How Can I Host Fun Family Gatherings During The COVID-19 Pandemic?

Article at a Glance

  • Local COVID-19 trends and guidelines should be taken into account before any gathering.
  • Take safety measures before, during, and after hosting any type of celebration.
  • Lower the risk by wearing a mask and maintaining a six-foot distance from those outside your household.

NOTICE: At this time, Utah is under a state-wide directive to NOT gather with other people who do not live in their same household. While this might end by Thanksgiving, the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is to celebrate with people in your household—and loop in others via Zoom or FaceTime.

In years as strange as this one, it’s essential that we keep friends and family close. One of the best ways to strengthen relationships with loved ones is to gather during the holidays—but that can seem risky in 2020. Below are some lower-risk ways to host holiday gatherings that still foster connection and fun.

Details to Consider Before Hosting

Many Utahns are understandably concerned about Covid-19 and keeping themselves and their families safe. When deciding whether to host and who to invite, first consider:

  • How is COVID-19 trending in your community?
  • How are COVID-19 cases trending in the community where your guests live?
  • Can the gathering be adapted to the outdoors?
  • Can the guest list be trimmed or the gathering split into separate events?
  • What are the Utah Health Department recommended limitations for number of people in a gathering in your community?
  • Are your intended guests taking CDC safety recommendations seriously?

Before, During, and After Hosting a Gathering

People Who Shouldn’t Gather

There are some people you should not invite to your celebrations during this pandemic. For their protection and for everyone else’s protection, guests should not attend if they:

  • Have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and are still contagious.
  • Have symptoms of COVID-19.
  • May have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 within 14 days.
  • Are elderly or have an underlying medical condition which puts them at risk for serious illness should they contract COVID-19.

A great alternative would be to set-up a live-stream in advance. That way, these guests can still attend digitally. Some fun ways to include digital party guests:

  • Judging a kids’ costume party.
  • Calling out bingo numbers.
  • Blessing the food.
  • Giving a toast.
  • Being included in group discussions.
  • Playing other games digitally.

How To Prepare to Host a Gathering

There are many ways to adapt your hosting plan to keep your gathering safe and comfortable:

Host outdoor gatherings:

Space heaters and fire pits are a great addition to a chilly outdoor gathering

If you must host an indoor gathering, increase ventilation by opening windows and doors

Include only locals in your gatherings, as outside visitors pose a greater risk.

  • Have a virtual plan for guests outside your area.

Include safety guidelines in a way that is fun and friendly:

  • Have a best mask contest to encourage mask use.
  • Provide masks and hand sanitizer for guests at the front door with a sign encouraging use.

Leave seasonal hand sanitizers in prominent places.

How To Stay Safe During Your Celebration

To avoid being exposed to, spreading, or contracting COVID-19 consider structuring the gathering around the rules below:

Strive to maintain a distance of six feet or more from people you don’t live with:

  • Setup seating six-feet apart
  • Let the party spread out, making use of other rooms and outdoor spaces
  • Invite only as many in-person guests as can safely fit in your space

Limit transmission through droplets:

  • While eating, ensure additional distance from others
  • Avoid singing, chanting, or shouting as this can spread the virus farther
  • Do not use costume masks as a replacement of a cloth mask
  • Set up a make-your-own mask station where young guests can decorate a new mask

Frequently clean commonly touched surfaces and items:

  • Have one or two people dish food for guests; wearing masks and gloves
  • Provide single-serve plates, utensils, and cups

Wash hands often:

  • Stock your hand-washing area with surface sanitizer, disposable paper towels, and a hand sanitizer outside the door. Clean the bathroom often during your gathering.
  • Direct guests to wash hands before and after activities like games or eating.

Give food extra thought:

  • Anyone preparing or serving food needs to wear a mask and wash their hands
  • Avoid finger-foods or open serving containers
  • Avoid buffet-style dining. Let one person serve or create pre-plated meals
  • Provide multiple, single-use salt and condiments instead of passing them guest-to-guest

How To Reduce Risk After a Gathering

In spite of your best efforts, you may learn after a gathering that you were exposed to COVID-19. To limit the possibility of spread, consider one these precautions:

  • Establish an understanding with all attendees that should anyone develop COVID-19 symptoms they are to test and immediately inform all attendees of the situation, especially if they test positive. This way everyone can take appropriate quarantine or other public health precautions.
  • Keep a precise list of all attendees and their contact information so that should a COVID-19 cluster develop associated with the party, all can be contacted.
  • Avoid high-risk friends and family who have pre-existing conditions.
  • Get tested for COVID-19 if any relevant symptoms develop.

Low-Risk Holiday Celebration Suggestions

All activities should be done wearing a mask and maintaining six-feet apart from individuals and groups who you don’t live with. If shouting or singing are involved, consider maintaining further than six feet of distance.


  • Carve or decorate individual pumpkins outside
  • Outdoor scavenger hunt; guests are given a list of Halloween-themed objects or decorations to find while walking around the neighborhood
  • Virtual Halloween costume contest or an outdoor costume parade
  • Outdoor scary movie night
  • Outdoor haunted house


  • Virtual dinner where guests share recipes and eat together from their own homes.
  • Outdoor dinner with friends and family seated six-feet apart in family clusters and pre-plated meals.
  • Shop online for Black Friday together using Zoom.
  • Watch the Macy’s parade or sports games together six-feet apart or digitally.
  • Visit outdoor venues together in small groups. Pumpkin patches, apple farms, and corn mazes can all be good choices.

Maintaining personal connections with loved ones is important every holiday season, but this year it is especially critical. Whether or not you plan to host an event, make time to reach out to loved ones personally. Carve out time to call older relatives and check on their well-being.

Reviewed on October 14, 2020 by: Ryan Gottfredson, D.O., MPH
Ryan Gottfredson, D.O., MPH
Board-certified Pediatrician

Dr. Gottfredson is passionate about preventive medicine and pediatrics. After thirteen years away serving in the Air Force, he’s excited to be returning to Utah. Languages: English and Spanish.

Timpanogos Physicians Office
Full Bio

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