Have Yourself a Socially Distanced Christmas - Christmas Traditions for a Non-Traditional Year

Christmas Novena


By Desiree Hausum

Christmas is going to look different this year. (It’s 2020, after all.)

But, a pandemic can’t stop Christmas.

It can’t stop the Incarnation of Jesus. It can’t stop the love of God for the world, and it cannot stop the songs of the redeemed. In some ways, the kind of sufferings that we have endured just make those songs that much stronger and sweeter.

So while we may not be able to gather for Christmas dinner, or pack out the pews for midnight Mass, there are still a lot of ways that we can celebrate!

Gift giving

As far as we know, COVID-19 isn't especially contagious through surfaces - it's more airborne. So, it's totally fine to exchange gifts with folks outside your immediate family. Consider a contactless drop off, where you coordinate a time to leave gifts on each other's front porch!

Christmas Mass - distanced or live streamed

In many places, Masses have resumed and are being carefully distanced. If it's safe to do so for you and in your area, you may still be able to go to Christmas Eve or Christmas Day Mass. 

If you can't, most parishes are now livestreaming Masses. To make a livestreamed Christmas Mass more special, consider:

  • Lighting the room with only candles 
  • Burning incense or simmering frankincense essential oil
  • Having a family carol sing beforehand

St. Andrew Novena

This Advent prayer is a wonderful way to prepare for Christmas Day; you can pray on your own, or on the phone with a friend or relative. Find the words for the prayer here.

Drive to go see lights

In my husband's family, it's a tradition to drive around town and see the Christmas lights; in some places, there are drive-thru Christmas light displays, or well-distanced ones to walk through.

A special dinner at home

For everyone's safety, it's best this year to have dinner with just our immediate households. But that doesn't mean we can't pull out all the stops for a traditional dinner! Here are a few ways to make that happen:

  • Have friends or relatives join you on a video call for dinner
  • Plan a full traditional menu - maybe in smaller portions – or try something new. You could make a traditional Christmas dinner from a different culture
  • Again, candles go a long way to dispel any gloom that hangs due to isolation and worry


The evergreen boughs, lights, and other decor are important to create the feel and spirit of the season; don't be tempted to skip it because you aren't having company. Even if you live completely alone, put up your tree. String your lights. Reflect on Jesus, the light of the world!

Read the story of the First Christmas

This is another important Christmas tradition that can still happen this year! On your own or with your family, read the familiar Nativity passages again. Here’s a version for younger children to follow along with.

Go caroling

Either just with family, or well distanced with masks, caroling can still happen! Outdoor activities are much safer and easier to distance. If the singers are masked and stand 6 feet apart, there is no reason that this cherished tradition can't go on this year. And really, what a wonderful way to spread hope and joy around neighborhoods that surely need it more than ever.

Contactless cookie swap

Cookie swaps are a fixture this time of year - but that kind of indoor get together is not really on the books this time. Consider a virtual cookie swap instead - the group could bake together over a video call, and everyone can drop off their portion of cookies at each others' door. It might not be quite as good as the usual way - but the cookies will still bring a smile. (And, COVID-19 is not thought to spread easily through food).

These are just a few traditions that can still happen this year.

The important thing, for us, our faith, and our families is that we still bring joy to the table this year. Let's offer up what we have lost, and cling tightly to Jesus in this season that is STILL about beauty, love, and joy.

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