Holidays and Special Events

Holidays and celebrations continue to look different as we adjust to life during the COVID-19 pandemic. While celebrating, it's important to help reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2 by observing social distancing policies, wearing a mask while in public, and washing your hands frequently and after all interactions. 

Needless to say, this can make observing religious events and celebrating special life moments challenging. Below, you’ll find tips on how to celebrate holidays while observing social distancing. 


Holiday season

The holidays are usually a time to reconnect with family and friends. However, this year will look different due to COVID-19. For IBD patients, it’s best to consider how your plans can be modified to keep you and your loved ones safe. Here are some tips to help you through this holiday season: 

  • Virtual celebrations: Consider celebrating via an online platform or only with people that you currently live with as this poses the least amount of risk. 

  • Think about outdoor dining: We know that gathering outdoors presents a lower transmission risk than gathering indoors. If weather permits, see if you can take your celebrations outside.  

  • Wear a mask and keep your distance: Continue to follow all the necessary health and social distancing guidelines to keep you and those around you safe. 

  • Keep celebrations small: Keeping your group as small as possible helps keep everyone safe during this time. Check guidelines from your state to see if there are limitations to the number of people that can gather in residences. 

  • Keep celebrations short: If you are gathering with people, keeping your interactions as short as possible helps lower everyone's risk.  

  • Open windows and doors: We know that air circulation is important when trying to lower the risk of COVID-19. If you are gathering indoors with others outside of your household, keep doors and windows open as much as possible.  

  • Individual meals: Although convenient, buffet-style meals are not ideal for this year’s celebrations. Consider having guests bring their own meals, or having already prepared individual plates to avoid any contamination while serving food. When guests are enjoying meals indoors, make sure there is enough space for people to distance while eating, or have guests eat at different times to lower everyone's risk.  


Travel may increase your risk of COVID-19, and staying home is the best way to protect you and your families this year. If you are considering traveling, here are some things to keep in mind: 

  • Be sure to check guidance from your local health department and the health department of where you are traveling to as each state has specific restrictions and rules for travelers, especially if you are going to another state. 

  • Wear a mask in public settings, like on mass transportation, at events and gatherings, and anywhere you will be around people outside of your household. 

  • Avoid close contact with anyone who is not from your household. 

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. 

  • Avoid contact with anyone who is sick. 

  • Avoid touching your face mask, eyes, nose, and mouth. 

For more holiday and travel guidance see: 


Births, birthdays and anniversaries

Celebrating births, christenings, brit milot, birthdays, anniversaries, and many other life events are challenging right now. There are ways to recognize these events and share with even more friends and family as the party, gathering or celebration can be held virtually, which allows anyone to attend no matter where they are in the United States or elsewhere around the world. 

A friend of the Foundation, Zoe, attended a virtual birthday party using Zoom for her niece. The family sent out email invitations inviting everyone to the celebration. There was cake and everyone brought their own cupcake and beverage to the celebration

It’s important to continue recognizing the important events in our daily lives even during this difficult time. With a little planning, creativity, and visiting your favorite social media sites, you’ll find lots of idea for hosting virtual events in your home.

What technology to use?

There are numerous platforms that allow you to virtually gather groups together for meetings, networking, and special occasions. Many of these platforms are free while others charge an annual fee. We have listed a few below for easy reference.

Talk to your friends and family, by phone or email, about their favorite app or website. Consider using a platform your friends or family members use. Having a friend/family member available if you have technical issues is always helpful. You can also find lots of guidance on the web on how to use video applications including written instructions and video tutorials. 


  • Free to use, up to 100 participants for 40 minutes
  • Upgrade for a fee and 40-minute restriction removed 

Google Hangouts  

  • Free to use, up to 10 participants
  • Recently relaxed restrictions until July 1, 2020 and can now host up to 250 participants


  • Free to use, up to 50 participants for unlimited duration


  • Free to use, up to 200 participants

GoTo Meeting

  • Free to use, up to 26 participants
  • Upgrade for a fee to include up to 1,000 participants

Webex Meetings 

  • Free to use, up to 100 participants, no time limit

Ring Central

  • Free to use, up to 100 participants, 40-minute time limit


  • Plans starting at $50 per month

This isn’t an exhaustive list of all the video tools out there. Use your favorite search engine to find more resources to help you connect with friends and family to celebrate the holidays, birthdays, and other important and special occasions.



All information is reviewed by the Foundation's National Scientific Advisory Committee, with additional guidance provided by Dr. Ellen Scherl, Weill Cornell Medicine and Nahima Ahmed, MPH

Last updated November 2020