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The Holidays Are Not Canceled! So, Make Your Zoom Gatherings More Exciting

From games to gingerbread reveals to presents under the tree—we’re helping you prepare for a virtual holiday season.

First we canceled our international trips scheduled for 2020—it wasn’t easy—and now, for many across the country, we’re canceling that yearly tradition we hold near and dear. The holidays are upon us and how we’re celebrating them is a little unprecedented.

For those who have made the tough (and responsible) decision to do a socially-distanced holiday: 1) We’re sorry and 2) We’re here to help. While gathering around a recording of a yule log over Zoom is not what anyone had in mind, we believe there is no reason for this season to be totally un-magical. Hear us when we say: The holidays are not canceled! So, schedule your Zoom call and get into the spirit with these slightly reimagined holiday activities.

Secret Santa

Each December your team at the office looks forward to the yearly Secret Santa. It’s the tradition that’s been around longer than after-work drinks on Fridays and, with offices closed, it hasn’t exactly been easy to coordinate. Maybe it’s a little too late to get a gift exchange started before you break for the holidays, but pick it up after (when things are on sale and people have had a moment to breathe). For this year’s socially-distanced Secret Santa, you and your coworkers (or family, friends, etc.) will be assigned one person to gift. To make matters easier—and because maybe your team added some new faces since leaving the office last March—have each participant fill out a shared document where they list things like their favorite snacks and sweets, whether or not they drink, things they’re allergic to, and what they love.

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What really sets this year’s Secret Santa apart from others is how we handle it. Rather than coming together to exchange gifts, we’re going to have to do it remotely. If your team is comfortable exchanging addresses for drop-offs, great—this will make it so the surprise won’t be spoiled with a return address. But if you’re more comfortable mailing, consider having a roommate, relative, or friend give their information for the return address so as to disguise your identity until the reveal. And if that’s not possible, no worries because we learn in the end after all! So set a date and schedule a Zoom to do your unboxings, Secret Santa has gone virtual.


White Elephant

Another popular holiday tradition is the White Elephant gift exchange. This differs from Secret Santa in that you don’t know who you’re buying for. You’re bringing to the group a gift—comical, practical, or just plain odd—that could, realistically, work for anyone. Maybe this isn’t part of your standard holiday festivities, but if things are looking a little glummer this year and you’re in desperate need of a spice-up, this is the game!

To do this socially-distanced, you’ll have to understand that gifts will take a moment before they get to you, because, first, you’ll have to choose. Determine an order of picking (this website can do it for you) and start your Zoom exchange. Rather than placing all gifts in the middle of the circle (because we’re all in different homes this year), each participant will first show their wrapped gift to the group—you can request a shake, different angle, and (estimated) weight.

And now that the theatrics are out of the way, the first participant gets to choose! While normally that person would get to open the gift, it won’t actually be in front of them this year (in any tangible way), so the buyer will get to open it for them, and everyone else, virtually. Player two then gets to steal or pick a new gift (if your gift is stolen you can choose a new one), and that will go on until all gifts have been revealed and everyone has something. Unfortunately, there will be a bit of a wait until you can really call that new gift yours because of drop-offs and shipping, but it’s more about the revealing and stealing anyway!

Virtual Baking

Perhaps you feel the best part of the holidays is joining your family in the kitchen and baking together. We think this year you’re still deserving of (and probably in need of) that moment of uninterrupted family time–where Slack notifications get turned off and emails take a back seat–now more than ever. Because we’re spending the holidays apart, however, finding that moment in the kitchen has gotten a little more challenging.

This year, schedule a time to virtually get together for a bit of baking. Before hopping on the call, decide what you want to create so you’ll know exactly what ingredients will be needed before the day arrives—doing things virtually makes it a bit more difficult to do things like quickly run to the store for forgotten sugar.

Virtually baking together gives you a chance to catch up while also participating in your favorite holiday tradition. It might not be the same as bumping elbows in the kitchen (though, will we miss that?) but it gives you a chance to make the season a little more normal. 

Leena Robinson

Gingerbread Decorating

Similar to baking, you and your loved ones can still decorate a gingerbread home together—well, together in a virtual way! Part of the fun of virtual decorating is the reveal. After Facetiming each other’s faces for an hour, the gingerbread house in question might remain a mystery to the person on the other end of the call. So, spend some time talking, catching up, and sharing your gingerbread-home décor advice as you glue buttons onto cookies and cover the “home” in frosting and powdered sugar. At the end of your call, you can reveal the masterpiece they’ve (kind of) helped you with, or simply kept you entertained through. If your family is into a little friendly competition, this activity is for you.

Game Night

Throw a log on your (individual) fire and start up a family game night. While game night might be something you thought could only be done in person, it’s actually remarkably easy to do online! Marie Claire rounded up 21 of the best games to play on Zoom, from Pictionary to Jackbox. In addition to these favorites, there’s also an online letter and category generator that makes playing Scattegories easy (and free). The host pulls the game up, chooses the number of categories and time, and then shares their screen with the rest of the group. After the buzzer goes off pencils go down and the Zoom-call participants can share their results (and obviously compete for first).