ontario holidays 2020

Ontario releases official guidelines for celebrating holidays amid the pandemic

Festive parties are distinctly out of fashion this holiday season as COVID-19 circulates in Ontario and Toronto remains under lockdown.

In fact, as far as public health officials are concerned, you shouldn't be celebrating anything with anybody outside of your own household for the rest of this year (and who knows how long after that?)

"I know there are many people looking forward to their traditional family celebrations at this time of year, but to keep your loved ones safe, traditions will have to be adjusted," said Premier Ford on Wednesday as his government put forward recommendations for the forthcoming holiday season.

"We're asking everyone to please stick to your own household when celebrating. Avoid big holiday parties or large family dinners to help us stop the spread of this deadly virus."

The one exception to this rule applies to people who live alone: Such Ontario residents can "consider exclusively celebrating with one additional household as a safe way to spend the holidays."

Everyone else is encouraged to do something virtual with their loved ones and friends for obvious reasons.

According to the provincial government, a "new holiday web page" will soon be launched to provide Ontarians with direct, up-to-date guidance on celebrating the holidays as circumstances change.

As of right now, though, Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams has put forth a list of "safer holiday activites" and "riskier holiday activities" for people to consider while planning for the season ahead.

They are as follows:

Safer Holiday Activities
  • Virtual holiday gatherings or events with family, friends or co-workers.
  • Outdoor holiday activities such as building a snowman or going on a sleigh ride with members of your household.
  • Visiting Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus or their elves outdoors and taking photos while keeping two metres apart.
  • Attending a drive-in or drive-thru event.
  • Watching holiday or other movies with your household.
  • Decorating your doors and putting up lights around your home.
  • Lighting your menorah.
  • Baking holiday treats with your immediate household.
  • Donating to your favourite holiday charity or toy drive.
Riskier Holiday Activities
  • In-person holiday gatherings or events, particularly gatherings where masks or face coverings must be removed to eat or drink.
  • Indoor holiday activities such as having overnight guests or sleepovers with friends or people outside your household.
  • Visiting Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus or their elves indoors and taking photos without being two metres apart. Children are not permitted to sit on Santa's lap this year.
  • Visiting family and friends for non-essential reasons

The preliminary guidelines also note that "​i​​​​​ndividuals and families in higher transmission areas should avoid going to lower transmission areas, except for essential reasons."

People are also asked to keep in mind that, regardless of the above reccomendations, they "must adhere to public health and workplace safety measures and rules" in their particular region.

"The holidays are a special time of the year for many people, and while we all want to spend time with family and friends, we must celebrate safely to stop the spread of COVID-19," said Health Minister Elliott of the new guidelines.

"With the recent news about several vaccines there's light at the end of the tunnel. I realize that it won't be easy, but we must continue to follow public health advice and look for new and creative ways to celebrate this year."

All Ontarians are urged to continue taking the following measures every day to combat the spread of the coronavirus: 

  • Stay home if you have COVID-19 symptoms, even if they are mild;
  • Avoid social gatherings and limit close contacts to your household or the people you live with;
  • Maintain two metres of physical distancing from everyone else;
  • Adhere to the restrictions in your region on public and private gatherings;
  • Wear a face covering indoors and wear one outdoors if physical distancing cannot be maintained or if wearing one is required;
  • Wash your hands thoroughly and regularly;
  • Cover your cough;
  • Get tested if you have symptoms compatible with COVID-19, or if you've been advised of exposure by your local public health unit or through the COVID Alert mobile app;
  • Individuals and families from higher transmission regions should avoid travel to lower transmission regions (e.g., from Red level to Orange level), except for essential reasons; and
  • Download the COVID Alert mobile app.
Lead photo by

Fareen Karim


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