The holidays are coming soon, but unfortunately it doesn’t seem like COVID-19 will be leaving before they arrive. This means that we may not be able to do our usual holiday traditions. And although we may not be able to physically get together, it doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy the holidays as a family. It will just require a little patience and a lot of creativity. Here’s how to host a virtual holiday event for your family.
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The CDC has officially weighed in on holiday celebrations, advising that since travel increases the chance of getting and spreading COVID-19, the best way to protect yourself and others is to stay home. The highest risk holiday activities are shopping in crowded stores, attending crowded parades and attending large indoor gatherings with people outside your household. Instead the CDC suggests having a small dinner with only people who live in your household and/or having virtual celebrations with friends and extended family.
A successful virtual holiday event hinges on the technology and everyone’s ability to use it. These tips can help:
Choose the platform wisely – If everyone has an Apple device, FaceTime might be the easiest way to go as you won’t have to download anything extra and you can have up to 32 people on the call. Zoom is an ever-popular option too. Just do your homework in advance to make sure whichever platform you use supports the number of people you want to have and what you want to do.
Set some ground rules – Asking everyone to mute themselves when not speaking will limit background noise. It might also help to have someone serve as the moderator to keep the flow going and everyone from talking at once.
Get camera-ready – Have everyone set up their camera so it’s positioned appropriately. Depending on what you’re doing in the event, maybe you want it looking over the holiday table, with something festive in the background or simply the family gathered round. Try out some options beforehand.
Do a dry run – Not necessarily a dry run of the full event, but rather make sure everyone knows how to use the platform and that there aren’t any glitches that could distract from the fun. If you have a loved one in senior living who will need to use one of the community’s devices, make sure to talk to them to share what you’re planning (in case they need help) and to reserve the equipment.
Virtual Holiday Event Ideas
Now for the fun stuff! Some ideas are holiday specific, others could work for any family gathering. Pick and choose what’s most important for you to do together as a family. It’s unrealistic to think you’ll be able to recreate Thanksgiving Day entirely over a Zoom call, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be different times of the day where you log on together or different activities in which you participate. Here are some things you can do:
Send invitations – This is a way to make the event feel extra special and give everyone an idea of what to expect by including an agenda. You can send them virtually to continue the theme or send paper invitations to everyone which could double as a fun keepsake.
Dress to impress – If your family usually wears holiday-themed attire, continue the tradition this year too. It will help everyone to feel more connected and you can even have fun with it. Matching Christmas PJs anyone?
Decorate cookies – This is something the kids and adults can enjoy. You could send our cookie-making kits or simply ask everyone to make sugar cookies ahead of time and have icing and sprinkles in different colors ready to decorate during the event.
Try Secret Santa – Admittedly gift giving is a bit harder virtually so if you don’t already do Secret Santa now may be the time. Simply set a limit on how much everyone can spend and then send each person the name of the family member they are to buy for a few weeks before so they have time to ship it. Then you can all take turns opening during the event.
Share a meal – Yes, this is still possible virtually! One way is to host a virtual ‘potluck’ where each family or person makes their favorite meal or dish, then they can show their table and share the recipes with the rest of the family. You could even compile a family cookbook from all the recipes. Or, simply share recipes beforehand and have everyone prepare the same thing. If family lives close you could also each cook the dishes you normally prepare, portion them out and deliver them to each other – in a contactless way of course. Lastly, you could literally eat your meal together over the call. Or take pics and share.
Play games – This is a fun way to keep everyone engaged. You could do a holiday-themed scavenger hunt of everyday household items (either send the list ahead of time or share it on the call). Play holiday-themed Bingo; there are plenty of templates on Pinterest you could print and mail. Holiday charades and Simon Says are also easy games to play virtually.
Have a contest – A little friendly family competition is always fun. Maybe you could vote on who had the best-looking dessert or table spread. Or, go all out and have an ugly sweater contest to lighten the mood!
Continue traditions – This year isn’t just about new traditions, there are still ways to continue the old ones too like sharing what you are thankful for at Thanksgiving. Singing Christmas carols together. Reading “The Night before Christmas” to the grandkids. You can also still watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade or your favorite holiday movie together virtually.
Lastly as we mentioned above, if your loved one is living in a senior living community, talk with the staff leadership about how to include your loved one. What’s more, ask them what virtual holiday activities they’re hosting for residents in which your family can be part of too!
For more information, contact a community near you!