Holidays, Family Gatherings and Celebrations

Get-togethers with family and friends are important to celebrate holidays and mark birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions. During COVID-19, take steps to protect your loved ones and prevent the spread of the virus.

On This Page
General Tips
  • Stay home if sick. Use Ontario’s online COVID-19 assessment tool to help determine if you need further care.
  • Avoid hugs, kisses, handshakes and other gestures with those outside your household or social circle. Instead, wave and greet others verbally. While it may be difficult, this can protect your loved ones, especially older adults and people with compromised immune systems who are more at risk from COVID-19 complications.
  • Practise physical distancing as much as possible. Keep a 2 metre (6-foot) distance from anyone who is outside your household or social circle.
  • Consider wearing a mask if inside where physical distancing is a challenge.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water before and after attending a gathering.
  • Check ahead with the host to see what COVID-19 preventive measures are in place.
  • Before attending an event or gathering, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer recommends asking yourself these sets of questions to determine if you should go:
    • Are you at high risk of developing serious complications if you become infected with COVID-19 OR if you have to self-isolate, would this seriously disrupt your upcoming plans, priorities and responsibilities?
    • Are there people at high risk of developing serious complications of COVID-19 in your household or social circle that you could unintentionally infect?
    • Has the host made changes to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (such as spacing chairs, encouraging physical distancing and having guests who are visiting and not part of your social circle wear masks)?
    • Are you able to adjust your plans at the event (such as stepping away if it gets crowded, wearing a mask and washing your hands)?
  • If in-person get-togethers are not possible, take advantage of technology. Call someone or use an online platform to hold a virtual party/celebration.  
Hosting a Gathering/Party
  • Remind guests to stay home if sick. Consider keeping a list of guests who attend for potential future COVID-19 contact tracing needs.
  • When entertaining, consider physical distancing in determining the number of people to invite to your home. Limit the number of guests to a manageable number that allows people to safely maintain a 2 metre (6 foot) distance, especially if they are outside your social circle/household. While Ontario currently puts a limit on 50 people for indoor gatherings and 100 guests for outdoor events, these numbers may be too high for a comfortable gathering at your home.
  • Be upfront with your guests about the COVID-19 prevention measures you’re taking so they know what to expect before they arrive.
  • When possible, host your gathering outdoors. In colder weather months, go indoors but try to ensure the room or space is well-ventilated (e.g. open a window).
  • Arrange tables and chairs in advance to allow for physical distancing (if already set up, guests may be reluctant to move them).
  • People from the same household or social circles can be grouped/seated together, but should be 2 metres (6 feet) apart from other families.
  • When guests arrive, minimize gestures that promote close contact between those outside households or social circles.
  • Encourage guests to wear masks when physical distancing is difficult. Consider providing masks for guests or ask them to bring their own.
  • Ensure there is enough soap and hand sanitizer for people to use during the gathering.
  • Use single-use hand towels or paper towels for drying hands so guests do not share a towel.
  • Remind guests to wash their hands before serving or eating food.
  • Limit the number of people handling or serving food (including limiting access to where food is being prepared, such as the kitchen).
  • Avoid buffet-style meals. If serving any food, consider identifying one person to serve all food so that multiple people are not handling the serving utensils
  • Limit contact with high-touch surfaces or shared items. If possible, clean and disinfect these surfaces and shared items between uses.
  • If you choose to use any shared items that are reusable (e.g. seating covers, tablecloths, linen napkins), wash, clean, and sanitize them after the event.

Garage Sales During COVID-19

Under Ontario’s Stage 3 reopening plan, garage sales can be organized. But the Health Unit strongly encourages organizers and attendees to take precautions during COVID-19.

Garage/Yard Sales

If you have concerns about your health or potential exposure to the coronavirus, you may want to put off a garage/yard sale at this time. If you decide to go ahead with a sale, take COVID-19 precautions.

If You Organize a Garage/Yard Sale
  • If you or anyone in your household is feeling ill, DO NOT go ahead with organizing the sale.
  • Be aware of the limits on large gatherings currently in place during COVID-19. The limit for outdoor gatherings is up to 100 people, while the limit on indoor gatherings is up to 50 people.
  • Keep an eye on the number of people attending the sale, and consider staggering the number of people coming and going to allow for physical distancing, especially if the sales area is small.
  • Consider holding a sale outside on your driveway or in your garage, never in your home. It is safer to hold sales in outdoor or well-ventilated areas
  • Encourage attendees to practise physical distancing as much as possible. Remind them to stay 2 metres (6 feet) apart. Consider using signs, chalk or other markings to show buyers where to stand to keep a safe distance.
  • Space out sales items and tables to allow for physical distancing.
  • Provide alcohol-based hand sanitizer for people. Encourage its use, especially if money exchanges hands.
  • Ask people not to attend the sale if they are feeling sick or have symptoms of COVID-19
  • Wash your hands with soap and water (or hand sanitizer if soap/water is unavailable), especially after handling cash
  • Clean frequently-touched surfaces such as tables and counter-tops often with household cleaner or diluted bleach solution.
  • Ask potential buyers not to touch items unless they are making a purchase.
  • Reduce contact when exchanging money. Try to maintain 2 metres distance. If able, set up a contactless payment method, such as e-transfer.
  • Be aware of other safety considerations. For instance, baby walkers, infant self-feeding devices and other items are banned products in Canada. There are also common second-hand items like car seats, cribs, helmets, playpens, strollers, children’s jewellery and kids’ sleepwear that must meet certain federal regulatory requirements before they can be bought or sold in Canada
If You are Attending a Garage/Yard Sale
  • Stay home if sick.
  • If possible, shop for used items online and arrange for delivery or curbside pickup
  • Avoid unnecessary handling of items, unless you are going to buy them.
  • Maintain physical distancing by staying 2 metres (6 feet) from others at all times
  • Wash hands with soap and water after attending a sale (or use hand sanitizer if soap/water is not available)
  • Consider wearing a non-medical (cloth) mask or face covering to sales, especially if physical distancing cannot be maintained
  • Pay with exact change if possible to reduce exchanging money multiple times
  • Clean and disinfect any items you purchase and wash hands after handling any goods. Avoid buying items that are difficult to clean.   
Second-Hand Items

Here are some more tips if you plan to buy second-hand essential items online during COVID-19: 

  • If you, or someone in your home has any symptoms of COVID-19 do not buy or sell any items.  Stay home and self isolate 
  • Stick to community-based online groups for buying and selling. Use groups or apps where it’s easier to confirm that people are who they say they are (such as linked to a personal profile of a social media account).  If in doubt, don’t engage 
  • If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Watch out for scams.  
  • Buy and sell with people that live in your community.  Avoid travel. 
  • Don’t provide your home address or visit anyone you do not know. If you do know the person, arrange for a curbside pickup or drop off. Never enter another person’s house or allow anyone to enter your home. 
  • If possible, use digital payment services rather than cash.  
  • Drop off or pick up goods during the day and in a public location.  
  • Avoid all close contact. Practise physical distancing and stay metres (6 feet) away from others at all times.  
  • After purchasing an item, thoroughly clean and disinfect it. Avoid buying items that are difficult to clean. 
  • Don’t touch your face and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling items or cash. 
Additional Resources

COVID-19 – Families

COVID-19 can be a stressful time for everyone. Be sure to protect the physical health and mental well-being of your family. During COVID-19, continue to frequently wash hands with soap and water, use respiratory etiquette and stay home as much as possible. If you do go out, encourage everyone – especially kids – to practise physical distancing at all times. Read on for more information and resources to stay safe.

Key Links:
Frequently Asked Questions

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Get-togethers with family and friends are important to celebrate holidays and mark birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions. During COVID-19, take steps to protect your loved ones and prevent the spread of the virus. On This Page General TipsHosting a Gathering/Party General Tips Stay home if sick. Use Ontario’s online COVID-19 assessment tool to help determine if you need further ...
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Under Ontario's Stage 3 reopening plan, garage sales can be organized. But the Health Unit strongly encourages organizers and attendees to take precautions during COVID-19. On this page:Garage/Yard SalesIf You Organize a Garage/Yard SaleIf You are Attending a Garage/Yard SaleSecond-Hand ItemsAdditional Resources Garage/Yard Sales If you have concerns about your health or potential exposure to the coronavirus, you may want ...
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