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How to get the most of out of holiday traditions amid COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 8:30 AM, Dec 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-24 08:30:47-05

(WXYZ) — 2020 has been a year of sacrifice and loss; and as we close out the year and prepare for the holidays, we're once again sacrificing the gatherings we enjoy year after year.

But it doesn't have to mean losing out on those traditions completely. We can rethink holiday gatherings to combine fellowship and safety and get the most of family traditions.

With Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Year's near, Americans are being asked to celebrate without gathering with friends and extended family.

For Ann Wegrzynowicz that threatens a Polish family tradition of Christmas Eve gatherings called Wigilia. The annual tradition in Ann's family was started by her great-grandparents John and Emilia 116 years ago.

"Last year we had, I think, 60 people at Christmas Eve," said Ann Wegrzynowicz, a St. Clair Shores resident. "So it includes all the first cousins, second, third, all the great-grandbabies.

They'll still gather this year virtually.

"It'll just be nice to see everybody's faces," she said.

"This holiday season needs to be different. It doesn't mean it's not going to be memorable and beautiful. It just needs to be different," said Henry Ford Hospital Dr. Allison Weinmann.

Dr. Weinmann, an infectious disease expert at Henry Ford Hospital, says virtual gatherings are the way to go this year to fight COVID-19 and still promote togetherness.

"So if you're celebrating Christmas, maybe you video Zoom everybody opening their gifts all at the same time and matching pajama sets, for example," Dr. Weinmann said.

That way you can still see the faces of your loved ones as they open their gifts, or maybe drop off a meal and dine together virtually.

Other ideas include watching a movie together virtually or spending time in the kitchen cooking with your immediate family. A smaller meal may allow you to try something new.

Maybe do a drive-by parade for seniors who can't come out for Christmas or drop off gifts and spend time together on the porch with masks on.

"Or maybe you decide to go for a socially-distanced walk after you eat or hang out or go for a walk in a park wearing masks and socially-distancing," said Dr. Weinmann.

Ann says she visited friends this weekend after months of pandemic isolation; and while it's not the same, the companionship still means so much.

"It renewed my soul," she said.

As with New Year's Eve just a week away , Dr. Weinmann says go big, but stay home.

"Celebrate at home, make sure that that time is special for you with your household."

Dr. Weinmann says it's best to avoid travel. But if you are traveling, try to avoid travel on the busiest days.

Always wear your mask, spend as little time in the airport as possible and avoid eating or drinking in the airport that way you can keep your mask on and avoid touching your face. Also, have whoever you're going to see, pick you up and drop you off.