Christmas gatherings may be limited this year, but the spirit of Christmas continues to be celebrated in Manitoba.

Despite case numbers going down, COVID-19 restrictions will be extended into the new year. This includes the limiting of gatherings and halting of in-person worship services. 

Christmas celebrations and other social gatherings involving more than one household are not permitted inside residences or on the residential property.

Manitobans are discouraged to travel out of the province for the holidays. Dr. Brent Roussin says out-of-province visitors are also off the table.

"All those people that you normally gather with, if you find alternative ways to get this year, you are protecting them," Roussin says. The doctor says in the future people will be able to gather, but this Christmas is not that time.

Premier Brian Pallister says "the best present you can give someone you love is to not be present with them."

A single-person household is permitted to have one designated social visitor during these restrictions.  

"I have been criticized for breaking down too often so I am not going to start talking about seniors at Christmas," Pallister says.

There is some loosing of restrictions towards the holiday season regarding purchasing Christmas decorations, church services, and online Christmas concerts.

Some holiday decorations and religious items will be permitted to be sold in-store starting on Saturday.

Churches are allowed to host drive-in services starting on Saturday. Attendees are not allowed to leave their car during the services. Online worship and services are recommended by public health.

To encourage Manitobans to stay home, a new Safe at Home MB grant program from the Province of Manitoba will allow individuals and organizations up to $50,000 to host at-home events. Christmas concerts are eligible for this grant.

As part of the Safe at Home MB program, several Christmas-themed events will be happening. On December 18, The Legislative Holiday Show will feature William Prince, Royal Winnipeg Ballet dancers, and holiday greetings. Skills Canada is hosting a cookie-decorating competition. The Royal Manitoba Theatre Company is hosting a variety show in late December. 

Christmas hampers and other food bank operations are being reminded that they have the green light from the province. They will be giving the food-based social service clearer instruction on how they can operate safely in the upcoming days. The Christmas Cheer Board usually has thousands of volunteers and scaled back, distributing vouchers instead. 

Additionally, Manitobans have been spreading Christmas cheer in many ways including hosting toy drives, donating decorations, and reaching out to seniors.

"Call somebody you love," Pallister says. "They will appreciate the phone call."

He is urging Manitobans to reach to their loved ones by phone or electronically, asking people to not let others "feel alone" this Christmas.