For many of us, the holiday season means gathering around a table with family and friends — enjoying food and the company of the people who mean the most to us. This year, however, prioritizing health and safety comes before menu planning and hosting discussions.

From outdoor fun to harnessing the power of technology and delivery services, you can still have an enjoyable, scaled-down celebration while taking measures to stay safe.

Top 10 ideas for staying safe while celebrating this holiday season:

1. Break out of quarantine with some outdoor fun!
Grab your immediate family, roommates or bubble and get outside (please follow all gathering restrictions for your area). There are many activities you can enjoy close to home, whether you’re visiting your favorite public, provincial or national park or just spending time in your neighbourhood.

  • Walking, running and hiking
  • Rollerblading and biking
  • Fishing and hunting
  • Rock or ice climbing
  • Ice skating
  • Skiing, including cross-country and downhill skiing
  • Snowboarding
  • Sledding
  • Snowshoeing
  • Fitness classes, held outside or virtually, that allow distance

For skiing or other activities that may require passes or rental equipment, planning is key. Many resorts are limiting the number of passes sold each day or requiring guests to register for a specific day and time. Do your research before you leave home so you aren’t left out in the cold!

2. Virtual meal prep and dinner
Dinner is the main event during the holidays. And just because you have fewer people to feed this year doesn’t mean you should put in less effort. Decide on the menu ahead of time and share the grocery list in advance. You can even organize grocery delivery or pick-up for your friends and family members using services like Instacart, PC Express, and Grocery.

Fire up the video chat early and enjoy each other’s company while you prepare the meal as a group. Once complete, set up an extra seat at your table for your device so you can all eat together.

3. Watch a Christmas movie
Watching a movie is the perfect way to spend the time between presents and dinner, or to unwind after the festivities end. Don’t forget to nosh on treats or sip cocktails while you watch. Use streaming services like Netflix Party that let you watch the same movie or show at the same time with anyone. You can also watch a movie together over video chat with one person sharing their screen.

4. Wine and appies
An online tasting virtual holiday party is the perfect at-home alternative to a wine country getaway, and there’s no packing required. Schedule a fun and informative sommelier-led virtual tasting for your group. You’ll find plenty of nationwide companies that offer virtual wine tastings, and maybe even some local vineyards in your area! Be sure to reserve your event in advance so you’ll receive your tasting kits in time. Drop off or have an appetizer delivered and enjoy Christmas cheer together over the phone or video chat.

5. Game night
Just because you can’t get together in-person, it doesn’t mean you need to give up family game night. Game night ideas are now online; and virtual game night is the perfect way to keep the quarantine blues away. Check out this list from Let’s Roam of the 10 best game night apps and find the perfect pick for your friends and family.

6. Winterize your backyard
While last year’s to-do list was all about decorating the front yard, this year’s list is about winterizing the backyard. Investing in the right equipment will go a long way to keep your family comfortable. Keep warm with an outdoor tent, wearable blanketshot hands, a fire pit, or outdoor heater. Plus, string lights, lanterns and pillar candles will make it feel even more special!

7. Virtual Ugly Sweater Competition
Throwing an ugly sweater party online is just as easy and fun as an in-person affair. Let your participants show off their creativity. Encourage each to take photos or better yet, encourage a virtual cat walk to see those jingle bells in action. You can appoint a panel of Ugly Sweater experts to judget or invite all your guests to vote for their favourite!

8. Hop on a video call with Santa
Getting to meet Santa is a magical experience for many children during the holiday season. Unfortunately, they might not get to see him in-person this year — but that doesn’t mean they can’t chat with him on the phone. With Santa Club, you can book a video chat with the big guy himself! The $50 experience includes up to three children and even allows you to keep a recording of the session.

9. Virtual Christmas Market
One of the most popular activities of the holiday season is visiting a traditional Christmas market. Sadly, many markets and fairs have been postponed or cancelled but some cities across Canada are bringing the spirit and fun into our homes. Visit Virtual Christmas Market News & Updates for the local options in your area, as well as special promotions and vendor giveaways. Shop local – and shop early – to ensure your treasures arrive before Christmas Day.

10. Give back to someone in need
The financial impact of COVID-19 has been devastating, causing millions to seek financial aid for rent, food and other critical expenses. If you’re in a position to donate, there are a lot of people who could benefit greatly. The Canada Helps website has a specific listing of charities with Christmas initiatives, from ensuring each child has a gift under the tree to supporting those experiencing homelessness and isolation.

From all of us at INLIV, we wish you a safe, healthy and happy holiday season.