Despite their cheery marketing appeal, holiday plans often weigh heavily on the mind of those celebrating. Finances, family relations, travel difficulties and other factors can stress people out to the point where Mayo Clinic and other health organizations have entire pages devoted to helping people cope throughout the season. With the pandemic now added into the festive mix, you may be wondering how your plans (and concerns) compare to those of the average American.
While Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has recommended holiday gatherings for the vaccinated only, U.S. residents have plans of their own—some in line with his recommendations and others not so much. However, with new and seemingly more transmissible variants emerging, navigating the holiday season has become trickier than ever.
After speaking to 1,050 Americans with tentative holiday plans, we now have a clear picture of exactly how this season is shaping up. We asked about everything from how their gatherings are approaching mask mandates to vaccination statuses and social distancing. If you're curious about how your own plans as host or attendee compare, keep reading.
Holiday gathering restrictions
Our study kicks off with a preliminary pulse check as to how people are approaching the standard COVID-19 precautions (masks and vaccines) this holiday season. We asked respondents if they're hosting a gathering, what kind they're planning and if they're requiring any such safety measures.
In spite of today's extreme circumstances, the holidays shall prevail. The vast majority of respondents (83.8%) will not only be attending a festive gathering but hosting their own. Previous research has shown that many people consider the COVID-19 risks associated with socializing to be worthwhile, perhaps because of the serious health conditions linked to extreme loneliness. Our data confirms, this year, people are ready to get together regardless of the pandemic.
People aren't entirely throwing caution to the wind, however. Four in 10 people who are fully vaccinated will not be inviting unvaccinated guests. And fewer than 25% are hosting gatherings they'd consider large. Lastly, the majority of hosts are expecting their guests to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test, regardless of vaccine status. If getting invited to and attending festive functions is a priority, then vaccination and testing may be among your best interests.
With remote work becoming increasingly standard due to COVID-19, we wanted to find out how many people are planning on celebrating the holidays the same way—with virtual gatherings instead of in-person ones.
The majority of people will be attending at least one type of virtual gathering this holiday season—especially Gen Zers. More than 80% of this youthful generation plan on attending virtual holiday festivities, compared to roughly 68% of millennials, 56% of Gen Xers and 49% of baby boomers. For the most part, Gen Zers expressed concerns over finances and felt that traveling was currently just too expensive.
Finances aside, younger participants were also much more likely to express a particular fear of COVID-19 exposure on airplanes. While many scientists have expressed that the risk of contracting COVID-19 on flights is relatively low, there is concern over the likelihood increasing upon mask removal during meal services. Moreover, younger travelers are more likely to unknowingly carry the disease, as they typically display fewer symptoms. Perhaps their increased reservation to travel comes from a concern for their higher-risk loved ones.
We would also be remiss not to acknowledge the 16% of respondents who simply don't feel like gathering in person. Previous research shows that the vast majority of people who attend holiday meals don't particularly enjoy the experience. Hosting can be both expensive and stressful, as can traveling for attendance. For 17.6% of participants, the stress of gathering was an explicit reason to gather virtually this season.
Masked, vaxxed, and ready to party
For those that will be celebrating the holidays in the presence of loved ones, their appearance and perhaps even their mRNA structure may be a little different this year. This section of our study asks hosts and attendees to share their approach to both masks and vaccines.
While masked gatherings are not at all uncommon this holiday season—2 out of 3 respondents received invitations to gatherings with mask requirements—the ask is definitely turning some people away. More than 1 in 10 declined an invitation that required a mask. A similar phenomenon applied to vaccines: While most had an invite to a party with vaccine requirements, 1 in 10 decided to turn it down. As of late November 2021, 59% of the American population was fully vaccinated.
If you are considering requiring a mask at your own gathering, prepare for it to potentially change the relationship you have with your invitees. Some insisted that it worsened the relationship (37.9%), while others said it bettered it (43.3%), and relatively few (18.7%) said that it didn't impact the relationship at all. While, ultimately, the odds of improving the relationship won out, if it's your party—you can cry (or mask up) if you want to.
Pressured into precaution
Not all COVID-19 precautions came voluntarily. The last section of our study looks into the family members and friend groups that encourage or pressure people to take certain precautions as well as how that has impacted their overall relationship.
This holiday season, expect some parental pressure to take precautions, especially if you're a Gen Zer. One in 4 participants of all ages said their parents put more pressure on them than their friends. Grandparents, who arguably are most at risk, were much less likely to put COVID-19-related pressure on their loved ones.
Though that pressure may have led to increased mask-wearing and vaccinations, it ultimately impacted relationships as well. More than 1 in 10 said it had worsened their relationship "a lot," while nearly a quarter said it had a noticeably negative impact. This negative impact may not stem from bad intentions but perhaps from approaching the conversation in the wrong manner. If you are a parent attempting to get your children to take COVID-19 more seriously, experts suggest first asking your child what they already know and attempting to include them in the conversation as much as possible.
Managing the new holiday expectations
Against all odds, the 2021 holiday season looks set to endure. Not only do the vast majority of respondents plan on attending a gathering, but most plan on hosting one. Many are experiencing peer pressure to take COVID-19 precautions as a result. Of those who are avoiding travel because of the pandemic (or because of their finances), plenty intend on attending gatherings virtually.
Fortunately, resources for all types of holiday plans are widely available. If you are planning on having guests over or perhaps having them view your space remotely, one way to remove unnecessary stress is by receiving a helping hand from Cinch Home Services. Cinch offers affordable home protection plans that help control the costs of appliance and system breakdowns. These are extras you simply can't find anywhere else, so head to cinchhomeservices.com today to let this holiday season (and your home in general) progress as smoothly as possible.
Methodology and limitations
This study uses data from a survey of 1,050 Americans planning to gather for the 2021 holidays. Survey respondents were gathered through the Amazon Mechanical Turk survey platform where they were presented with a series of questions, including attention-check and disqualification questions. Participants incorrectly answering any attention-check question had their answers disqualified. 54.7% of respondents were men, while 45.3% were women. Respondents ranged in age from 18 to 80 years old with an average age of 38. Gen Zers accounted for 23.5% of respondents, millennials for 25.1%, Gen Xers for 25.6% and baby boomers for 25.8%. This study has a 3% margin of error on a 95% confidence interval.
Please note that survey responses are self-reported and are subject to issues such as exaggeration, recency bias and telescoping.
Fair use statement
Holidays can be stressful even under normal circumstances. If you feel that someone in your audience could benefit from the findings of this study, you are free to share the content. Just be sure your purposes are noncommercial and that you link back to this page when doing so.