Tips & Advice

7 tips for a celebrating virtual holidays this year

Emma McGowan, 24 November 2020

How to still have your traditions — and eat them too

One of the most important parts of the holidays is the traditions we have. This is where we put the tree. This is what we eat at Thanksgiving dinner. This is who cooks which dish. This is where we place the menorah. This year, many of us are choosing not to celebrate the end of the year holidays in order to protect our loved ones from the Covid-19 virus. And it feels like most of those traditions a getting lost as a result.

It sucks. It sucks a lot. If there was ever a year that we needed the comfort of family and tradition, it’s this one. Seriously — 2020 can’t end quickly enough.

But rather than getting bummed out about the fact that you won’t be able to join your family for Christmas dinner or that you’ll miss out on your mom’s famous matzoh ball soup, why not take the opportunity to get creative? And, even better, why not figure out how to still have your traditions — and eat them too.

So in order to protect our loved ones and our communities during this end of year holiday season, here are seven tips on how to host a virtual holiday this year. 

1. Have a Zoom dinner

It’s the most obvious one, so I’m listing it first: If you really want to make sure you can share the holidays with your loved ones this year, you’re going to have to arrange a Zoom dinner. I know, I know — we’re all sick of Zoom. But you might be surprised by how nice it is to “hang out” with family and friends this year, even if it’s virtually.

There’s one caveat, of course: You might need to teach some members of your family how to use Zoom. I know it seems like everyone and their grandma is on it now — and, in the case of my family at least, that’s true — but some folks aren’t yet. So give yourself some time before the holiday in question to make sure everyone: a) has the technology they need to access the party, and b) knows how to use it. 

And if they don’t know how to use it, recruit one of the younger members of your family to help explain. I never walk my mom through technology anymore; that’s firmly my youngest brother’s job.

2. Have a signature cocktail

Whether your family loves to drink together or you’re teetotalers, a signature cocktail — or mocktail — is a great way to connect. You’re drinking “together,” even if you can’t actually drink together.

3. Cook together — apart

The older generations are usually the carriers of family recipes and missing that special dish you love so much is one of the hardest parts of missing out on holidays this year.

But maybe you don’t have to miss out! Set up a Zoom cooking class with your mom, dad, grandma — whoever the family cook is. You can even set the timing so that you all eat the dish together over your Zoom dinner. It’s an opportunity to not only connect with your loved ones but also learn how to make your family dishes, ensuring they survive through another generation. 

Just don’t be surprised if they leave out an essential ingredient, like my great grandmother always did. You didn’t think they’d give up their position of power that easily, did you?

4. Send care packages

If you’re the one who usually cooks a big meal for your family and/or friends and you’re not even sure how to cook for just a couple people, then why not still cook for everyone? Many foods can be shipped and while it’s certainly a lot of work, it’s a way to still cook for family and enjoy a meal together. 

Of course, if you live near your family — chosen or biological — you can also bring holiday care packages over in person and drop them off in a socially distanced way. And this plan has the added bonus of not only creating a new tradition but also giving you something to do while you’re social distancing at home.

5. Get dressed up!

No matter how you plan to celebrate a holiday this year or with whom, take the opportunity to get dressed up. We’re all living in sweats these days and while I’m certainly not opposed, it feels good to get gussied up every once in a while. Do your hair. Do your face. Put on your most comfortable but still cute outfit. I promise it will help make this Zoom feel different from all the other Zooms you’ve zoomed this year.

6. Set a clear time limit

Unlike an in-person party, a virtual party benefits greatly from a clear start and end time. While you might be used to hanging out for hours in person, very few of us have the capacity to do that virtually. So let everyone know ahead of time that there’s a firm start and a firm end in order to avoid Zoom fatigue.

7. Give yourself some grace

Look, it’s been a hard year. And we’re staring down probably another six months at least of having to keep a distance from our loved ones. So give yourself some grace this holiday season. It’s okay if you mess up sometimes. It’s okay if not everything works the way it’s supposed to. It’s even okay if you just don’t want to do anything at all. But I’d encourage you to give it a shot. Who knows — maybe you’ll find next year that you’ve started a new tradition.