Whether you're celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or just ringing in the New Year, this is how the medical experts suggest staying safe.

By Lisa Milbrand
December 15, 2020
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December is the time of year when we're usually getting together with loved ones—but as with most other celebrations this year, many holiday traditions may need to be adjusted to help keep everyone safe as coronavirus cases continue to rise and the COVID vaccine begins to roll out.

If you're looking for the best ways to keep your family safe as you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or New Year's Day, the CDC just released its expert guidance to help you modify your plans to help reduce the risk (without reducing the holiday fun).

If you're looking to stay as safe as possible, you probably already know that the CDC says that virtual gatherings are the way to go this year if you're celebrating with anyone who is outside your household. That means that they're discouraging travel, especially if you or someone you'll visit with is at high risk of health issues if they would develop COVID-19. And that your visit with Santa or other public gatherings may be better off being virtual (or postponed).

But if you're still inclined to celebrate Christmas, New Year's, or Hanukkah in person, here's how the CDC recommends you minimize the risk of contracting—or spreading—coronavirus.

Safer Traveling During the Holidays

If you're traveling to or from a place with a large number of coronavirus cases or where cases are on the rise (aka most of the U.S.), have someone at high-risk of COVID-19 complications, are using public transportation like planes or trains, or can't quarantine yourself for 14 days prior to travel, the CDC recommends canceling your travel plans.

If you do decide to travel, keep yourself safer by:

• Wearing your mask appropriately (a multi-layer mask tight to your face, covering your mouth and your nose), and avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth throughout your travels.

• Washing or sanitizing your hands often during travel, especially if you are in public spaces.

• Keeping at least six feet apart from people who don't live with you, whenever possible.

• Getting your flu shot before traveling.

• Packing food and essentials to minimize rest stops if you're driving.

Safer Winter Holiday Celebrations

If you do decide to get together in person with people who don't live with you for the holidays, you will be increasing your risk of developing COVID-19 (or inadvertently passing on the virus). You'll also need to keep in mind any COVID-19 state or local guidelines or regulations that need to be followed, especially in regards to party size and mask wearing.

But if you do decide to have an in-person holiday celebration, there are some ways to reduce the risk of transmission:

• Wear a multi-layer mask appropriately (over both your mouth and nose) whenever you see people outside your household (even if you're outdoors).

• Maintain a social distance of at least six feet from people in your household, no matter where you gather.

• Hold celebrations outdoors—or if you celebrate indoors, open doors and windows to increase air circulation. A window fan can help enhance and provide extra ventilation.

• Wash or sanitize your hands regularly.

• Stay home or cancel plans if you or someone you've been in contact with feels unwell or has been exposed to COVID-19.

• Have guests bring their own food, or prepackage snacks and meals to avoid sharing serving utensils and buffet space.

• Consider having guests bring their own plates and utensils, or use disposable options.

• Keep gatherings as small as possible, as brief as possible, and as quiet as possible (so no one has to shout over loud music).

• If you're hosting, provide ample hand sanitizer and extra masks for your guests.

This story originally appeared on realsimple.com