Just because you’re keeping your distance doesn’t mean you have to be distant! Here are four ideas for ‘being together’ this Christmas, even when you are far away.

Christmas is a special time for families to come together and celebrate. That’s a little harder to do this year, and COVID restrictions mean you may have to make some sacrifices to protect your loved ones.

Luckily, technology can make every remote gathering feel special and fun. Here are some tips for playing together, even when you’re far apart.

1. Smile for the Camera!
Zoom, Skype, Google Meets, WhatsApp, FaceTime … there’s no shortage of apps to call and see each other by video chat—most will let you talk to the whole family at once. As long as everyone has the right hardware, you can have a festive family reunion right on your laptop screen.

Zoom’s 40-minute time limit for its free accounts may be a bit off putting, so unless you can hook into a business account, it may be worth playing around with some of the other apps. Find out who has an iPhone, for example, or whose internet may be a bit patchy, so you can decide which is the easiest app for you all to use. The lead up to Christmas is a good time to have a video-chat dress rehearsal, so you can avoid an eleventh-hour connectivity crisis on the Big Day.

For older relatives who may not have the hardware, consider gifting them a tablet or laptop this Christmas to make communication easier—teaching them how to video chat is, of itself, a great way to spend quality time together.

2. Elevate the Experience
Chances are, you won’t want to sit at a desk for your festive celebrations, so make the most of your screen time by plugging your phone or laptop into the TV. This will make the people on your screen seem much bigger so they feel like they are in the room with you. Chromecast users already will be set up to share their family gathering on the big screen.

Depending on what you’re planning to do over video-chat, you may wish to invest in a good pair of headphones. They’re not especially helpful if there are multiple people in the room. But if you’d like to chat with family members one-on-one at some point, then headphones can eliminate the background noise and make the sound quality so much better for everyone.

3. Roll the Dice
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without someone throwing a tantrum over Monopoly. And thanks to technology, playing board games online can be just as much fun (or dramatic!) as playing them around the kitchen table. By logging into a platform like Boardgame Arena or Tabletopia, you can host a game in real time, link in multiple online players—and have dozens of games at your disposal.

Many of the most popular board games also have a digital version that offers online multiplayer options so you can play with family and friends. Yes, that includes the perilous Monopoly which can access through your usual App Store.

4. Watch Christmas Movies Together
Just because you’re apart doesn’t mean you can’t share experiences together—and what better way to relax after dinner than by weeping together over your favourite festive film? If granny has Netflix, install the free Teleparty (formerly Netflix Party) extension on Google Chrome: you will be able to watch your movie simultaneously and comment on it via the chat. Or just schedule your Home Alone marathon via your regular video chat platform. Granny can press ‘play’ on the VHS and you can all share your reactions live over video chat.

We’ll be watching Die Hard. Yes, it’s a Christmas film. No, we will not back down on this.

Make Keeping in Touch a Priority this Christmas

Like much of 2020, Christmas may look and feel a lot different this year. But there’s no need for anyone to feel left out. From playing games and watching movies to simply cooking together while you chat, there are plenty of things you can do together virtually. And the beauty is, you don’t have to be on screen the entire time if things get a little bit too much.

Have fun during this festive time of year and stay safe!