Christmas bubbles explained: what are they and what do they mean for families?

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Christmas bubbles explained: can children meet their grandparents

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The government recently announced that Christmas bubbles will be allowed for the festive period, allowing children, grandparents, aunts and uncles to reunite with one another after what’s been an undeniably tricky year for families.

There are a few different rules for what you can and can’t do in a Christmas bubble, and (of course) many people aren’t yet sure if they will decide to form one. Here’s our guide for what you can and can’t do this Christmas.

Some household mixing will be allowed over Christmas

This week it was announced that households across the UK will be able to meet up over a five-day Christmas period, from 23rd to 27th December. The new rules allow up to three households to mix during this period, by forming what is known as a Christmas bubble, although there are some key things to consider before deciding to form one.

What is a Christmas bubble?

A Christmas bubble is an exclusive group of people from no more than three households, who can meet socially in certain indoor settings such as homes and places of worship. 

There are a few key rules around how Christmas bubbles work:

  • No more than three households can form a Christmas bubble together
  • Households can only join one Christmas bubble
  • Once you have joined a Christmas bubble, you cannot switch to another one
  • You should try to keep your Christmas bubble as small as possible

 

The only time where someone can be in more than one Christmas bubble is if they are a child (under 18), and their parents do not live together. In this case, the child can be part of both parents’ Christmas bubbles, if their parents have chosen to form separate bubbles.

It’s important to still use common sense and be cautious, even if you do decide to form a Christmas bubble.

What can you do in Christmas bubbles?

During this time, you’re allowed to socially mix in homes, places of worship and outdoor spaces with others from your Christmas bubble. You can travel anywhere in the UK to see your Christmas bubble, and if you’re going to or from Northern Ireland, you’re allowed an extra day on either side of the five-day festive period to offset any additional travel time.

There are some restrictions, however: 

  • You can’t meet your Christmas bubble in restaurants, pubs or other hospitality venues
  • You can’t go to someone’s home or invite someone to your home if they aren’t part of your household or Christmas bubble
  • You can only meet people who are outside your Christmas bubble in certain environments, depending on the rules of the tier in which you are staying

 

People can meet in each others' homes in Christmas bubbles.
People can meet in each others’ homes in Christmas bubbles.

Is a support bubble included in your Christmas bubble?

If you’re in a support bubble, you and the members of the other household in it would count as one household, meaning that you all can form a Christmas bubble with two other households. You should remember, however, that it’s still risky to meet too many people and the government does recommend you keep your Christmas bubble as small as possible.

Is a childcare bubble included in your Christmas bubble?

Over the five-day Christmas period, you can continue to use a childcare bubble if it’s necessary and there are no reasonable alternatives. If you want to meet socially with the other household in your childcare bubble, you should remember that they would need to be counted as a separate household in your Christmas bubble.

Can we have Christmas with grandparents?

If you include them in your Christmas bubble, then yes you can meet them over Christmas. You should be careful though, especially if you’re meeting with people who are more clinically vulnerable. You can still meet them as part of a Christmas bubble, however you may want to take extra precautions such as trying to reduce physical contact.

Should I form a Christmas bubble?

This is an incredibly personal decision, and we’re sure many parents like us are unsure what to do. Although it will be legally allowed to form a Christmas bubble, there’s no denying that increased social mixing will inevitably increase the likelihood of coronavirus transmission. 

You have to make the decision that feels right for your family, and government officials have said that: “meeting with friends and family over Christmas will be a personal judgement for individuals to take, mindful of the risks to themselves and others, particularly those who are vulnerable.”

Is there anything I need to do before or after the Christmas period?

In the two weeks before forming a Christmas bubble, you should try to reduce any unnecessary contact with people you don’t live with. If you have kids, however, they still have to go to school.

Similarly, in the two weeks following the Christmas bubble period you should minimise contact with other people, but again children are expected to go back to school as normal in January.

 

Unsure what your plans are over the next few weeks and months? Download Bubble, the UK’s #1 app for on-demand childcare, and find flexible, in-home childcare that fits your family’s needs. Available on iOS and Android.

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