Hosting or attending a family Christmas dinner?

Level 3 Government guidelines mean that there is lots to remember and put into action this Christmas season in order to stay safe from COVID-19.

The overall rules from 18 December say that in your home or garden you can mix with a maximum of two other households.

Safest options

What’s the safest option this Christmas? While the following suggestions might not be the most sociable, they are the safest.

  • Celebrating only with members of your own household.
  • Celebrating virtually – everyone cooking their own Christmas dinner in their own house and connecting via Zoom, Teams or Skype.
  • To have visitors or not

    How do you make the decision to host a Christmas family meal or not? International research has shown that a number of factors contribute to the risk of getting and spreading COVID-19 at small face-to-face gatherings. Together, these factors will create various amounts of risk so what can you do ahead of the big day and ahead of issuing invitations?

    1 Know the community level of COVID-19

    If the numbers of cases is increasing in your area as well as in the areas that visiting family members live, a decision should be made about whether it is sensible for everyone to get together for Christmas at all.

    Information on the number of cases in all areas in Ireland can be found here.

    2 Risk when travelling

    Anyone coming home from college or visiting home from other parts of Ireland or abroad pose varying levels of risk. Even travel within a county can expose people to the virus if people are using public transport or stopping at service stations before reaching your house.

    3 Inside your house

    Having Christmas dinner indoors where there is poor ventilation – small enclosed spaces with no outside air – poses more risk. You can increase ventilation by opening doors and windows to the extent that it is safe and feasible based on the weather. Here’s to a mild Christmas period.

    4 How long the dinner lasts

    Gatherings that last longer pose more risk. Being within six feet of someone who has COVID-19 (who may not know they have it) for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more increases the risk. Finding out later that someone, around your Christmas table, has the virus means that everyone at the table has to quarantine, stay in their own rooms in their own homes for 14 days. Setting a time frame for the get-together therefore may be advisable.

    5 How many guests and where will they sit?

    The general advice is that the size of a family gathering should be determined based on the ability of those attending from different households to stay six feet (two arm lengths) apart. How to get round that? Have a very, very big table or have separate small tables positioned six feet apart, restaurant style, for family members from other households. Government guidelines say keep your guest list short and try to ensure that you limit your close contacts in the days and weeks beforehand. Remember – every contact counts!

    6 Not following the rules makes you a risk

    If a guest hasn’t been respecting social distancing rules (staying six feet apart from others), wearing a mask, washing their hands and using hand sanitiser as required, they pose more risk to those in your house than those who have been limiting contacts and being safety savvy prior to the get-together.

    7 During the Christmas day get-together

    If you, the host, insist on safety measures being adhered to – masks, social distancing and hand washing – a visit to your home poses less risk than to homes of hosts who don’t implement preventive measures.

    8 Don’t forget – alcohol can lower your guard.

    A Christmas concern can also be that alcohol consumption may alter your judgment and make following safety measures more difficult or less likely. It is worth weighing up then if it should be an alcohol-free or reduced-alcohol Christmas – apart from the pudding, of course.

    Tips for the host

  • Plan ahead and ask guests to avoid contact with people outside their own households for 14 days prior to the gathering.
  • Provide guests with COVID-19 safety guidelines.
  • Require guests to sit six feet away and wear masks except when eating or drinking.
  • Avoid hugs, kisses and handshakes
  • Keep the room well ventilated – windows and doors open as much as possible.
  • Encourage guests to avoid singing or shouting and keep music levels down so people don’t have to shout or speak loudly to be heard.
  • Hand sanitiser should contain at least 60% alcohol.
  • Don’t share cutlery, glasses or cups.
  • Cooking

  • No buffet set-ups
  • Wear a mask when preparing and serving food
  • Guests should have a bag/pocket to store their mask in while eating and drinking
  • Limit people going in and out of the kitchen
  • Have one person wearing a mask serve all the food so that everyone isn’t handling the serving spoons.
  • Wash dishes in a dishwasher or with hot soapy water immediately after use. Paper plates are an option.
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