Omicron: 10 ways to enjoy the holidays amid travel bans

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Jesusegun Alagbe writes that despite the discovery of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 and the associated travel bans, especially against Africa, you can still make the holidays a memorable experience for you and your family

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused disruptions in the world – lots of disruptions in personal, family, institutional, and global spaces.

One of the things the pandemic has disrupted is the way people celebrate the holidays, especially the New Year’s Eve and New Year festivities.

When the world seemed to be bouncing back, another variant of the coronavirus named Omicron surfaced, resulting in travel bans imposed on particularly African countries by western countries.

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Dr Angelique Coetzee, the South African scientist who discovered the Omicron variant, World Health Organisation (WHO), and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa have all condemned the travel bans against Africa – saying the bans are not science-inspired.

For a lot of people who wished to travel – either within or outside their country of abode – last year for the festivities but could not due to Covid restrictions, this year is not going to be any different.

Already, countries like Brazil have cancelled the New Year’s Eve parties.

However, the pandemic does not mean that the festivities should not hold. It only requires creativity to have fun-filled holidays during these times.

The key thing during this period is to keep the celebrations small or virtual. In fact, the safest option is to celebrate the holidays only with members of your own household.

If you want to connect with other loved ones, you can host a virtual event. You can chat while eating, play games, and see each other’s holiday decorations, or even share recipes.

The following are other ways to enjoy the holidays while protecting yourself and your loved ones.

Travel to an imaginary vacation spot in your home

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Sometimes, one doesn’t have to travel to catch fun. In fact, you may not need to step out of your home to have fun and be happy. During this season, you can come up with themed rooms, special foods, and fun activities that you would traditionally do at your favourite vacation spot.

According to experts at Carpet One, an interior decoration company based in the United States, creating a themed room is one of the most fun projects when it comes to interior design.

Should you want to your room to be travel-, beach-, or city-inspired, there are tips available online that will help you create whatever you want your home to look like.

Make decorations with your kids

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Some psychologists believe that decorating has a way of brightening people’s spirits. So while probably staying indoors during the holidays, you can engage in decorations with your kids. Note that decorating your home for the season need not be expensive. A day or two is all you will need to transform your home into a wonderland. Don’t forget to work together with your children while decorating, making it a beautiful bonding activity.

Have an outdoor event with your household

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You don’t need to go out to have an outdoor event. The space at your backyard is enough to create an outdoor event for your family. You can make an event of watching sports, TV series or movies from the comfort of your own home. Set up an outdoor cozy space with pillows and blankets and snacks. If it’s not too cold, enjoy the entertainment from your yard.

Do virtual party with your family and friends

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One thing about these times is how normal it is becoming to virtually gather with far-away family members and friends.

Before the pandemic, if someone couldn’t make a holiday gathering with family and friends, they would be missed. But now, family members can all hop onto any of the virtual meeting platforms like Zoom to hold an event.

With a virtual meeting, American lifestyle writer Natasha Burton said family members could hold a costume contest, sing Christmas carols together, and share whatever they were grateful for.

Play games with your children

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Games have a way of creating bonding among people. So while you may be unable to take your children to parks or museums, you can use this season to teach them the board games you played when you were a kid and then you can play the games together. You can also have a virtual game night with your family and friends.

Spread kindness among your neighbourhood

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You can still move around your neighbourhood while taking the necessary precautions to spread love during the festivities. You and your children can design holiday cards and distribute them to your neighbours. Whatever gifts you also want to distribute, always ensure you do so while wearing your face masks and using hand sanitisers to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Experts at the University of Birmingham, UK, also stated that good neighbouring at this time might seem an unusual suggestion given the current social distancing recommendations.

[Read also] Omicron: Do travel bans work?

However, they said it was important for people to give some of their time to checking in on neighbours who may be alone, elderly or in one of the at-risk categories.

“This could involve dropping some groceries outside their door to help them maintain their physical and mental well-being, or maybe organising a virtual meet-up where they have access to the relevant technology or a simple phone call. We all have more time on our hands currently, and giving some of this time to others can be most rewarding,” the experts said.

Learn something new

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Learning something new and taking up a new hobby is a good way to spend the holiday period during the pandemic. There is a wide range of things one can do within the home, from learning to play an instrument, learning a language, learning how to cook Michelin Star food, learning to appreciate the arts, among others.

Meanwhile, experts at Johns Hopkins Hospital, US, advised trying one’s best to make good food choices and relax to restore energy. “Your endurance will be better if you can stick to your daily routine as much as possible, including exercise,” they said.

Pamper your spouse with a special experience

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Jeanette Marantos and Lisa Boone of the Los Angeles Times, in their article, said despite the pandemic, one could pamper one’s spouse with a special experience.

They wrote, “Make a pact with your partner or spouse to give an experience this year. If your husband loves cuddling by a fire at the beach, give him a tub filled with kindling, a cosy blanket and something lovely to sip, along with a specific date for the outing.

“If your wife loves long walks, research the best hikes in your area and set up a date. Include a map of your destination and make a reservation at a nearby restaurant with outdoor seating.”

Also, one could make this season a memorable one by writing a heartfelt letter to one’s spouse.

“Give your partner or spouse a letter outlining all the reasons he or she is important to you, and be specific. The infectious way he laughs, the way her eyes catch the light, his corny jokes or her terrific sense of style. Write it on your nicest stationery and scent the envelope with his or her favourite fragrance,” Marantos and Boone said.

Create a photo memory book

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Another way to have fun during these times is to create a photo memory book. Marantos and Boone advised to dig out old family photos and create a personalised book for each of your siblings and/or your parents.

Firms like Good Housekeeping have reviewed some of the best photo-book makers on their websites, but you can also make copies of your treasured photos and put them into old-fashioned photo albums. Just be sure to purchase albums with acid-free pages to protect those photos.

Take precautions during gatherings

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As it is virtually impossible to prevent people from holding small gatherings, experts advised that everyone involved in such a gathering should be scrupulous about “good COVID-19 behaviour.”

An assistant professor of infectious disease at Wayne State University, Michigan, US, Gretchen Newman, advised wearing face masks, social distancing and reducing contact with people from outside the home as much as possible.

Another infectious disease researcher at the University of California, Marm Kilpatrick, said the least risky way was to avoid all in-person social contact, and then drive to the gathering while being very careful about interactions along the way.

“If conducted carefully, this strategy can substantially lower risks of transmission,” Kilpatrick told Scientific American, however, noting that only a few people could pull this off.