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Gift giving and gatherings in the time of COVID-19

How to make the most of a less-than-traditional holiday season.

With the pandemic disrupting how we normally shop, gather and celebrate during the holidays, it’s safe to assume things will be a little different this year. Social distancing guidelines, hand sanitizer and masks have all become part of everyday life, as have restrictions on the number of people allowed to gather under one roof. And with the colder weather here, many are wondering how to celebrate safely. 

Getting creative can help ensure this season of celebration is still a joyful one. Planning ways to get together with family and friends might seem challenging, but here are some out-of-the-box ideas that could be fun. 

Extend patio season

If you have an outdoor space (and local bylaws allow), consider investing in an outdoor heater or a firepit. Staying outside lets you gather safely for a socially distanced get-together. Host a holiday happy hour with individual appetizers, mulled wine or hot cider to keep warm. 

Movie night under the stars

Portable projectors have become much more affordable – many of them cost less than $200. Set up an outdoor screen (a plain white sheet will do), turn on your heat lamps and enjoy a fun holiday movie outside. Have guests bring their own blankets and thermoses to stay cozy. 

Traditional outdoor fun, with a twist

Why not plan a family snowball fight or skating party, whether in the backyard or at an outdoor community rink? The fun can continue afterwards if you arrange a picnic, with each household bringing their own yummy treats and hot cocoa. Other outdoor winter activities like snowshoeing, cross-country or downhill skiing, and tobogganing can be enjoyed safely, too!

Bake or cook together

Send a recipe to all participants in advance, so they can buy ingredients, then schedule an online meeting. One person leads the group through the recipe, and everyone cooks together in their own kitchens. Take it a step further and arrange a virtual dining time to enjoy the fruits of your labour – together.

Virtual games

Try hosting an online game night. Some lend themselves better to virtual play, like charades, word games like Pictionary or trivia games. No matter what you choose, a game can make an online chat much more engaging.

Family fitness challenge

What better way to work off those feasting calories than a fitness challenge? The possibilities are endless, from step count or push-up challenges to an obstacle course or a family dance-off. Don’t forget the prizes – what’s a challenge without a special reward for the winners?

Support local businesses 

Local shops can be a great source of unique gift ideas, from crafts and handmade clothing to pretty pottery and artisanal foods. Where else could you find that unique present for a special someone? Many retailers have implemented curbside pick-up, in-store pick-up or home delivery options to make shopping more convenient and keep patrons safe.

Avoid the online rush

When many stores were forced to close during the height of the pandemic, most Canadians turned to online shopping, and many continue to do so. If you are planning to shop online, don't wait until the last minute. Retailers are predicting delivery delays with demand higher than usual. Also, be sure to use trusted sites that have secure payment options and opt to track your packages. 

Rethink gift giving 

No matter what you celebrate, the festive period is a time to appreciate family and friends. Sometimes the stress of gift giving can overshadow the joy of the season. Often the best gift is one that is made rather than bought, so it might be worth considering other thoughtful gift options

Charitable undertakings

Pandemic or not, this is the season when charities need extra help. In-person volunteering is likely to be limited: some food banks are minimizing the number of volunteers sorting food and asking for monetary donations instead. But there are other ways to help out. Consider coordinating a group toy drive or make a cash donation to a favourite charity in the name of a loved one (this could be a great gift idea). 

Potluck delivery 

Who says you can’t have a potluck brunch? Just do it differently. Each participating household is assigned a dish to make, then delivers a portion to each of the other households. Everyone gets to eat in the comfort of their own home, without missing out on delicious home cooking.

No matter how you decide to celebrate the holidays this year, stay optimistic and, above all, safe. It’s going to be different, that’s for sure, but it can still be a lot of fun.


© 2020 Manulife. The persons and situations depicted are fictional and their resemblance to anyone living or dead is purely coincidental. This media is for information purposes only and is not intended to provide specific financial, tax, legal, accounting or other advice and should not be relied upon in that regard. Many of the issues discussed will vary by province. Individuals should seek the advice of professionals to ensure that any action taken with respect to this information is appropriate to their specific situation. www.manulife.ca/accessibility 


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