News  December 2020 Holiday Guidance

Massachusetts residents are advised to limit the risk of exposure to COVID-19 during holiday activities by following these steps to stop the spread of COVID-19 and prevent deaths.
  • Department of Public Health
Winter graphic

As we enter the December holiday season, residents are urged to follow the public health guidance that we know will help keep people safe. This year we ask residents to:

Lower-Risk Celebrations and Activities

  • Limit in-person holiday gatherings to only people you live with.
  • Host a virtual holiday dinner with extended family or friends.
  • Prepare foods for family and neighbors and deliver them in a no-contact way.
  • Virtually attend your traditional holiday activities, such as a visit with Santa.
  • Consider virtual caroling or reciting. Provide a link to your virtual caroling to the people you want to sing to.
  • View holiday lights from your car with those you live with.

Higher-Risk Celebrations and Activities

  • Any time you gather with others outside of your household, you increase the risk of contracting or spreading illness. All residents are discouraged from gathering.  Gatherings in Massachusetts are subject to gathering size limits.
  • You are risking your health and others health if you host or participate in any in-person festivities if you or anyone in your household:
    • has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and has not completed the isolation period;
    • has symptoms of COVID-19;
    • is waiting for COVID-19 viral test results;
    • may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days; or
    • is at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19, such as older adults or those with certain medical conditions.
  • If in-person caroling or reciting, stay more than 25 feet from the people you are reciting or singing for and wear a mask. Remain outdoors while caroling.
  • If you visit Santa Claus in person, wear a mask, stay 6 feet from Santa and others while in line, and make a reservation for your visit where available. 
  • If viewing holiday lights outdoors, take a one-way walk with those you live with and maintain distance from others.

Other Recommendations and Guidance

  • Always wear your mask and watch your distance. (Remove your mask only for eating and drinking.)
  • For 10 days before and after holiday gatherings, monitor yourself closely for fever and other symptoms of COVID-19, minimize contact with other people, and leave home only for essential services like going to work, buying groceries, and appointments with doctors; OR,
  • Obtain a negative result from a COVID-19 test, on a sample obtained within 72 hours of the celebration. Even with a negative test you must be vigilant about masking and distancing when you are around individuals you do not live with.
    • Testing only indicates whether a person may have COVID-19 at the moment of the test. You can still become sick with COVID-19 after your test and before your celebration.
    • Testing information can be found at
  • Do not share food, drink, or any utensils, including serving utensils.
  • Seat people with plenty of space (at least six feet) from one another while dining.
  • Consider seating people at smaller tables in multiple rooms instead of around a large family table.
  • Improve ventilation by opening windows and doors.
  • If setting up outdoor seating under a tent, ensure guests are still seated with physical distancing in mind. Enclosed 4-wall tents will have less air circulation than open air tents and should be considered indoor spaces (check also fire codes for heating tents).
    • If outdoor temperature or weather forces you to put down the tent sidewalls, consider leaving one or more sides open or rolling up the bottom 12 inches of each sidewall to enhance ventilation while still providing a wind break.

Provide supplies to help everyone to stay healthy. These include extra masks (do not share or swap with others), hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, and tissues. Stock bathrooms with enough hand soap and single use towels.

Holiday Shopping

In addition to observing store capacity limits, wearing a mask, staying at least 6 feet away from others, and following directions and place markings at stores, consider the following when holiday shopping:

Higher Risk:  High-risk activities include in-person promotions or holiday activities that encourage large crowds. When shopping with a non-household member, make sure to wear a mask, including while driving together.

Medium Risk: If you choose to shop in-person, wear your mask and maintain 6 feet of distance from others. Try to shop at off-peak times when there are fewer shoppers.

Lower Risk: Shop online. Many retailers have options for online shopping and in-person, contactless curbside or drive-up pick-up. If using in-person pick-up, you and the retail personnel should wear masks.

Important reminders:

  • Wear a mask (when not eating or drinking).
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or use hand sanitizer.
  • Stay at least six feet away from other people. 
  • If you may be around others at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, such as older adults or those medical conditions, take extra precautions to keep them safe.
  • Get the flu vaccine. 
  • For additional information, please refer to the holiday guidance provided by the CDC.
  • Department of Public Health 

    DPH promotes the health and well-being of all residents by ensuring access to high-quality public health and healthcare services, and by focusing on prevention, wellness, and health equity in all people.
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