When the weather turns cold, it's time to get ready for the holiday season. For many of us, this includes holiday decorations, entertaining, Christmas trees, and more—but 2020 celebrations will look different from those in the past. Explore the tips below to make sure your season is merry and bright—but safe and responsible, too.
This holiday season will be different, but we can still stay socially connected to one another even if we stay physically distant.
Reminders about the order from the Provincial Health Officer, in effect until January 8, 2021, at midnight, and other current guidance:
- Only celebrate with those in your immediate household.
- If you live alone, you can spend time with your core bubble, which means you and the same one or two people.
- All social gatherings, events, and in-person religious gatherings are suspended.
- Avoid all non-essential travel, including travel into and out of Canada or BC and between regions of the province (if you DO have to travel, check out the link below for tips on how to travel more safely).
How Can We Celebrate Differently This Year?
- Get outside! You can go for a walk with someone outside your household, as long as it doesn’t turn into a group of people meeting outside.
- Hold drop-off or physically distanced doorstep gift exchanges with those who don’t live with you.
- Hold virtual holiday and religious celebrations to stay connected to loved ones.
- Attend drive-in ceremonies or events.
- Take a walk in the neighbourhood to look at light displays (don’t forget to wear reflective gear or lights to stay safe!).
Your Mental Health
It's common to feel stressed during the holiday season, and the pandemic may worsen these feelings for many people. Worries about finances and gift-giving, the fear of getting sick or making others sick, and other similar feelings may arise. Remember to take care of your mental heath. Acknowledge that it’s okay to feel sad or disappointed about missing out on holiday celebrations or religious gatherings things year, and recognize that missing these activities helps protect you, your family, and your community.
If you're in crisis, or need urgent medical support, call 911 or your local emergency help line. You can also get support from a local crisis centre, the Canada Suicide Prevention Service (1-833-456-4566), and @KidsHelpPhone.
Spending Time in Public
No matter how you plan to celebrate the holiday season, show kindness and respect to others by wearing a non-medical mask when in public, maintaining physical distancing, practising good hygiene, and always staying home and away from others if you feel sick.
Check out the BC Centre for Disease Control’s website for these tips and more.
Ringing in the New Year
It’s almost time to ring in the New Year (and put 2020 behind us!), but we must remember to do so safely. We can still stay socially connected to one another even if we stay physically distant.
There are countless tips online for ways to celebrate New Year’s Eve with friends, family, or on your own. Here are a few that stood out:
- Head to New York City: This year, the Times Square Ball Drop will be virtual for everyone, meaning you won't feel like you're missing out by watching from home. Why not dress up, deck out your house, and pretend you're there in person?
- Let loose: Have a dance party or karaoke night with your household bubble, letting each family member pick some of the tunes.
- Be a sleuth: Try out a virtual murder mystery party online with friends, complete with costumes and carefully selected Zoom backgrounds. There are plenty of others out there to try if murder mysteries aren't your game of choice!
- Go outside: Celebrate early with someone outside your household bubble by going for a physically distanced walk earlier in the day, whether on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day.
- Look back: Collect the year's memories in a photobook, digital slideshow, or scrapbook. Or, if you're feeling thankful for those who've kept you going this year, send them a note to show your gratitude.
- Look ahead: Spend time crafting up New Year’s resolutions for 2021, but keep them flexible—if 2020 has taught us anything, it's to expect the unexpected.
At the beginning of the holiday season, a good first step is to dig out those holiday decoration boxes and take stock of what you have.
Let's talk about lights. Take inventory of your existing light strings and other electric decorations:
- Are they for indoor or outdoor use? Only use indoor lights indoors and outdoor lights outdoors.
- Are the cords worn or broken? Are there loose bulb connections? Recycle them. ProductCare Recycling will likely take your damaged lights. Find a recycling location here.
- How many strings can be connected together? Check manufacturer’s instructions.
Ready to hang those lights and arrange those candles? Be safe when decorating:
- Know your limits when installing lights. Be sure to have the appropriate gear, like ladders and good footwear, to install lights both outdoors and indoors.
- Use clips, not nails, to hang lights so the cords don’t get damaged.
- Keep decorations away from windows and doors.
- Keep children and pets away from lit candles.
- Keep matches and lighters up high in a locked cabinet.
- Keep lit candles away from decorations and other things that can burn. Better yet, choose flameless candles. Many battery-operated LED candles can look just like the real thing.
Leaving the house or going to bed?
- Blow out all candles. Never leave burning candles unattended.
- Turn off or unplug all indoor and outdoor lights.
If a Christmas tree is a part of your plans and permitted where you live (renters should always check with their landlords), we have a few tips to help keep it a joy to be around, and not a dangerous fire hazard.
Picking a tree
- Choose a tree with fresh, green needles that bend rather than break, and that do not fall off when touched.
- Choose a tree with a stump that's sticky with resin.
Be sure to select an artificial tree that is made of flame resistant or flame retardant material.
Placing the tree
- Select a tree stand with a broad base, good balance, and lots of space for water.
- Before placing the tree in the stand, cut 2” from the base of the trunk.
- Add water to the tree stand. Be sure to add water daily.
- Whether your tree is real or artificial, make sure it is at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents, or lights.
- Make sure your tree is not blocking an exit.
Lighting the tree
- Use lights that have the label of a recognized testing laboratory. Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use.
- Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Read the manufacturer’s instructions for the number of light strands that are safe to connect.
- Never use lit candles to decorate the tree.
- Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.
Disposing of the tree
Be sure to dispose of fresh trees after Christmas. Dried-out trees are a fire hazard that should not be left in the home, in the garage, or outside the home. An easy way to dispose of your tree is through the Christmas Tree Chipping for Charity event, which will be happening in early January 2021.
Christmas Tree Chipping for Charity
Date: January 2, 3, and 4, 2021
Time: 12:00 noon to 5:00 pm
Location: Thornhill Transfer Station
Trees will be collected before the scale at the Transfer Station. In exchange, please consider making a cash donation at our zero contact donation box. Donations will go to local food banks.
Please ensure all lights and decorations are removed from your tree prior to disposal.
For many people, December means more time cooking and baking at home—and despite the pandemic, you may still be planning to make holiday meals and treats for your immediate family this season. Cooking fires are the leading cause of house fires. Your best defence? Stay present and alert while cooking.
- Reduce the risk of cooking fires by being alert. You may not be fully alert if you are tired, drowsy, or impaired by alcohol, cannabis, other drugs, or certain medications.
- Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
- If you are simmering, baking, roasting, or boiling food, check it regularly, remain in the home while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you’re cooking.
- Keep things that can catch fire—potholders, oven mitts, paper or plastic bags, curtains—away from your stove top.
- Wear short, close-fitting or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking. Loose clothing can dangle onto stove burners and can catch fire if it comes in contact with a gas flame or electric burner.
- Have a “kid-free zone” of at least 1 metre around the stove and areas where hot food or drink is prepared or carried.
Other food tips:
- Open microwaved food slowly, away from the face. Hot steam from a container of microwaved food or the food itself can cause burns.
- Never heat a baby bottle in a microwave oven because it heats liquids unevenly. Heat baby bottles in warm water.
Got a burn? Treat it right away, putting it in cool water. Cool the burn for three to five minutes. Cover with a clean, dry cloth. If the burn is bigger than your fist, or if you have any questions, get medical help right away.
What if, despite your best efforts, you do end up with a small grease or oven cooking fire?
- Stove top: Smother flames by sliding a lid over the pan and turning off the burner.
- Oven: Turn off the heat and keep the door closed.
- Remember: Never pour water or use a fire extinguisher on a cooking pan grease fire. Use another pot, a baking pan, or lots of baking soda to smother the flames instead.
If you have any doubt, get out!
- When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain the fire.
- Call 911 from outside your home.