A dad and son doing christmas activities together

How to stay connected with family over the holidays

This challenging year has shone a light on the value of connection and togetherness, whether we’ve been able to be physically close - or not - with our families. There are lots of ways to embrace the very best of the holidays from the safety of home and be sure to bring a little Christmas magic into our lives regardless of the circumstances. Here are some ideas to get you through the holidays with glee.

Together but apart

Thanks to the many ways of connecting virtually with those we love, it is still possible to share special holiday moments  no matter the physical distance between us.

  • Plan a virtual turkey dinner. Be together but not as you carve the bird thanks to Zoom, which has a number of features that encourage privacy  such as rooms where smaller groups can have conversations. What’s great about Zoom is that it also offers the option to call in by phone - great for seniors who may be less tech-savvy or those without a reliable Wi-Fi connection.
  • Watch holiday movies together. Eating too much and vegging out in front of a holiday classic is a big tradition for many families, and you can still do that with apps like Netflix Party that allow you to watch movies simultaneously with others (and not just on Netflix, it works with other streaming sites too) and have a running chat window that allows the use of gifs and emojis as well as typed notes alongside the display.
  • Play games online. Get your family to download Houseparty, which creates video chatrooms for up to eight people and comes with a bunch of fun games, including charades (a holiday classic!), Quik Draw (like Pictionary), Trivia card decks and a karaoke game where you have to hum popular songs in the hope that your team guesses what you are humming. This would also work well for a socially distanced New Year’s Eve soiree with friends.

Sent with love

For relatives that you know are missing traditional holiday gatherings, sending a care package is a touching way to reach out and brighten their day, and there are plenty of fun ways you can get stuff to them (even if you’re too late to make it to the post office).

  • Contact a local bookstore in your relative’s town or city. Many small businesses are offering home delivery services right now to help people shop through the pandemic and will happily put together a package for you. Independent bookstores often carry artistic puzzles, games, kids’ toys, and other goodies so they may be able to create  gift baskets that’ll give your loved ones plenty to do if they are stuck at home.
  • Send a special meal or sweet treats. Restaurants, gourmet stores, hotels that make holiday meals and bakeries are also offering deliveries over the holidays. You could order  a full turkey dinner delivered to their door or a box of delicious cookies - whatever you think they’d love the most.
  • Help them cozy up. Order  a plush robe, fleecy pyjamas, and a soft blanket for them to snuggle under. Many stores are selling matching family PJ sets for extra fun, and some even include PJs for puppies too!

Old school family fun

More time together at home means more time to explore our creativity and build on the holiday traditions that we loved as children. We can pass those on as a gift to our kids.

    • DIY decorations. Maximize festive decor by creating garlands from pom-poms made from yarn wound around cardboard templates, popcorn strings, and cutting out paper snowflakes to decorate your windows.
    • Bake up some treats. Cookies, truffles, and even candies are easy to master and what better time to try than when you can share them with family, friends, and neighbours as the sweetest holiday greeting? Arrange a doorstep contact-free cookie swap with local friends or set out to make elderly neighbours feel a little less lonesome with the delivery of cookies and  Christmas cards.
    • Play together. Ditch your digital devices and dedicate time every evening to play a classic board game or do a puzzle together. Put on holiday tunes, bring out the snacks and enjoy the closeness (make it a rule that nobody gets to check their phone during this time).
    • Look for lights. Bundle up and walk around your neighbourhood looking for the best light displays, or climb in your car armed with a map of the best local displays (many local newspapers and websites pull these together each year) and do a drive-by of the biggest light shows.
    • Learn a Christmas carol together, relying on YouTube to help with the words and lyrics. Or, if you’re all more musically inclined, tackle a more challenging tune such as Carol of the Bells. You can also do this virtually, sharing your vocals and rehearsing together but apart using the ChorusClass app.

Keep stress levels low

It can be tempting to feel like you must overcompensate for this hard and stressful year by overspending and over-thinking about how you can make things great for everyone. Slow down and consider that you need to take care of yourself too. These are your holidays as well!

      • Get plenty of fresh air. Dress warmly and take a walk in the snow, or strap on some skates, or snowshoes. Being outside is good for all of us, even if winter really isn’t your favourite time of year. We have some great ideas about how to make the most of winter here.
      • Love being at home. Look at how you can turn your home into a relaxing haven and embrace the hygge way of life. Bring your duvet on to the sofa, re-read a favourite book or watch a comforting movie, and snuggle up in your comfiest clothes.
      • Adopt some low stress meals. Not every meal over the holidays has to be a gourmet feast. Ordering pizza or whatever else you fancy may not feel very Christmas-y but who cares? This is a year like no other (and maybe Boxing Day Thai food could be a new tradition). Local restaurants could do with the orders, so you’re doing a good deed while taking pressure off yourself.

Most importantly, over the holidays stay safe and protect the ones you love by following government recommendations for gatherings during this pandemic. As always continue to make your health and wellness a priority. By following the rules this year, we can help make sure that 2021 will be a much better year for all of us.