Winter holiday tips

Updated December 7, 2020

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Winter scarf, mug

Top 3 things to remember
  • Only interact in-person with people from your household (defined as those who normally live and sleep under the same roof). 

  • Refrain from traveling. Celebrate virtually with the people who don’t live with you. 

  • Avoid crowded stores. Shop for gifts online and have them delivered or pick them up curbside. Find local Colorado businesses to support via the #ShopLocalColorado campaign. Wear a mask and keep your distance whenever you do leave your home. 

As we approach the winter holidays, it’s important to think about the best ways to keep our loved ones and our communities safe during our celebrations. Colorado is currently seeing more new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations than ever before. About 40 percent of people infected with COVID-19 do not have symptoms and may not know they’re infected, but can still spread the virus to their loved ones, putting them at risk of serious illness or death.

This year is an opportunity to reimagine what togetherness can look like. In order to keep our loved ones safe, we will need to celebrate the holidays differently this season. Staying home and celebrating with your immediate household, or celebrating with friends and family virtually, is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones this year.

It’s important to remember just how close we are to a COVID-19 vaccine. Thanks to the hard work of public health officials across the country, we may be only months away from returning to normal life. Colorado is expected to receive its first shipment of vaccine in December. It’s up to us to get each other through to the other side of this pandemic. As 2020 comes to a close, Coloradans must keep moving toward the light at the end of the tunnel with care, vigilance, and grace.

Just because we keep physical distance doesn’t mean we have to be distant in other ways. There are many creative things you can do to make those closest to you feel loved while making sure they stay healthy for many more seasons to come.

It’s up to you to stay safe, not only for yourself, but for your family, friends, and community. Here are some more ideas about how to enjoy a joyous, festive, and safer holiday season.

Family barbecuing

Holiday celebration ideas

Whether you’re lighting candles or stringing lights on a tree, the winter holidays come with plenty of magic, especially for the kids in your life. Staying safer this year doesn’t have to dull any of that wonder. Consider a celebration that keeps your loved ones close in spirit, even if you’re physically apart:

  • Cooking, eating, decorating, and exchanging gifts with members of your immediate household.

  • Sledding or other outdoor activities in your local community with members of your immediate household.

  • Hosting a virtual caroling party over video chat.

  • Writing holiday cards to friends and family.

  • Video chatting or talking on the phone with friends and family who don’t live with you. 

  • Exchanging photos of your holiday decorations, dishes, and outfits with friends and family via text message or email.

  • Simultaneously watching your favorite holiday movie with family and friends in other households over video chat.

  • Live-streaming a ceremony held by your faith group.

  • Watching the ball drop on TV on New Year’s Eve.

  • Cooking and baking treats for your neighbors, friends, and family, then delivering them in a way that doesn’t involve face-to-face contact.

  • Mailing or delivering gifts to your neighbors, friends, and family in a way that doesn’t involve face-to-face contact (just like Santa). You can video chat with them later as they open their presents and watch their faces light up in real time. 

Couple holiday shopping

Holiday shopping

When shopping for holiday gifts this year, consider taking advantage of online sales, home delivery, and curbside pick-up rather than visiting crowded stores. Shop at local Colorado businesses to support the state’s economy this holiday season.

Couple at the airport

Travel is not recommended

COVID-19 is currently spreading at an alarming rate throughout the United States. The safest thing to do right now is to stay home. Airport terminals, bus stations, train stations, rest stops, and hotel lobbies are all places travelers can be exposed to the virus. These are also places where it can be hard to keep your distance from others. If you must travel, take as many precautions as possible to reduce your risk of catching or spreading the virus.

Keep in mind that you may need to isolate or quarantine away from home if you become sick or are exposed to COVID-19 while traveling. You will not be able to travel across state lines while in isolation or quarantine.

 If you must travel this winter, we recommend:

  • Quarantining before visiting and after returning home.

  • Wearing a mask.

  • Washing your hands frequently, or using hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

  • Staying 6 feet or more away from anyone who doesn’t live with you.

  • Opening windows to improve ventilation on buses, trains, or shared cars.

  • Postponing or cancelling your travel if you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 in the 14 days before your travel. You should get tested as soon as you develop symptoms, or seven days after you think you have been exposed.  For more information about testing and how to find a testing site near you, see Testing for COVID-19.

  • Canceling your plans if you or your traveling companions test positive or develop symptoms.

Cute kids with masks telling secrets


Myth: “Getting a negative COVID-19 test means I can go ahead with my normal holiday plans.”

Reality: A negative test does not necessarily mean that you are free of COVID-19. Your sample may have been collected too early in your infection for COVID-19 to be detectable. Additionally, tests, especially rapid tests, are not perfect -- they may miss the virus in some infected people. It’s also possible that you could contract COVID-19 in between getting tested and arriving at your destination, and then spread the virus to friends or family members, who could then get very sick or die.


Myth: “Flying is safe because COVID-19 can’t spread on planes.”

Reality: Flying involves many risky scenarios where you will be in close contact with strangers, like waiting in security lines and airport terminals. Even if you take all the right precautions on a plane trip, you can’t control the behavior of everyone around you. Many people are currently infectious with COVID-19, which makes flying a dangerous form of travel.


Myth: “I had COVID-19 earlier in the year, so I can go ahead with my normal holiday plans.”

Reality: Reinfection with COVID-19 is rare, but it has been shown to happen. Even if you already had COVID-19, there is no way to guarantee you won’t get it again and spread it to your friends and family at a holiday gathering. 


Myth: “I’m young, so getting COVID-19 is no big deal.”

Reality: Even young, healthy people can get very sick or die of COVID-19. Young, healthy people can also spread the virus to their higher-risk friends and relatives. It’s important to think not only of yourself, but of every person you’ll be in contact with this holiday season when assessing the risk of COVID-19.


Myth: “I wear a mask all the time, so there’s no way I could spread COVID-19.”

Reality: Masks are a helpful tool for reducing the risk of contracting the virus, but they don’t completely eliminate that risk. There is no way to ensure zero risk of infection when you enter public places or come into contact with other people. The safest thing to do right now is to stay home. Even if you take all the right precautions, you can’t control the behavior of everyone around you. 


Myth: “It’s better for me to get COVID-19 now, so that we can get herd immunity.”

Reality: We may be able to safely achieve herd immunity once a COVID-19 vaccine has been licensed and approved for public use. For now, the risks of getting the virus are simply too high. The best thing to do is to avoid getting COVID-19 by staying home whenever possible.

Guidance for event planners

Tree/menorah lightings, holiday markets, winter wonderlands, religious ceremonies, etc. held in public places

  • Adhere to state and local orders and restrictions. 

  • Follow indoor/outdoor event guidance. 

  • Require timed reservations to limit occupants, lines, and areas of congestion. 

  • Create a one-direction flow of participants with signs, directional arrows, and spacing indicators. 

  • Remind participants before arrival and onsite to stay home if sick, exposed, positive for COVID-19, or quarantined. 

  • Use signs to remind participants to use masks, maintain distance, and wash hands. 

  • Set up handwashing stations. 

  • Eliminate common-touch items and props. 

  • Consider exclusively outdoor spaces. 

  • Require masks at all times, except when eating or drinking.