“The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.”
Like many things in 2020, the usually wise words of Will Ferrell’s Buddy the Elf (of “Elf” fame) won’t ring true this year. Due to the coronavirus, many of us are left wondering how we can best celebrate the holiday season while keeping our family members, friends, and communities safe.
And, as usual, technology is coming to our rescue with an abundance of ways we can celebrate the holidays virtually. Use these tech tools to celebrate the 2020 holiday season and spread cheer during what has been one wild year.
Holiday Film Watch Parties
Nothing spreads holiday cheer quite like holiday-themed movie marathons. This year, you can still hold on to this dear tradition without the risk of spreading COVID-19. Several streaming platforms have rolled out watch party features this year. In addition, a number of independent browser extensions have been released to support watch parties across multiple platforms. Check out some of the top ones here. Teleparty features and web extensions allow you to watch movies or TV shows with others remotely.
On Hulu, up to 8 people can join a watch party via a web browser. There’s also a group chat so you can share your reactions throughout your favorite holiday films. Learn more about Hulu’s Watch Party here.
Unfortunately, most of these platforms only currently support text chats. But if you’re in search of a platform that supports video chat, you could try using Zoom’s screen share feature or rely on tools like FaceTime, Skype, or a good old fashioned phone call (for voice chat).
Virtual Dinners & Parties
Just like they do during your remote work life, video conferencing platforms are going to come in clutch during the holiday season. Applications like Zoom, Google Duo, and Group FaceTime can all be used to bring people together for virtual holiday gatherings. You can use apps like Marco Polo, Instagram, and Snapchat to send video messages for the holidays too (virtual Christmas card, anyone?).
For those who want to connect with a large number of people at a time, your best bets are Zoom and Google Duo.
If you’ve been working from home this year, chances are you’re already pretty familiar with Zoom. But if not, no shame. Here’s a refresher: Zoom is a video-conferencing application that connects people through video, text chat, and content sharing. It’s primarily used in the business and academic worlds or to host webinars, meetings, conferences, classes, and phone calls. But, you can also use Zoom to connect with friends and family. On Google Duo, you can chat in groups of up to 32 people at a time. The platform boasts incredibly high definition video capabilities.
While there’s nothing quite like getting to hug your cousins in person, virtual dinners and parties can provide a new kind of connection. There can be a lot going on at a traditional party (especially for the more introverted among us). This year provides an opportunity to be more present with the people at your (virtual) party. Video parties allow you to focus on the people right in front of you without all of the environmental distractions of an in-person gathering.
Play fun games, open secret Santa presents, or celebrate the season with a holiday-themed happy hour. The options for virtual fun don’t stop! You could also make use of breakout rooms to spend even more quality time with smaller groups of people at your party.
Gift Exchanges & Shopping
Need to coordinate a gift exchange with family and friends across the country? You can use a digital tool like Elfster, a free secret Santa generator. Elfster allows users to share wish lists and promises to never match anyone with themselves or their spouse. You can access this tool via the web or by downloading the app on iPhone or Android.
In-person holiday shopping has dropped massively in recent years. This year, CNBC reports it’s expected to be down 22% to 25% due to COVID-19. Shopping online can help you get your holiday shopping done efficiently without having to leave your couch. This is just another thing we can thank tech workers for.
Virtual Caroling & Musical Performances
Whatever holidays you’ll be partaking in this season, you’ll probably be craving the musical traditions they carry. Browse online for virtual concerts, religious services, and holiday events.
There are a plethora of amazing virtual events happening at organizations and houses of worship across the country. Boston’s Jewish Arts Collaborative is just one example. This year, they’re hosting a virtual Festival of Lights, providing an augmented reality Hanukkah art gallery, and delivering chef-crafted Hanukkah dinners.
Cool, right? Be sure to find out what interesting events are happening in your city so you can make the most of virtual holiday traditions during COVID-19.
If caroling is part of your usual holiday celebrations, try your hand at virtual caroling. Adam and Matt Podd are brothers and composers based in New York City. In light of COVID-19, they’ve created virtual caroling kits to make the process of creating caroling videos a little easier. They’ve created both “sacred and secular” arrangements so there’s something for everyone regardless of tradition.
The Podd Brothers’ kits are just 1 way virtual carolers will continue this musical tradition during COVID-19 too. You can find tons of local virtual caroling events with a quick Google search.
Of course, if you do have plans to meet up with family this holiday season, we encourage social distancing, wearing a mask when appropriate, and washing your hands to prevent the spread of COVID-19. You can review the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations for holiday celebrations held during the COVID-19 pandemic here.
Happy Holidays from Kenzie!