Virtual Holiday Get-Togethers: a Survival Guide

A family Zoom call, first 15 minutes spent bringing non-techies into the fold. Everyone talking over each other during a virtual cocktail hour, during which no one hears anything but their own echo because someone else forgot to mute their mic. That online cooking class when you spent much of the time off-screen, searching for kitchen tools, minding the pan and plating the food. 

There’s nothing easy or natural about the way things are during a global pandemic. Throw on-screen holiday gatherings into the mix and whoo boy. As you prepare for your upcoming seasonal gatherings, here are a few tips to keep them merry, bright and memorable.


  1. Set the tone. By now, Zoom meetings and gatherings are “been there, done that.” To keep things interesting, plan something special and fun. Entertainment not only helps pass the time — it’s also a chance to bond, laugh and catch up. Consider a scavenger hunt, round of Pictionary Air, Heads Up or a Chopped-style cooking challenge with a secret ingredient everyone opens on-screen. Marco Polo, an app that lets users to send short videos to one another is a trivia-friendly option as well. 


  1. Have a focal point. Whether it’s a larger-than-life dessert, with everyone sharing a slice of the same pie; streaming a post-meal movie with popcorn and candy; or a sporting event that you watch as a “team,” there are many ways to make your remote gathering feel special.


  1. Consider hosting a casual, open house-style Zoom call. By allowing people to pop in when time allows, you take the pressure off of conversation. Plus, it frees everyone up to prepare their meals at a time that’s convenient for them. Another option? Leave a Zoom running while everyone goes about their day, popping in and out as they see fit. Think together, apart.


  1. Curate a playlist. Nothing says the holidays like good, old fashioned Christmas carols. Have the host share the tunes so everyone can enjoy it or curate a shared Spotify playlist that everyone contributes to. Not sure how to make it happen? Find out here.


  1. Open gifts together. Although it may require some finagling, there’s no reason you can’t open wrapped packages virtually. That way, you can still witness the joy on loved ones’ faces when they receive exactly what they wished for.


  1. Create a schedule. Setting times for courses, when each family member can share updates and news or even a game ensures all attendees know what to expect and can plan their other holiday traditions around the virtual gathering.


  1. Give everyone a task. When everyone has something to bring to the proverbial table, it fosters a sense of togetherness and helps make it feel like a festive event.


  1. Dress up — or don’t. Whether you want to break out clothes that have been gathering dust, choose a seasonal color theme, opt for an ugly sweater-themed gathering, or give your crew the permission to only wear sweats, agreeing to a dress code (or lack thereof) is another fun way to connect.


  1. Avoid awkwardness. This is definitely not the time — or the year — to discuss controversial topics. To spark a chat, try using Convers(ate) or Actually Curious, apps that can help plan meaningful conversations that keep the vibe interesting and engaging. Remote, on-screen games like can help break the silence, too. 


  1. Look through family photos. Have each family member submit 10 photos and task a point person to create a virtual slideshow. Then, watch it with family and friends. Sure, it requires some work upfront, but reminiscing over the past is a great way to focus on good times.

We’d love to hear your take on virtual gatherings this holiday season — even see a snapshot or two. Show us how you #HandledHolidays at home this year. And remember to check out our blog for ways to make your house feel like a home, today, tomorrow and down the line.

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