feat—and the biggest party season of all is almost here. As much as we’d like for things to be “business as usual” this holiday, planning for Christmas 2021 requires a little more work to keep guests happy and healthy.
Following recommendations from the CDC, we’ve put together some helpful guide to navigating Christmas during Covid this year. From outdoor holiday party ideas to social distancing guidelines, read on for Covid Christmas ideas to make your own Christmas party as safe (and special) as possible.
Check the CDC for real-time Covid Christmas updates
While Christmas will certainly look different this year, that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate Christmas during covid. The key to safe and healthy Covid Christmas plans is to keep them as intimate as possible. Of course, that means crowded indoor gatherings like Christmas Con are off the table. But a small family dinner party? It’s doable! Even though you’ll be inviting a smaller group of guests, sending Covid Christmas invitations will make this holiday feel special. And if you decide not to get together in real life, we have Covid holiday cards you can send in your stead.
“Evergreen Nativity” holiday party invitation by Rifle Paper Co.; “Santa’s Got a Secret” holiday party invitation by Paperless Post.
Throughout the global pandemic, one thing has come to be expected: change. As Covid-19 case numbers rise and fall in your area, it’s best to check the CDC’s website and local guidelines for the most accurate Christmas Covid information. Assessing current case levels in your community can help you best make the right call for how to celebrate Christmas during covid, whether that’s canceling entirely or limiting the number of guests you’re inviting. In addition to community levels of COVID-19, consider your party’s location, the party duration, the number of guests, and from where your guests are traveling.
Send online Christmas invitations
“Dancer” holiday party invitation by Paperless Post.
Share your safety plan ahead of time to keep guests in the loop with online Christmas invitations. Everyone’s comfort level and risk tolerance are different, so transparency is key. Digital Christmas invites let you immediately establish ground rules for your Covid Christmas party, but also message guests should anything change.
Use your holiday party invitation to let guests know what steps you’ve put in place, how many people will be invited, or what social distancing guidelines you’ll be following during the party. The more details you can provide upfront, the better, so guests will know what can expect when they arrive.
A Covid Christmas party needs space
Because indoor gatherings pose more risk than outdoor gatherings, consider hosting Christmas outdoors. If you can’t host outside, choose a well-ventilated space, or open windows and doors as much as possible.
Winterize your backyard
While last year’s to-do list was all about decorating the front yard, this year’s Christmas to-do list is about winterizing the backyard. If you’re planning to host outdoors, investing in the right equipment will go a long way to keep your friend and family comfortable. Keep warm with an outdoor tent, wearable blankets, hot hands, a fire pit, and outdoor heaters. Place blankets on each seat for guests, set up string lights or set out pillar candles to add a dose of hygge.
Serve warming foods and drinks
Stay warm from the inside out with hot cocoa, hot toddies, warm soup, fresh baked goods, or roasted chestnuts. Instead of a serve-yourself hot cocoa or s’ mores stations, provide individual servings. Serve drinks in festive thermoses and flasks (or ask guests to bring their own).
Covid Christmas party ideas
You know where to host and what to serve, now you’re probably wondering, “how to celebrate Christmas during covid?” While cookie decorating and caroling work if you’re just with your household, these outdoor family Christmas activities are better for groups and extra guests.
Outdoor Covid Christmas ideas for kids
S’mores party: Bring your speaker to play a festive soundtrack, light a fire, and set out roasting sticks and individual kits for each guest.
Say hi to Santa Claus: Have Old Saint Nick make an appearance at an outdoor gathering, but skip sitting on his lap this year. Instead, have your mini guests hand Santa their wish list or drop it in his bag. If a member from your household can dress up as Santa instead of hiring someone, even better.
Ice skating party: Perfect for celebrating with your kid’s classmates or larger groups, have families meet you on the ice for a few laps around the rink.
Go to a Christmas tree farm: Christmas tree farms are the pumpkin patches of winter! Find a festive place near you with drinks or activities to make a whole day out of it.
Covid Christmas ideas for adults
Wreath making party: Set up individual stations outdoors where you can get a little messy. Look for all your materials at your local craft store like wreath rings, wire, pine cones, and ribbon.
Bonfire party: If you live in a more rural area, celebrate Christmas around the fire this year with hearty soups and individually prepared snacks.
Winter palace party: Break out your warmest furs (think Dr. Zhivago) serve fresh blinis, caviar, and Stoli for an eventful outdoor party.
Oyster roast: Give your guests a taste of Lowcountry in your own backyard. Build a roasting pit to cook the oysters, and provide sauce in single-use containers.
Host a Covid Christmas drive-by event
One of our favorite social distancing Christmas party ideas is a drive-by party. Stay nice and warm in your car, all while doing something festive. Is there anything better?
Admire the lights: Consider hosting a Christmas caravan or a neighborhood stroll to take in the Christmas lights. Head to the neighborhoods that always go above and beyond or pay your group’s admission to attend a professional light display.
“Norway Spruce” holiday party invitation by John Derian.
Drive-in movie night: Host or attend a Christmas-themed movie night to get in the holiday spirit. BYO popcorn!
Baked goods drop-off: If you’re looking for social distancing Christmas ideas to keep your family busy, try baking! You’ll keep the kiddos occupied all day in the kitchen and then all night driving to friends and family’s houses to drop off your sweet treats. While the baked goods are in the oven, have your little worker bees craft Christmas cards and notes you can attach to each box of goodies.
“Gingerbread Fam” holiday party invitation by Hello!Lucky.
Covid Christmas ideas for small, special gatherings
If you must host indoors, keep your guest list as small as possible, and look for ways to make your intimate gathering feel just as special as a large one.
“Berry Scandi” table available from Social Studies; “In Season” holiday party invitation by Paperless Post.
Set the table: While disposable tableware is best when celebrating with groups outside your household, real dinnerware is fine to use with a small group. Use your micro-party as a chance to do something grand. We love brands like Social Studies that do all the work for you, providing luxe tablescapes you can rent.
Their styled collections make it easy to wow guests and save you time and money from buying seasonal items you won’t use again until next year. We’ve even paired our favorite Social Studies tables with coordinating invitations this year.
“Dark Nordic” table available at Social Studies; “Wild Winter Bouquet” holiday party invitation by Paperless Post.
Use place cards: Even if it’s only your family attending, setting place cards at each plate makes your Christmas dinner feel less like another meal and more like a fancy feast.
Bring the outdoors in: Add nature to your table with pine cones, evergreens, or seasonal citrus.
Keep kids busy: After they wash their hands, give kids a task to keep them busy like folding napkins, making place cards, foraging pine cones, or arranging evergreens.
Set out Christmas crackers: Buy a set online or have little ones help DIY.
Virtual Covid Christmas party ideas for families
While Christmas is all about tradition, with a little creativity (and a strong wifi connection), you can pull off your favorite Christmas celebration ideas during covid, virtually! If you’re unable to get together in person this year, so many holiday ideas can be done over Zoom.
If you’re not sure how to plan virtually, read our complete guide here. No matter what online invitation you choose, any design can work for a virtual Christmas party. Just add a link to your Zoom call or meeting the event’s location field. Invite the whole crew, or celebrate in smaller groups to create a mix of cousins, grandparents, or aunts and uncles. You can also send party hats, decorations, advent calendars, or cookie decorating kits in advance so everyone can celebrate together while apart.
Family Christmas pajamas: Just because you aren’t celebrating in person doesn’t mean you can’t match! Send everyone the same pair of PJs to take a photo of the group on Zoom.
Holiday movie night: Use Netflix Party or another streaming service to watch a Christmas movie together over Zoom.
Game night: Choose a game you can play online together, like charades or team trivia.
Christmas crafting: Encourage kids who may be stuck at home to “help” decorate with paper snowflakes, popcorn tree trimming, or bead and pipe cleaner ornaments.
Virtual cookie decorating party: Send each family a cookie decorating kit or gingerbread house making kit to get creative together on Zoom.
“Against Sweater Judgement” holiday party invitation by Paperless Post.
Stay organized with a Covid Christmas to-do list
Decorations aren’t the only important supplies you’ll need to host a Covid Christmas party this year. Factor in extra cleaning supplies and sanitizers when setting your budget. Make your list and shop early to avoid the holiday rush on essentials like these:
Hand sanitizer: Set up hand sanitizer stations at all entrances or exits, in the kitchen, and in bathrooms. Especially when hosting outside where access to running water is limited, make sure you provide alcohol-based hand sanitizer that’s at least 60% alcohol.
Paper towels: Swap regular hand towels for single-use disposable paper hand towels.
Disposable tableware: Stock up on paper plates, cups, napkins, and serveware.
Face masks: Ask guests to BYO face mask, but have extras on hand if anyone forgets. You can also provide festive Christmas masks as a party favor.
Make it easy for guests to social distance
Along with hosting outdoors or avoiding overnights, there are other ways to minimize exposure and social distance while you’re together.
Skip welcome hugs: Fight the urge to hug friends and family (we know it’s been a while!), and go for elbow bumps instead. If you must hug, wear your mask to limit exposure.
Limit surface exposure: Limit how many surfaces guests have to touch. Wipe down tables. Disinfect surfaces throughout the event.
Separate personal items: Skip the giant pile of coats on your bed this year. Keep coats, bags, and personal items separate when possible.
Wash linens: Wash any reusable linens after each meal, or use hassle-free disposable napkins.
Think about food safety
Food safety is one of the most important parts of how to prepare for Christmas this year. You can still pull off the family feast with a few small tweaks and do so safely!
Instead of family-style, buffet-style, and potlucks…designate one person to handle and serve food for each meal.
Instead of passing around condiments…provide single-use options for spices, dressings, or salt and pepper.
Instead of abundant cheese boards…make small snack boards for each immediate family or individual. The same goes for bowls of nuts or candy.
Instead of going straight for the appetizers…encourage everyone to wash their hands before and after they eat
Covid Christmas travel plans
If you’re traveling to visit family this year for Christmas, assess the risks and benefits before booking your trip (such as your family members’ age and health conditions). While traveling, take precautions to limit the spread of Covid-19 while you’re together and on your return.
Quarantine before travel: If your job or family situation allows, consider quarantining before your trip. Avoid contact with people outside of your household for two weeks before you’re set to leave.
Get a Covid test: To put friends and family at ease, get a Covid test before traveling so you can be sure you won’t be putting anyone at risk for getting sick.
Be safe while you travel: If driving is an option, choose it over flying or taking public transportation to minimize contact with others. If flying, all airlines will require you to wear a mask on board, but look for airlines that are blocking the middle seat between travelers. Be sure to eat something before you board to avoid having to take your mask off while on the plane.