This is the time of year where families love to come together to celebrate in the warmth of being together as the sun draws farthest from the earth and the days are the shortest.
However, this year has presented us with a handful of challenges we have never met before. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has recommended avoiding regular holiday travel plans in favor of slowing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. The CDC recommendation is based on the idea that while in the past, traveling to be reunited, as a family has been the typical way of celebrating, this year staying home is an act of care for your family and all of those you love.
But just because you are not reuniting with family in person does not mean you can’t still celebrate together. Here are a few ideas on how to have a virtual family reunion this holiday season.
Celebrate your traditions!
Just because you are not meeting in public does not mean that you have to avoid all your holiday traditions. You can still prepare all the foods that you enjoyed together but you might all have to prepare them separately. You can still send gifts and food via online shopping and delivery services and open them together. You can still share songs and even dance via online group video chat. Decide on the time you will meet and agree ahead of time on a loose time schedule to avoid misunderstandings.
Test out your technology ahead of time
At least 24 percent of Americans plan to gather this holiday season virtually instead of in person. Just like any other family gathering, planning a virtual reunion will better succeed when you plan ahead. There are all sorts of technical problems that can arise when you meet with a large group including video and audio issues.
Suggest that everyone log in ahead of time to practice working out technical issues before the official reunion. Make sure that you pick a time that works for everyone in different time zones and make sure everyone’s Internet is up to date. Many of us have already become accustomed to many of the different video hosting apps due to working at home or group gatherings this year.
Exploring virtual platforms
Many of the different programs have different strengths and you may want to consider what exactly you want from your virtual gathering.
Zoom is a very popular and easy to use platform for live video groups with free accounts allowing up to 40 minutes of live chat with up to 100 members. If you are hosting a large gathering then Zoom might best accommodate. If you want to meet for longer perhaps one person could invest in a membership and administer the gathering.
Google Meet is another good option. It is free as long as all participants have a free gmail account and have no time limit like Zoom. One of the most valuable features includes real time captioning that allows members to read conversation in text form below the screen in real time. This is especially helpful for members of the family and friends with hearing issues. This allows more access for everyone to feel included in the virtual gathering.
Virtual gatherings ideas
Once everyone is on the camera and their microphone is on, what do you do? In the past people arrived, embraced and the festivities began. With virtual gatherings it can be helpful to have a plan and loose schedule laid out. It can be an asset to have one person lead the virtual gathering to make sure everyone feels included.
This could mean everyone going around and taking turns telling a story or sharing a song. You could share presents and food together while projecting the screen on a large TV or you could all have a family sing along. To make sure everyone feels included you could try playing a trivia game, compiling a family cookbook or interviewing different family members. The options are prolific and open to the whole family’s creativity.
Perhaps next year, it will be safer for our distant loved one’s to be closer together but for now we can truly care for one another by staying socially distant and connecting from a distance.
The best way to stay connected is to hear at your best! If you’ve experienced changes in your hearing, it is important to take a hearing test. We’re here to help! Contact us today to schedule an appointment.