Face masks. Social distancing. Remote work, learning and teaching. And now, remote holidays.
The new normal is anything but, and – nine months in – we’re all tired. Emotions ebb and flow from boredom and frustration to gratitude for our healthcare heroes and the progress in vaccines, to anxiety and fear for our loved ones, and back again. Amongst all of the change and uncertainty, it’s easy to forget that we’re all in this together.
Back in April, we brought you some actual good news during the coronavirus pandemic. Even though those stories feel like they happened a lifetime ago, looking back, those little tidbits of good news still bring a smile. One thing that stands out in the midst of all of this? We’re still finding creative ways to connect with our friends, family and loved ones from afar.
Here are some ways you can make the upcoming holidays both safe and memorable.
Zoom Ugly Sweater Cocktail Party
By now, most people are intimately familiar with Zoom. It’s how a lot of us have gone to work every day, how we keep in touch with friends and family, and even how we date. Why not use it to party?
Ugly sweater parties are a holiday classic – and thankfully, we can still take joy in all the ugliness virtually.
Here are a few suggestions for your online ugly sweater party:
Try to keep it under 15 people. Too many people on one Zoom just doesn’t work. Use breakout rooms to allow people to catch up one-on-one, especially if your group hasn’t seen each other in a while.
Have an ugly sweater contest. Pick different categories, like ugliest sweater or most creative, and designate one person to collect and tally all of the votes via private chat.
Don’t forget the cocktails and snacks! To make the virtual party feel more like a party, have everyone make their own holiday spread with charcuterie platters, finger foods and their favorite holiday sweets. And, of course, creative holiday cocktails are a must!
The Great Holiday Bake Off
Everyone loves the Great British Bake Off… why not throw your own virtual holiday bake off? While we can all agree that parties are better in-person, this party lends itself to be held virtually as everyone needs their own kitchen space to participate.
Here’s how to pull it off:
Decide on a challenge. A week before your bake off party, decide on a timed baking challenge for everyone to take on. Whether it’s an elaborate patisserie construction, a tricky technical challenge or baking and decorating holiday cookies, once the challenge is determined, everyone is allowed to practice before the party (if they like).
On your marks. Get set. Bake! Once everyone is set up and online with their screens pointed at the kitchen, it’s time to “On your marks. Get set. Bake!” Start the timer and laugh through all of the joys and horrors of baking together. If your significant other wants to join in the fun, he or she can play judges Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith, or go the comedy route playing presenters Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas.
As for the judging, award extra points for creativity… and maybe provide an award for the worst bake. Because really, at this party, everyone is a winner.
Virtual White Elephant / Secret Santa Party
Another holiday classic, whether you call it White Elephant or Secret Santa, the game remains the same. The virtual version, however, takes a bit more planning.
Here’s how to plan your virtual White Elephant or Secret Santa party:
Decide on a gift price limit. $20? $50? $100? Maybe only hand-made gifts? The decision is up to your party group.
Purchase and wrap your gift. This is where creative wrapping can come into play. Since everyone will know who bought what gift on your Zoom call, disguising the nature of your gift is key.
Assign one person to pull numbers for everyone. Have one person pull numbers out of a hat or bowl for each person. This will be the order people pick their gifts in. The person who gets #1 goes first and also gets to end the game!
Play as you normally would. The first person to go will ask one friend to unwrap their gift. The second person can steal that gift or ask a different friend to unwrap their gift… and so on. The game is over when the person who drew #1 either keeps their gift or steals someone else’s gift.
Mail your gifts to each other. Send your gift to the friend who “won” it during your White Elephant / Secret Santa game!
Bonus: Tasty Post-Holiday “Thinking of You” Gift Baskets
Due to the pandemic, many friends and family will find themselves alone this holiday season. These same loved ones most likely have been on their own for most of the year. As the holidays come and go, and life returns to the new normal, surprise the close but physically distant people in your life with a “Thinking of You” gift pack.
Whether you send a tasty pre-made meat and cheese gift pack, order a lux at-home spa day gift basket or make a personalized gift box at home, a little something can go a long way in brightening a loved one’s day.
We all have friends and family spread around the country, and some even have loved ones scattered across the world. One of the positives that has come out of a socially-distanced year is connecting and reconnecting with those who matter most, no matter where they are.
So, to keep the ones you hold most dear safe and healthy, and to connect all of the important yet distant people in your life, try something new (and virtual) this holiday season. Who knows? Maybe you’ll create a new holiday tradition you’ll enjoy – virtually or in-person – for decades to come.