Gatherings where people are eating and drinking can increase the risk of getting and spreading SARS-CoV-2 among people who are not fully vaccinated; prevention strategies like wearing masks and physical distancing continue to be important for some groups. We conducted an online survey to characterise fall/winter 2020–2021 holiday gatherings, decisions to attend and prevention strategies employed during and before gatherings. We determined associations between practicing prevention strategies, demographics and COVID-19 experience. Among 502 respondents, one-third attended in person holiday gatherings; 73% wore masks and 84% practiced physical distancing, but less did so always (29% and 23%, respectively). Younger adults were 44% more likely to attend gatherings than adults ≥35 years. Younger adults (adjusted prevalence ratio (aPR) 1.53, 95% CI 1.19–1.97), persons who did not experience COVID-19 themselves or have relatives/close friends experience severe COVID-19 (aPR 1.56, 95% CI 1.18–2.07), and non-Hispanic White persons (aPR 1.57, 95% CI 1.13–2.18) were more likely to not always wear masks in public during the 2 weeks before gatherings. Public health messaging emphasizing consistent application of COVID-19 prevention strategies is important to slow the spread of COVID-19.