Tagged Holidays and Special Occasions

How to Design Your 2020 Holiday Reboot

How to Design Your 2020 Holiday Reboot

It may not be the perfect storybook holiday, but it rarely is. Why not use this year to reset and create your own traditions?

Credit…Cristina Spanò

  • Dec. 22, 2020, 5:00 a.m. ET

Like everything else this year, the Covid-19 pandemic has turned the holiday season on its head, thanks in part to restrictions on travel and gatherings.

For some, the idea of forgoing their annual holiday traditions is upsetting, especially given the difficulty of this year. But for others, who may find the usual holiday rituals stressful at best and triggering at worst, it may come as a relief. Instead of making their annual “guilt trip” home for the holidays, they’re able to use this year to reset and create their own traditions.

I talked to experts about the role traditions play in our lives and how to make the most of the nontraditional 2020 holiday season. Here’s what they had to say.

Why do traditions matter?

Why humans care so much about traditions and rituals has been the focus of Dimitris Xygalatas’s career. “It’s especially puzzling because I’ve asked thousands of people why their rituals are important to them,” said Dr. Xygalatas, an anthropologist and cognitive scientist at the University of Connecticut, “and the most common response is to look at you and say, ‘What do you mean, it’s just what I do,’ or ‘I don’t know — that’s just our tradition.’”

After two decades researching this topic, Dr. Xygalatas says that like others in his field, he has found that traditions and rituals serve important functions on both personal and social levels. “On the personal level, those rituals or traditions provide meaning in our lives by giving us a sense of structure and familiarity,” he explains. “And on the group level, they help shape our collective identities, and find the sense of belonging and cohesion within our groups.”

According to Marissa King, a professor of organizational behavior at the Yale School of Management, our commitment to holiday rituals also stems from the fact that human beings are exceptionally predictable, with many of our behaviors “guided by inertia” and an inherent need for social order and stability. “If you think about why we have rituals — whether that’s from going to get a tree, or doing an office Secret Santa — it’s really a way of reaffirming our collective identity and shared values,” Dr. King said.

Rituals around this time of year — specifically, the winter solstice — have been around for millenniums. “For as long as humans have been around, we’ve been aware of changing seasons, and the winter — in whatever hemisphere you’re in — marks a new year,” said Pam Frese, a cultural anthropologist and professor at The College of Wooster. In other words, our urge to observe or celebrate the passage of time each year in December predates any modern version of the holidays and our desire for structure and being part of a collective identity has kept the traditions alive since.

In his own research — both in the field and the lab — Dr. Xygalatas and his team have found that when people are stressed, they perform more ritualized actions. And after measuring their physiological responses, they observed that those who participated in more collective rituals tended to have lower cortisol levels and reduced levels of anxiety.

Unfortunately, this presents a challenge for us in 2020, living through a pandemic. “At the moment when we need them the most, that’s when we have the least access to those cultural typologies that we use to soothe our anxiety,” Dr. Xygalatas says.

This also offers insight into why, despite warnings and requests from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other infectious disease experts to stay home, some people are flouting the recommendations and traveling to visit family and friends for the holidays — something Dr. Xygalatas says is itself telling. “This is one way in which you see how important rituals are to us,” he explains. “There are a lot of people risking their lives to take part in them.”

Is it Time for a Reset?

Not everyone shares this enthusiasm for the holidays and their accompanying rituals. In fact for some, holiday traditions can feel more like entrapment than something to celebrate, according to Dr. King.

The good news, she says, is that this year we have the chance to reconceptualize the holidays, finding new ways to recreate stability and a sense of belonging by starting our own traditions. For example, if you’ve lost someone close to you recently and were dreading certain holiday activities because it puts a spotlight on their absence, Dr. King says we can use the unusual 2020 holiday season to our advantage.

“I think there’s an opportunity right now for us all to have that suspended reality, and create our own traditions based on what might feel more comfortable,” she explains. “Oddly, I think — particularly if you’ve had hard holiday experiences — they may, in some ways, be more authentic.”

Of course, you don’t need to have suffered to want to start your own traditions. For instance, many people in their 30s and 40s who now have families of their own may still feel obligated to travel to their hometown each year and recreate the holidays of their childhood. While this may keep their parents happy, it also makes it more difficult for them to create traditions as their own family unit.

Take inventory of family traditions

Communication tools like Zoom and FaceTime provide us with opportunities for virtual visits with family and friends that didn’t exist on such a widespread level even a decade ago. But 2020 has not only taught us how convenient it can be to have the technology that allows you to see loved ones face-to-face: we’ve also learned that using it can be exhausting.

Rather than attempting to recreate your family’s entire holiday agenda on Zoom, Dr. Eugene Beresin, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and executive director of The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds at Massachusetts General Hospital, recommends first taking an inventory of your typical traditions, and determining which make the most sense to continue remotely. This way you can devote your time and energy to the activities best suited for virtual participation.

This is also your chance to create new holiday traditions, like a virtual family game night or a remote karaoke party (where holiday songs are not mandatory). “You can invent tradition,” Dr. Frese says. “Lots of people do this. What makes it a tradition is passing it on and keeping it active every year.”

Cook together, virtually

There’s a reason so many people consider holiday meals to be among their favorites of the year: food tastes better when it’s connected to a ritual. “Our taste is shaped by our subjective experiences, and this is part of it,” Dr. Xygalatas explains. “On holidays, it might include the fact that you have taken part in the preparations, or the long wait, or all the bells and whistles that surround the ceremony. But mostly it’s because of the importance we attribute to the ceremony itself.”

And while having various members of your family gather together online to virtually share a meal can be nice, Dr. Xygalatas recommends taking it one step further. “Don’t just do the eating part: do the cooking part online, too,” he says. “Get a sense of actual, active participation in the preparation of food and decorations even. Maybe livestream the whole day.” This way, even if your version of your family’s signature casserole doesn’t look exactly like your cousin’s, the act of preparing the dish together might improve how it tastes.

Share family stories

Dr. Beresin suggests making a point of including family stories in your celebrations this year. “Our brains are wired for narratives,” he explains, adding that if no stories come to mind, you can start by looking through old photo albums. And while everyone responds to funny memories — like the year the dog knocked over the Christmas tree — Dr. Beresin says that tales of resilience can be especially beneficial for children, particularly this year.

“Those kinds of narratives are super important to make a deeper connection with the family, and to help kids realize that sometimes we get stronger when we go through hard times,” he said.

And if your family is still living off the same four stories from the Great Depression or World War II, remind them that in years to come, they’ll be able to reminisce about the year they celebrated the holidays during a pandemic.

And don’t forget to document this year’s celebrations: They are going to be great material for future generations.

Covid Guide: How to Get Through the Pandemic

Dec. 18, 2020

Hang in there, help is on the way

Times are tough now, but the end is in sight. If we hunker down, keep our families safe during the holidays and monitor our health at home, life will get better in the spring. Here’s how to get through it.

Tara Parker-Pope

Illustrations by Vinnie Neuberg

Everyone is tired of living like this. We miss our families and our friends. We miss having fun. We miss kissing our partners goodbye in the morning and packing school lunches. We miss travel and bars and office gossip and movie theaters and sporting events.

We miss normal life.

It has been a long, difficult year, and there are many tough weeks still ahead. The coronavirus is raging, and the United States is facing a grim winter, on track for 450,000 deaths from Covid-19 by February, maybe more.

But if we can safely soldier through these next few months, then normal life — or at least a new version of normal — will be within reach. New vaccines that are highly protective against coronavirus are being rolled out right now, first to health care workers and the most vulnerable groups, and then to the general population this spring.

“Help is on the way,” says Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert. “A vaccine is literally on the threshold of being implemented. To me that is more of an incentive to not give up, but to double down and say, ‘We’re going to get through this.’”

The vaccine won’t change life overnight. It will take months to get enough people vaccinated so that the virus has nowhere to go. But the more everyone does their part to slow down the virus now — by wearing a mask and restricting social contacts — the better and faster the vaccine will work to slow the pandemic once we can all start getting vaccinated this spring.

“Why would you want to be one of the people who is the last person to get infected?” says Dr. Fauci. “It’s almost like being the last person to get killed in a war. You want to hang in there and protect yourself, because the end is in sight.”


Hunker Down for a Little Bit Longer

The pandemic is surging, but as bad as things are, the end is in sight. By doubling down on precautions, we can slow the virus and save lives.

A crucial number to watch this winter is the test positivity rate for your state and community. The number represents the percentage of coronavirus tests that are positive compared to the overall number of tests being given, and it’s an important indicator of your risk of coming down with Covid-19. When positive test rates in a community stay at 5 percent or lower for two weeks, you’re less likely to cross paths with an infected person. Since the fall, the national test positivity rate has crept above 10 percent, and it’s been 30 percent or higher in several states.

Rising case counts and rising test positivity rates mean there is more virus out there — and you need to double down on precautions, especially if you have a high-risk person in your orbit. Cut back on trips to the store or start having groceries delivered. Scale back your holiday plans. Don’t invite friends indoors, even for a few minutes. Always keep six feet of distance from people who don’t live in your home. Skip haircuts and manicures until the numbers come down again. Wear a mask.

Close your leaky bubble.

Here’s the harsh reality of virus transmission: If someone in your family gets sick, the infection probably came from you, another family member or someone you know. The main way coronavirus is transmitted is through close contact with an infected person in an enclosed space.

“One of the challenges we have is that familiarity is seen as being a virus protector,” said Michael Osterholm, a member of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s coronavirus advisory group and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. “More likely than not, knowing someone is the risk factor for getting infected.”

This summer, 47 percent of Americans said they had formed a “pod” or social “bubble” that includes two or more households committed to strict precautions so the group can safely socialize indoors.But sometimes your bubble is leakier than you realize. Farhad Manjoo, an opinion columnist for The Times, had initially assumed his bubble was pretty small, but it turned out that he was having direct or indirect contact with more than 100 people.

Whether your bubble is just your immediate household — or you’ve formed a bubble with others — take some time to check in with everyone and seal the leaks. This requires everyone to be honest about the precautions they’re taking (or not taking). Dr. Osterholm said that convincing people that their friends might infect them has been one of the biggest challenges of the pandemic. He told the story of a man and a woman who both contracted Covid-19 after attending a wedding.

“He told me, ‘We didn’t fly. I knew everybody there,’” said Dr. Osterholm. “He somehow had the mistaken belief that by knowing the person, you won’t get infected from them. We’ve got to break through that concept.”

Mask up. You’re going to need it for a while.

A study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington estimated that 130,000 lives could be saved by February if mask use became universal in the United States immediately.

Various studies have used machines puffing fine mists to show that high-quality masks can significantly reduce the spread of pathogens between people in conversation. And the common-sense evidence that masks work has become overwhelming. One well-known C.D.C. study showed that, even in a Springfield, Mo., hair salon where two stylists were infected, not one of the 139 customers whose hair they cut over the course of 10 days caught the disease. A city health order had required that both the stylists and the customers be masked.

Choose a mask with two or three layers that fits well and covers your face from the bridge of your nose to under your chin. “Something is better than nothing,” said Linsey Marr, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech and one of the world’s leading aerosol scientists. “Even the simplest cloth mask of one layer of material blocks half or more of aerosols we think are important to transmission.”

Watch the clock, and take the fun outside.

When making decisions about how you’re spending your time this winter, watch the clock. If you’re spending time indoors with people who don’t live with you, wear a mask and keep the visit as short as possible. (Better yet, don’t do it at all.) Layer up, get hand warmers, some blankets, an outdoor heater — and move social events outdoors.

In an enclosed space, like an office, at a birthday party, in a restaurant or in a church, you can still become infected from a person across the room if you share the same air for an extended period of time. There’s no proven time limit that is safest, but based on contact tracing guidelines and the average rate at which we expel viral particles — through breathing, speaking, singing and coughing — it’s best to wear a mask and keep indoor activities, like shopping or haircuts, to about 30 minutes.

Take care of yourself, save a medical worker.

The country’s doctors, nurses and other health care workers are at a breaking point. Long gone are the raucous nightly cheers, loud applause and clanging that bounced off buildings and hospital windows in the United States and abroad — the sounds of public appreciation each night at 7 for those on the pandemic’s front line.

“Nobody’s clapping anymore,” said Dr. Jessica Gold, a psychiatrist at Washington University in St. Louis. “They’re over it.”

In interviews, more than two dozen frontline medical workers described the unrelenting stress that has become an endemic part of the health care crisis nationwide. Jina Saltzman, a physician assistant in Chicago, said she was growing increasingly disillusioned with the nation’s lax approach to penning in the virus. In mid-November, she was astounded to see crowds of unmasked people in a restaurant as she picked up a pizza. “It’s so disheartening. We’re coming here to work every day to keep the public safe,” she said. “But the public isn’t trying to keep the public safe.”


Scale Back Your Holiday Plans

How and when the pandemic ends will depend on the choices we make this winter, particularly around Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

Nobody wants to open presents by Zoom, light holiday candles at home alone or clink virtual champagne glasses to ring in the New Year.

But here we are, in the midst of a surging pandemic, on course to losing nearly a half million souls in less than a year. Despite the promise of a vaccine on the horizon, only a tiny fraction of Americans will be vaccinated by the end of December. Vaccines won’t enter large-scale distribution until spring 2021.

The only way to drive down infection rates for now will be to avoid large indoor gatherings, wear masks, cancel travel and limit your holiday celebrations to just those who live in your home.

Dr. Fauci said he, his wife and three daughters, who live in different parts of the country, all made a family decision not to travel for the holidays. It will be the first Christmas in 30 years that the entire family won’t be together.

“I’m a person in an age group that’s at high risk of serious consequences,” said Dr. Fauci. “That’s the first Thanksgiving since any of my three daughters were born that we have not spent it as a family. That was painful, but it was something that needed to be done. We are going to do the same thing over Christmas for the simple reason that I don’t see anything changing between Thanksgiving and Christmas and Hanukkah. In fact, I see it getting worse.”

If you do travel, get tested.

People who choose to travel over the holiday season despite the warnings should consider taking precautions. First, try to quarantine for at least a week (two weeks if possible) before your trip or visit with another household. The C.D.C. now recommends that domestic air travelers get tested before and after their trip.

Remember, a lot can go wrong between the time you take a test and the moment you hug Grandma. Not only are false negatives possible, you need to consider the risk of catching the virus after taking the test — in an airport, in a plane or from a taxi driver or rental car agent.

For a laboratory test, check the turnaround time in your area and try to schedule it as close as possible to your visit. If you’re using rapid testing, try to take more than one test over the days leading up to your visit, and if possible, get a rapid test on the same day you plan to visit family, friends or a vulnerable person. Test again after you arrive if you can.

Plan a safer holiday gathering.

If you’re determined to have people to your home for the holidays, keep the guest list small and consider these precautions.

Get tested: If testing is available in your area, consider asking all guests to be tested a few days before the holiday, timing it so they get the results before coming to your home. If rapid testing is available, get tested a few times during the week and on the day of the social event.

Move the event outside: Even if it’s cold outside, try hosting all or part of your holiday celebration outdoors. Look into space heaters and fire pits to warm a porch or patio. Even a partially open space, like a screened-in porch or a garage with the door open, is better than socializing indoors. If you decide to stay indoors, open the windows and turn on exhaust fans to help ventilate your home.

Wear masks: All guests should wear a mask when not eating. If you’re the host, set the example and put your mask on after the meal is over and everyone is enjoying the conversation. Limit the amount of time you spend together indoors.

Socialize outdoors the Scandinavian way.

In the pandemic, rather than feeling depressed that the arrival of cold weather will mean that you’ll be isolated indoors, apart from friends and family, we can take lessons from Scandinavians about how to continue getting together outdoors.


Take Care of Yourself at Home

Covid-19 can be scary, but we’ve learned a lot about how to monitor the illness and home — and when to seek hospital care.

Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve learned a lot about how to care for people infected with Covid-19. Death rates from the disease are dropping as doctors have gotten better at treating it and advising patients when to seek medical care.

Steroids like dexamethasone have lowered the number of deaths among hospitalized patients by about one-third. And although limited in supply, monoclonal antibodies, a treatment given to President Trump when he was ill with coronavirus, can possibly shorten hospital stays when given early in the course of infection.

But the vast majority of patients with Covid-19 will manage the illness at home. Check in with your doctor early in the course of your illness, and make a plan for monitoring your health and checking in again if you start to feel worse.

Get tested if you have symptoms.

Ideally, you should be able to get a coronavirus test whenever you want it. But in the United States, test availability varies around the country, depending on whether supplies are low or labs are overwhelmed. Check with your doctor, an urgent care clinic or your local health department about where to get tested in your area.

If you feel sick, you should be tested for Covid-19. A dry cough, fatigue, headache, fever or loss of sense of smell are some of the common symptoms of Covid-19. After you take your test, stay isolated from others and alert the people you’ve spent time with over the last few days, so they can take precautions while you’re waiting for your result. Many tests will work best if you are in the first week of your symptoms.

Track your symptoms.

Marking your calendar at the first sign of illness, and tracking your symptoms and oxygen levels, are important steps in monitoring a coronavirus infection. Covid-19 has been unpredictable in the range of symptoms it can cause. But when it turns serious, it often follows a consistent pattern.

While every patient is different, doctors say that days five through 10 of the illness are often the most worrisome time for respiratory complications of Covid-19. Covid-19 is a miserable illness, and it’s not always easy to know when to go to the emergency room. It’s important during this time to stay in touch with your doctor. Telemedicine makes it possible to consult with your doctor without exposing others to your illness.

Get a fingertip pulse oximeter.

The best way to monitor your health during Covid-19 is to use a pulse oximeter, a small device that clips onto your finger and measures your blood oxygen levels. If it drops to 93 or lower, it could be a sign that your oxygen levels are dropping. Call your doctor or go to the emergency room.

Pro tip: One of the things to remember about reading a pulse oximeter is that many of them are designed to be read by someone facing you, not the person wearing it. If you’re looking at it upside down, a healthy reading of 98 could look like an alarming 86.

Caring for someone with Covid-19

Caring for someone with mild to moderate symptoms of the coronavirus is similar to caring for someone with the flu. Give them supportive care, fluids, soups and Tylenol, and have them take their temperature and monitor oxygen levels with a pulse oximeter regularly. Always wear a mask in the sick person’s room even if they are not there or have recovered. Coronavirus particles can last as long as three days on various surfaces, and can be shaken loose when you pick up clothes, change bedding or pick up soiled tissues.

The plight of “Covid long-haulers”

It’s unclear how many people develop lingering and sometimes debilitating symptoms after a bout of Covid-19. Such symptoms — ranging from breathing trouble to heart issues to cognitive and psychological problems — are already plaguing an untold number of people worldwide. Even for people who were never sick enough to be hospitalized, the aftermath can be long and grueling, with a complex and lasting mix of symptoms.

There is an urgent need to address long-term symptoms of the coronavirus, leading public health officials say, warning that hundreds of thousands of Americans and millions of people worldwide might experience lingering problems that could impede their ability to work and function normally.


Look for Better Days This Spring

With the rollout of the vaccine, an end to the pandemic is in sight. Life will start to feel more normal in mid- to late 2021, depending on how many people get vaccinated.

Earlier this month, The Times spoke with Dr. Fauci about his predictions for the spring. Here’s what he had to say.

The end game for viral disease outbreaks, particularly respiratory diseases, is a vaccine. We can do public health measures that are tempering things, waiting for the ultimate showstopper, which is a vaccine. That’s why I’m saying we need to double down even more on public health measures to get us through to the period when enough people in this country will be vaccinated that the virus will have no place to go. It will be a blanket or an umbrella of herd immunity.

We have crushed similar outbreaks historically. We did it with smallpox. We did it with polio. We did it with measles. We can do it with this coronavirus. It requires a highly efficacious vaccine. Thank goodness we have that. We have multiple vaccines, two of which clearly are very efficacious, and I feel confident that the others that are coming along will be comparably efficacious.

Then the second part of that is getting the overwhelming majority of the population vaccinated. I think that likely will have to be about 70 to 75 percent of people in this country. If we do that, that will be the indicator of when things will get back to normal, when you won’t have to worry about going in a restaurant, when you won’t have to worry about having a dinner party, when the children won’t have to worry about going to school, when factories can open and not worry about their employees getting sick and going to the hospital. That will happen, I guarantee you. If people appreciate the importance of getting vaccinated, and we have a high uptake of vaccines, that will happen. That’s what the future will look like.

The future doesn’t need to be bleak. It’s within our hands to really shape the future, both by public health measures and by taking up the vaccine. — Dr. Fauci

What you need to know about the new vaccines

There aren’t enough doses right now for everyone, so initially the vaccine will be rationed for those who need it most. It will take time to produce and distribute the vaccine, and then schedule two vaccinations per person, three to four weeks apart. As more vaccines get approved, things will speed up. At least 40 million doses (enough for 20 million people) should be available from Pfizer and Moderna by the end of the year, and much more will come in 2021.

The challenges ahead for widespread vaccination

The success of the new vaccines will depend on more than how well they performed in a clinical trial. While there’s much reason for optimism, a lot can still go wrong.

First there’s the challenge of manufacturing and distributing the doses. Pharmaceutical manufacturers have struggled to ramp up vaccine production. They have run short on materials like the bags that line the containers in which the vaccines are made. Both of the leading vaccines must be stored in freezing conditions. And state and local governments have to figure out how to get the vaccines from production facilities into people’s arms.

The dark cloud hanging over vaccine distribution

The vaccines will be much less effective at preventing death and illness in 2021 if they are introduced into a population where the coronavirus is raging — as is now the case in the United States.

An analogy may be helpful here, says David Leonhardt, who writes The Morning newsletter for The Times. He explains that a vaccine that’s 95 percent effective, as Moderna’s and Pfizer’s versions appear to be, is a powerful fire hose. But the size of a fire is still a bigger determinant of how much destruction occurs.

Even if the vaccine is distributed at the expected pace, at the current infection level, experts predict that the country would still face a terrible toll during the six months after the vaccine was introduced. Almost 10 million or so Americans would contract the virus, and more than 160,000 would die.

There is one positive way to look at this: Measures that reduce the virus’s spread — like mask-wearing, social distancing and rapid-result testing — can still have profound consequences. They can save more than 100,000 lives in coming months.

Hoping vaccine skepticism will fade

Despite images of relieved health care workers getting a shot in the arm flashing across TV screens and news sites, a new survey finds that more than one-quarter of Americans say they probably or definitely will not get a coronavirus vaccination. The survey, by the Kaiser Family Foundation, found that Republican, rural and Black Americans were among the most hesitant to be vaccinated.

Nevertheless, confidence in the vaccine appears to be rising. Over all, 71 percent of respondents said they definitely would get a vaccination, an 8 percent increase from what Kaiser found in a September survey. Roughly a third (34 percent) now want the vaccine as soon as possible. A recent study from Pew Research showed that about 60 percent of Americans would definitely or probably get a vaccine, up from 51 percent of people asked in September.

Looking ahead to spring

While the majority of Americans won’t get their shots until spring, the vaccine rollout is a hopeful sign of better days ahead. We asked Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, as well as several epidemiologists and health and science writers for The Times, for their predictions about the months ahead. Here’s some of what they had to say.

When can we go to the movies or the theater?

“It depends on the uptake of the vaccine and the level of infection in the community. If you go to April, May, June and you really put on a full-court press and try to vaccinate everybody within a period of a few months, as you go from second to third quarter of the year, then you could likely go to movies, go to theaters, do what you want. However, it’s unlikely, given what we’re hearing about people’s desire to get vaccinated, that we’re going to have that degree of uptake. If it turns out that only 50 percent get vaccinated, then it’s going to take much, much longer to get back to the kind of normality that we’d like to see.” — Dr. Fauci

What did you learn from pandemic life?

“Staying home with my children has taught me that life with fewer errands to run and activities to partake in is kind of nice. I think in the future we will cut down on our family obligations.” — Jennifer Nuzzo, associate professor, Johns Hopkins

What’s one thing you’ll never take for granted again?

“I won’t take traveling to my extended family for granted.” — Alicia Allen, assistant professor, University of Arizona

Will we ever go to a big, crowded, indoor party without a mask again?

“If the level of infection in the community seems substantial, you’re not going to have the parties with friends in congregant settings. If the level of infection is so low that risk is minuscule, you’re going to see back to the normal congregating together, having parties, doing that. If we want to get back to normal it gets back to my message: When the vaccine becomes available, get vaccinated.” — Dr. Fauci

Contributors: Sara Aridi, Quoctrung Bui, Abby Goodnough, David Leonhardt, Apoorva Mandavilli, Donald G. McNeil Jr., Claire Cain Miller, Yuliya Parshina-KottasRoni Caryn Rabin, Margot Sanger-Katz, Amy Schoenfeld Walker, Noah Weiland, Jeremy White Katherine J. Wu and Carl Zimmer

Things To Do At Home

Here is a sampling of the week’s events and how to tune in (all times are Eastern). Note that events are subject to change after publication.


On the eve of World AIDS Day, join a free virtual screening of the short-film series “Transmissions,” followed by a panel discussion with the artists, produced by the nonprofit Visual AIDS and co-hosted by the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Studio Museum in Harlem and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. The six films in the program, which will be available on the Visual AIDS site beginning Tuesday, examine the impact of the epidemic outside the United States, in countries including India and Uganda.

When 6 p.m.

Where visualaids.org/transmissions


Help the young aspiring spies in your family crack secret codes and encode their own secret messages using eight different formulas for invisible ink thanks to the free activities provided by the Spy Museum in Washington. Just be prepared: Top-secret missives may start appearing throughout your home.

When Anytime

Where spymuseum.org


Pop in for the 31st installment of “Sonic Gatherings,” a weekly performance of new and improvised material from the dancer Brandon Collwes and the composer John King, as well as a rotating cast of collaborators. The pair, both previously affiliated with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, were inspired in part by Mr. Cunningham’s site-specific “Events” — only this time, the “site” is Zoom; dancers frequently broadcast live from their homes. As a result, you’ll feel like you’re in on a joyous and intimate secret gathering.

When 6 p.m.

Where tiny.cc/SonicGathering

Join the comedian Wyatt Cenac for a lively evening of short readings that celebrate New York City: “Selected Shorts: New York Stories With Wyatt Cenac,” hosted by Symphony Space. Actors such as Matthew Broderick and Karen Pittman will read a selection of short stories, essays and poems by writers including Victor LaValle, Vinson Cunningham and Colum McCann. Tickets cost $15.

When 7:30 p.m.

Where symphonyspace.org/events


Listen to Paul Giamatti read Herman Melville’s “Bartleby, the Scrivener,” which Mr. Giamatti recorded while sheltering in place over the summer. Then tune in to a live conversation between Mr. Giamatti and the Melville biographer Andrew Delbanco, hosted by 92Y. Tickets cost $15.

When 7 p.m.

Where 92y.org/event/bartleby-the-scrivener


Take in a free streamed performance of Georges Bizet’s “Carmen by the Metropolitan Opera. Elina Garanca leads the cast as Carmen in this recording of a 2010 performance, alongside Roberto Alagna as Don José and Teddy Tahu Rhodes as Escamillo. This performance of the classic opera, choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon and conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, is available to stream for free until 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.

When 7:30 p.m.

Where metopera.org


Let your middle-schoolers embrace their inner Christian Dior or Rei Kawakubo through a virtual fashion workshop, “Fashion of the Future,” hosted by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. During the three-hour course, which ties into the Costume Institute’s new exhibit, “About Time: Fashion and Duration,” kids will learn to design garments for paper dolls through collage and drawing. A separate workshop for high schoolers begins at 2 p.m.

When 10 a.m.

Where metmuseum.org/events/whats-on

Credit…Luci Gutiérrez

Spread some joy this year with The New York Times Cookie Swap. Melissa Clark, a Times Food columnist, will demonstrate one of her delicious cookie recipes, as well as teach viewers the best way to pack cookies to ship out to friends and family. Ms. Clark, along with the cooking experts Dorie Greenspan, Sohla El-Waylly and Samantha Seneviratne, will answer baking questions submitted by viewers. R.S.V.P. to receive a link for the event.

When 11 a.m.

Where nytimes.com/interactive/2020/admin/live-events.html


Find some clarity (and hilarity) with improvised tarot readings hosted by the Tiny Cupboard performance venue and led by the comedian Brittany Brave. A panel of comedians and the psychic and astrologer Clarisse Monahan will read viewers’ tarot cards, to varying degrees of seriousness. Tickets are pay-what-you-can, with a minimum of $1; ticket-holders can pre-submit questions for a tarot reading by emailing improvisedtarot@gmail.com.

When 8 p.m.

Where eventbrite.com

Celebrate the genius of Billie Holiday with a tribute concert hosted by 92Y, featuring Veronica Swift, the Emmet Cohen Trio and the Grammy Award winners Catherine Russel and Tivon Pennicott. Tickets cost $15, and buyers will receive a link to a prerecorded performance at 3 p.m., which will be available to view until Dec. 9.

When 3 p.m.

Where 92y.org/event/billie-holiday-concert-celebration