How do U…celebrate Valentine’s Day in a pandemic?

Yes, we are celebrating another holiday during the pandemic. No, we can’t pretend, even for one day, that COVID-19 doesn’t exist, as tempting as that may be. “Unfortunately, the virus doesn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day or any other special occasion,” said Kimberley Shoaf, MPH, DrPH, a professor in the U’s Division of Public Health. “One night of letting our guard down can result in many morning-after regrets, including a case of COVID. Also, getting or giving the virus is not very romantic.”

Shoaf is not one to sugarcoat the situation. She reminds us that transmission rates in Utah are still extremely high, our hospitals remain at capacity, and there is a new, more transmissible variant circulating in the U.S., and likely in Utah.

So should we pull the plug on Valentine’s Day celebrations? Of course not. “Yes, it’s possible to celebrate safely,” she said. “Limit your celebrating to you and your sweetie or to you and your household. Make a special dinner together or watch a romantic movie.” She adds that if you want to celebrate “Palentine’s” style, plan an outdoor activity together (masked and physically distanced) or host a Zoom movie party.

Thanks for the ideas! We also did some crowdsourcing among U students, faculty, and staff for other pandemic-friendly ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Here are 10 of our favorites:

1. Treat yourself

Hey, it’s been a tough year. Take some time to give yourself a little love. Indulge… maybe it’s a favorite treat, a bubble bath, or finally getting that item you’ve had on your Amazon waitlist for a while now.

2. DIY paint night

A quick trip to a craft store for some supplies and a YouTube video with a step-by-step tutorial are all you need to make this fun activity happen.

3. Pen a letter

Doesn’t have to be a love letter, but a handwritten note is so rare nowadays that taking the time to write one shows an extra level of care.

4. At-home karaoke

Who doesn’t love a little vocal fun? Karaoke from home is now made easy through apps and Youtube. You can even invite friends and family to join in virtually.

5. Pretty in pink

Kids love this one. Drop a little bit of red food coloring in your recipes (like pancakes for example) and try to plan meals with foods in the pink and red palette. Bonus for heart-shaped servings.

6. Stream a virtual concert

You can relive a high school concert or one of the many recorded during pandemic times. You can find streamable concerts on YouTube, Netflix, HBO, Amazon and more. While you’re at it, throw in a dance party.

7. Have a cook-off

Each participant makes a dish for the meal. When it’s over, you fill out scorecards to determine whose culinary skills are superior. Another twist is to give each person a mystery basket of ingredients and see what each can come up with.

8. Send virtual Valentines

With so many of us feeling isolated because of pandemic life, I think we would all appreciate a little TLC. Send old photos, funny memes or just a heartfelt message to loved ones.

9. Chocolate taste test

Buy a box or bag of mixed chocolaty sweets. Cut them into smaller pieces so everyone gets a taste and see if people can name the type of chocolate/bar or you can just vote for your favorites (this is also a fun one with jelly beans).

10. Take it outside

Move the celebration outdoors whether it’s snowshoeing, sledding, skiing, hiking, walking, etc. Pack a picnic or special holiday treat to spruce up the outing. Oh, and don’t forget our own garden paradise right here on campus. Red Butte Garden has countless walking trails, benches and breathtaking views. Click here for the latest visiting guidelines.