Getting together with family over the holidays is a tradition even more meaningful this year after spending so much time apart.
For close to two years, the pandemic has forced many families to forgo annual visits.
But as the holidays are often a time to catch up with loved ones, it can also spark the worst family arguments.
Just like politics, religion and money, COVID-19 will no doubt create strong opinions around the dinner table.
“This year will be especially difficult,” said Iva Musilek, with Courtesy Matters, “because everyone has a different opinion when it comes to the pandemic.
“This year will be a little bit more tricky.”
Musilek is an etiquette consultant and said before hosting an event in your home, you must be clear on your expectations.
“People are starting to be more confident about socializing during the holidays, but not everybody is on the same comfort level.
“You have to know what your comfort level is and you have to set up the boundaries before you decide what kind of holidays you want to have this year.
“This simply may not be the year you can invite everybody you’d love to see,” said Musilek.
“This is all about feelings and we need to be especially respectful.”
Alberta requires all people over the age of 12 to be vaccinated if attending an indoor private event with a maximum of two households.
Outdoor private social gatherings are limited to a maximum of 20 people.
Musilek encouraged planning to help alleviate some of the tension. She recommended setting the mood with music and non-competitive games so the conversation doesn’t wander to a controversial COVID debate.
She stressed it’s OK to let family know ahead of time that COVID and the pandemic will be a topic that is not allowed on the menu.
“Absolutely, it’s part of your boundaries,” Musilek said.
Sandy White, co-founder of Rapid Test & Trace Canada, said his company is working to bring peace of mind to Canadians as they gather together.
“I don’t think it’s unfair or I don’t think it’s in bad taste,” said White, “to ask people to go and do a test before they come in.”
White called Rapid Test & Trace Canada the go-to website for an array of Health Canada approved rapid tests. For less than $10 for a test, White said the company will quickly ship a test to your door.
“I think the security that a test offers makes this entire process much easier and much safer,” White said.
“I would be very surprised if all families weren’t talking about this in some way, shape or form.”
Rapid Test & Trace Canada said it surveyed 1,000 Canadians between Nov. 18, 20201 and Dec. 6, 2021.
Less than 50 per cent of Canadians said they planned to ask family and friends to get a COVID test before a holiday visit.
Men said they were more reluctant to ask people to get tested; the survey pointed to nearly 71 per cent saying they could never ask someone to provide a COVID test result.
White said regional breakdowns surprised him.
The majority of Albertans surveyed were confident that no one at high risk for COVID will be at their holiday events.
Most Alberta men, 72 per cent, said they expect to fight about getting COVID tests before family visits. The national average for Canadian men was 58 per cent.
“If we’re going to talk about it anyway we may as well talk about the testing and how to protect ourselves,” said White, “rather than complaining about it, which I’m sure is what we’re going to be doing as well.”
To take the edge off and to try to lighten the conversation, Rapid Test & Trace Canada will send an e-card on your behalf, asking visitors to get COVID tested.
Five holiday e-cards are available for free online, “to avoid this season’s hardest conversation,” reads the website.
“We are not trying to make light of something that is difficult,” said White, “which of course COVID is. This has been one of the worst experiences that I think all of us have gone through in our lives, but I think the best thing to do in terms of how we encourage people to get tested or vaccinated or whatever that issue may be, is to approach that conversation in a slightly more delicate way and less contentious one that makes people feel at ease.”
Musilek stressed now more than ever, people need to show kindness and respect different COVID comfort levels.
The holidays, she said, is not the time to try to change opinions.
“No mater how much reason or no matter how much logic or criticism you bring to the situation, you’re not going to solve this problem around that dinner table,” Musilek.
“So it’s just best to avoid it and realize this is not the time or the place to deal with this.”