How To Create A Fun and Meaningful Socially Distant (or Virtual) Holiday Gathering

The holidays are descending upon us and with it the inevitable question, how is this year’s holiday gathering going to work?

I too am faced with this same question as I think about spending Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years with family and friends.

Because well… 2020 sure is a different kind of year.

We’ve been separated and we’re all aching to get together. To celebrate the holidays as we usually do.

But, we all know usual just isn’t the case this year.

Nothing is usual this year.

And that includes our holiday gatherings.

Fun dancing wedding reception in Monte Rio by destination wedding planner Mango Muse Events
(Photo credit: Bustle and Twine)

And it’s hard not to feel bummed about all the things you won’t be able to do. Like gathering in large groups, hanging out all night, sharing food, singing songs and giving big hugs.

It can feel like all your beloved traditions have gone out the window.

But, like an alternative wedding during COVID (virtual, micro or elopement), a socially distant holiday gathering or a virtual holiday gathering can still be fun! And you can still have a lot of the same elements that you traditionally would.

It just might operate a little differently.

Because the most important part of a holiday gathering is to celebrate with those we love.

And we can do that safely!

So, it’s time to put on your creative hat (as you have all year) and create your holiday gathering so that it’s fun and safe. And here are some ways you can do that.

5 Ways to Create a Fun and Meaningful Socially Distant (or Virtual) Holiday Gathering

#1 – Share a meal

Arguably the biggest element of a holiday gathering is the meal. Everyone huddled around a table (or many tables) sharing food and laughs.

And while a family style meal isn’t doable, you can still share a meal together.

And you can do that either with the same food or not.

For a socially distant holiday gathering the host can serve everyone or everyone could bring their own meal to the party. And then you eat together!

For a virtual holiday gathering, the same meal could be ordered for everyone or cooked by everyone in their own way. Or everyone could eat whatever they want!

Depending on your situation, one option might work better for your group.

And in many cases, being able to choose your own food can make for a happier meal for everyone. Because not everyone likes turkey or cranberry sauce.

You can even take this opportunity to share recipes, have a cook off or just laugh over what everyone wanted to eat.

But, the point is that you’re having a meal together, whether or not it’s the same food.

And whether or not you’re in the same room together.

It’s about sitting down together, eating and talking. And you can do that in a fun way even if it’s socially distant or virtual.

#2 – Make it comfortable

Family and friends at a rehearsal dinner wedding weekend event for a wedding in Vancouver by destination wedding planner Mango Muse Events
(Photo credit: Tomasz Wagner)

Socially distant gatherings and virtual ones can sometimes be a little bit awkward. Because you’re not together in person. Or because you’re trying not to get too close, but you want to.

So, what you want to do is put people at ease.

Make it comfortable.

And that can take many forms.

If you’re having a socially distant holiday gathering start with your seating set up. Think about rearranging furniture so that everyone can simultaneously be separated, but also still see each other and have a conversation.

You want to make sure everyone feels a part of the gathering.

You can play musical chairs so everyone can mingle or have some fun creating physical accessories for people to wear to allow for socially distant mingling.

And of course don’t forget about bodily comforts too like blankets to keep warm against the chilly air.

If you’re having a virtual holiday gathering, think about activities to get everyone interacting easily. Have conversation starters that allow everyone to share.

You want everyone to be able to talk, share and ask questions.

Be a good virtual host and mute people when necessary so that everyone focuses on who is talking at the time.

And if you have a larger group, consider breaking off into intimate conversations to allow everyone one on one face time.

#3 – Reinvent Traditions

One of the things that makes the holidays, the holidays, are the traditions. Some are general traditions like going around the table and sharing what you’re thankful for. And others are more familial, cultural or religious traditions like having a Christmas play or lighting candles.

Everyone has their own traditions and keeping those traditions especially in this very different year, with a different type of gathering is so important.

It will make your holiday gathering feel real, even if it’s a little different.

While some traditions are easily transferable to a socially distant or virtual gathering, some are much more difficult.

So, reinvent them! Bring the tradition you love into your holiday gathering in a different way.

If singing carols is something you always do, have carols playing in the background or play a name that tune game. If you always bake together during the holidays, bake virtually together instead.

Or if you always enjoy looking at lights in the neighborhood together, but aren’t traveling home this year, deck your own house out instead and then share your creations with each other.

Almost any holiday tradition can be reinvented to fit a socially distant or virtual holiday gathering.

Take what you love about that tradition and find a way to make it work.

Because it can still be both meaningful and fun!

And you might even create a new tradition that you love.

#4 – Give a gift

The holidays are synonymous with gifts and giving and you can still have that with your socially distant or virtual holiday gathering.

It’s just a matter of doing it so everyone feels safe.

Now, of course you can always mail something which works particularly well for a virtual gathering.

But, if you want to exchange gifts in person and are nervous about handing someone a gift, you can deliver it to the host’s house or to the recipient ahead of time. That way the package can sit untouched for a period of time before any opening happens.

And don’t forget it’s not just physical gifts.

There might be an activity or experience type of gift you want to give someone. If so, just make sure you think about how to do that together safely.

And let’s not forget that this has been a hard and lonely year for many.

Consider giving more this year than normal. But, it doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy, just from the heart.

Sending a note, a card or even just making a phone call to share your love can mean a world of difference to friends and family this year.

Everyone could use (and would appreciate) the extra love.

#5 – Give to others

Christmas gift giving at a holiday gathering

Which leads me perfectly to the last way to create a fun and meaningful holiday gathering, by giving to others!

There are so many families who are struggling right now.

More so than in any normal year.

If you have the means or are able, why not spend some time donating or volunteering?

And make it a group effort! Do it together as a family.

You can forego big presents to each other and make this a collective present to help another family in need. Or do it on top of your normal gifting to each other.

There are so many of us who are so very lucky because we have everything we need and more.

Pay that forward.

It can mean all the difference and make someone’s holiday a truly wonderful one.

This year’s holiday gatherings will definitely be different. But, they can still be fun and meaningful.

So, don’t be sad and disappointed. You can still celebrate with your loved ones and share some beautiful moments together!

And who knows you may discover something you end up loving and using for future holiday parties as well.

And if you need some help with planning your holiday gathering, we got you! We can help you brainstorm ideas or put it all together for you. Contact us to learn more.

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