Christmas bubbles: What are the rules for having family and friends at home this Christmas?

Everything you need to know about socialising with loved ones this Christmas

We're all asking the same question: what are the rules around forming 'bubbles' this Christmas?

Well, at Christmas, coronavirus restrictions are set to be eased to allow people - family and friends - to mix and spend time with each other during the Christmas period.

Related: Budget Christmas decorating ideas for a high-impact, low-cost Christmas

Throughout the United Kingdom, people will be able to form these bubbles - however, the rules differ slightly for some countries, which we explain down below. But what is a support bubble and when exactly can you have more households round for Christmas?

Ideal Home is here to answer all your questions and break it down for you in a simple, easy-to-understand way.

Christmas bubbles – what are the rules?

christmas tree living room with christmas bubbles and gifts

(Image credit: TBC)

What is a support bubble?

According to the Government's official advice, a support bubble is a 'close support network ... think of yourself as being in a single household with people from the other household.'

This bubble can be formed between a household with only one adult or one with an adult and as many people under the age of 18 - and one other household of any size.

Can I change who is in my support bubble?

No, not yet. Once you make a support bubble, you can't change who is in it. But this rule changes during the Christmas period ...

When are we allowed to form larger bubbles around Christmas?

From the 23-27 December, the coronavirus restrictions will be eased, so a total of three households can form a temporary 'Christmas bubble'.

However, in Scotland, this is limited to 8 people, while in Northern Ireland, the Christmas bubble can be formed between the 22-28 December.

Who exactly am I allowed to see at Christmas?

Christmas bubbles are allowed to meet in three specific places. In each other's homes, at a place of worship or in an outdoor public space, or garden.

Related: The budget DIY wreath trending for Christmas 2020 – here’s how to make your own

In England, if your household has already formed a support bubble with one household, that means you can join with two further households to form this Christmas bubble. However, in Scotland, its government guidance for the festive period is that your Christmas bubble should contain no more than one "extended household".

Can you form a bubble with another household that is far away?

The UK government advises that you try and form support bubbles as locally as possible.

However, during the Christmas period (23-27 December) you can travel across the UK and between tiers to meet with other households that are in your Christmas bubble. You can also travel nationwide to return home. So, to confirm, there are no travel restrictions in this five day period.

However, bear in mind that if you're travelling via public transport, the government will not be providing extra buses, trains or other public transport during this Christmas period. So think about planning your travel in advance.

christmas dining table

(Image credit: Future PLC/Max Attenborough)

Can I go to the pub or a restaurant with my Christmas bubble?

Unfortunately, you can't meet your Christmas bubble in any other indoor setting than the ones listed above. So you can't meet them in a pub, hotel, shop, theatre, or restaurant.

In settings such as these, who you can and cannot see depends on which tier you are in.

What about Santa's grottos and Christmas carols?

There are many Christmas traditions that all of us in the UK love to take part in. However, in England, there will be changes to how these traditions can be upheld.

Santa's grottos are one of the biggest highlights for any young child over Christmas. They will still be going ahead, but with social distancing rules enforced. They can only be set up in venues which are allowed to open.

Related: How to create a Santa’s Grotto in your garden – with lighting, decorations and fun games

Carolling is also a big tradition. In England, door-to-door carol singing is allowed, but only in a group of up to six people.

And what about your little one's nativity play? Well, audiences still can go and see school nativities, but only in tiers one and two. If you're still not sure, you can quickly find out which tier your house is in with the government's postcode tracker.