On the to-do list this week: Celebrate, but celebrate safely. At this point, we are well aware of all of the life-saving health precautions we need to take. So, follow the mask-wearing, social distancing, and hand-washing rules, and opt for outdoor activities when you can. For holiday happenings that are as festive as they are ... outside, check out our guide to holiday light displays.

On my personal to-do list: I’m picking up Christmas cookies from Essen.

We’ve collected our best Philly tips all in one place here. Stay healthy, stay safe, and get vaccinated.

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Jillian Wilson

Holiday toolkit

Holiday weekend planner

Here is one highlight from our weekly events calendar:

🎶 Jazz in the Park ‘Til Dark (Music / in-person / community / free) End the year on a high note, literally. Rittenhouse Square will be filled with the smooth jazz melodies of the 1920s and 1930s performed by Drew Nugent and the Midnight Society at a free evening concert. (Free, Dec. 30, 4-7 p.m., 18th and Walnut Streets, creativephl.org)

🔎 Find more of this week’s events, and we even have a kid-friendly events calendar, too.

Do this

There’s no need to panic if last-minute Christmas shopping is on your to-do list. We have a guide to the best toy stores to visit for your shopping needs. Many of these spots offer personal recommendations for visitors and have a wide collection of both items you’d find at big-box stores along with more one-of-a-kind goods.

Our guide covers toy stores in Philadelphia and the surrounding towns, so you can easily run to the store no matter where you live. For kids under 12, pay a visit to Tildie’s Toy Box, which promises a large selection of creative, gender-neutral toys and books. For older kids, ages 8 to 18 (and adults), visit Atomic City Comics on South Street for a great selection of action figures, comics, Funko Pop! dolls, and more. And those are just two of the spots on our list: see our full toy stores guide here.

» READ MORE: The best toy stores in the Philadelphia region

Know this

The arrival of a new, highly transmissible COVID-19 variant at the same time as many winter holidays (Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve) is stressful. Gathering with family and friends is a major part of these holidays but getting together with people outside of your household also brings the risk of virus spread. Sigh. If you’re going to gather at some point in the coming week-plus, my colleagues Sarah Gantz and Jason Laughlin shared some ways to make your gathering as safe as possible. Here’s some insight:

What’s the safest setting for gathering with friends and family?

A small, outdoor gathering of people who are vaccinated, boosted, and recently received a negative COVID-19 test is the safest scenario for a holiday gathering this year.

How soon before I attend a holiday gathering should I get tested?

If you are getting tested purely for peace of mind before seeing family (meaning you are not experiencing symptoms and were not exposed to anyone who tested positive), aim to get tested as close to party time as possible.

When is the best time to get tested if I may have been exposed?

The sweet spot for getting tested appears to be five to seven days after an exposure, said Shawn Naqvi, chief medical officer at Personic Health Care, a Delaware County-based company that launched during the pandemic to provide COVID-19 testing.

What type of test should I get?

PCR, or Polymerase Chain Reaction, tests are the most reliable because they detect genetic material of the virus. That means they can detect the virus before people develop symptoms and when smaller viral loads are present.

Rapid antigen tests are less sensitive than PCR tests but still highly reliable in detecting whether you have enough virus in your system at that moment to infect others. Results are available within 15 minutes and up to a few hours, depending on whether you use an at-home kit or go to a test site. But because the tests are less sensitive, a negative result today does not rule out the possibility of being contagious tomorrow.

» READ MORE: Gathering for the holidays? Here are some tips for staying safe

Insta inspo

In Mullica Hill, NJ, there’s a winter wonderland known as Harbaugh Village that’s complete with an ice skating rink, igloos, sleigh rides, fire pits, live music, and more. It’s bedecked with holiday lights, too, making it even more Instagram-worthy.

Party icebreaker🍸

Thanks for reading! We’ve got some more holiday tips coming at you this month, including New Year’s Eve and Mummers info. But in the meantime, here’s a little fact that will help you socialize this season:

Fun fact: Did you know the bustling street we know as South Street was originally named Cedar Street?