We CAN get together with Family for The Holidays, Virtually!
By Jackie Gardner-Nix
December 20, 2020
December looks very different this year: No in-person office parties, no extended family get-togethers, no book club festive lunches, and no packed shopping centres, roads or airports with lots of energy!
But many more homes will be decorated abundantly, more decorative trees will be up, judging by media reports about fir tree shortages, because we have time. We will still celebrate.
How do we show the results of our efforts when those outside our households can’t visit?
Many of us are far more used to virtual online platforms than last year, and those of us using the Zoom platform for work can really use it to advantage this holiday. From our laptops we can show others our decorated surroundings, and our latest renovations, via a desktop-sharing function, we can share our photos, artwork from the kids, and our video of our latest vacation from – well – pre-COVID times. Phones and tablets can join with us too.
From keeping our Zoom platform open to the households of several of our loved ones at once and chatting while opening presents, to making and eating dinner, together, it can be gratifying to use a new way to connect and be creative in using it.
We can even usher groups of family into virtual rooms (using the Breakout Room function imported to our dashboard!) — for a chat and a coffee with those they haven’t seen for a while.
If you are not a Zoom user, it is easy to install. There is a free version allowing a connection lasting 40 minutes at a time (rotate the family as “host” if multiple people access it or reconnect when time is up). Or the “pro” platform, which costs, but will allow unlimited time and additional benefits such as the Breakout Rooms mentioned above!
Family members and friends from different households can get together in smaller groups in the breakout rooms for a chat, unencumbered by the noisy others on the call. They can return to the main “room” when they want to. As host, you can help them exit one room, and join a group in another, as if they are walking around your house and choosing which group to join.
Unfortunately, they can’t ask to help you with dinner prep!
We can pass the host role around to others so they can keep an eye on the festivities. Transferring host duties on the Zoom platform is easy.
Caution — Zoom uses a lot of battery — keep device chargers handy. And it can heat up your computer. Internet instability can cause the call to be dropped, but we can sign back in using the same link sent before. Rural areas may not have as good a connection, but that will be changing in the next couple of years as more areas get better internet service.
We can all sit down to dinner together with our computers open on the dining table; we can sing songs around a piano played in one household; we can share a recipe together — we can have a contest on the best-looking home-made pizza so the little ones can decorate theirs, bake it with a parent, and show the results.
There are advantages to not visiting in person, beyond just not infecting each other with COVID — or other infections:
No worries about drinking, vaping, eating marijuana foods, and then driving.
No one has a long way to drive or needs to stay overnight. The cost of travelling is avoided. We won’t be worrying about weather conditions affecting the journeys to and from destinations.
Some who live in quieter households or alone can find it overpowering to stay with relatives, in different, noisier environments and with loss of their routine, even though they love to see family. They won’t be recovering for days to weeks after they get home from visiting. Think migraine sufferers, or those with chronic pain or other conditions that exacerbate with change of routine.
The frail elderly can be included with more ease and may always do it this way in the future now they know they can, if they have a tablet or other electronic device – good idea for a gift to them, perhaps, to keep connected.
Not having to choose between the in-laws and your own family: Either mix them all (maybe not??) or see one family in the morning and the other in the afternoon. Whether they are the other side of the continent or the world, you can see them all in one day if you can work out time zones and availability.
Ship the presents, if you exchange them, directly from vendor to receiver.
If we work out what we save this holiday by have virtual celebrations, perhaps we have more to donate to charities. They hurt this year, more than we know. They will be thankful to receive anything we can spare.
“Zoom Zoom” won’t just be the noise made by your small grandchild with their new toy anymore. It could take on a whole new meaning.