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Connection Stories

How to Spend the Holidays Together, Virtually

December 04, 2020

From virtual Pictionary to unwrapping gifts on FaceTime, celebrating over the internet will be my new normal.


This holiday season is an unusual one — I won't be traveling to see my family who live abroad, nor will I be hosting the customary celebrations for extended family and friends. New Year's Eve will simply consist of our small family, raising a glass over the garden fence to our neighbors who've become surprisingly close in this strange, socially distanced year.


As a technology enthusiast, I've always proclaimed the power of the internet to connect us in unexpected ways — and so now will high-speed internet save my holiday season. Here's how I'll be celebrating online in the coming weeks:


Crafting Festive Ornaments Together, Virtually


My sister lives in another state, but by the power of YouTube tutorials and video chat, we'll be making the same DIY ornaments together, engaging in our usual banter over who ties a clumsier bow. We'll watch this short tutorial that runs through 10 ornaments, then jump on a video call and attempt to make our own.


Sending Virtual Care Packages


We most likely won't be able to visit family members who are most at risk, health-wise. Instead, I'm creating a virtual care package of digital photos, videos and audio clips, recorded over the last few weeks. Each of my immediate family will contribute digital mementos, and I'll upload the resulting folder to a site like WeTransfer so they can simply click to download our gift. 


Making an Online Group Card


The family can't get together to sign a giant greeting card — so I'm going to gather them anyway, at this online card creator that is designed for several people to contribute messages, GIFs, images and videos. When my child can't hug their grandmother in person, this might be the next best thing.


Exchanging Gifts with Colleagues


We may not be physically in the office to exchange gifts, but I've set up the annual office present swap anyway, using this Secret Santa generator to match people with their secret gift-givers. We have agreed on a budget, ordered kooky, potentially useful and definitely festive gifts to be delivered by a certain day and then open them online together (see below).


Unwrapping Presents on Zoom


Our extended family of 10 would normally unwrap presents together, so this year we're taking it to Zoom and making use of that handy tile display that shows everyone on the call. One difference: Presents will be opened one at a time so nobody misses a reaction shot when it's their gift being unwrapped. (With all three of our household using bandwidth for the video call, super-fast wall-to-wall wifi will significantly help with not missing a thing). 


Playing After-Dinner Games


There's a lot I can do without this year, but not a chaotic round (or several) of Pictionary after eating too much. With no dinner guests, this year's games will begin with this online version of Pictionary, which — word of caution — is much better played on tablet than on a laptop. Virtual Monopoly is on the agenda, too, but if that's not your speed, there are plenty of other online games to test out on your opponents, I mean, family and friends.


Real Virtual Connections


So much of what I associate with the holidays has been restricted this year — exchanging gifts, sharing meals, travel. Yet, having to find other ways to celebrate what's always been the busiest, most indulgent time of year has created more space to focus on what it's really about: our connection to other people. All our technology has cast a light on this — a virtual connection is a strong connection just the same — all because of who's on the other end.


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