The 2020 holiday season — particularly Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Years — will be different. Much different. Common sense and COVID protocols demand that families avoid gathering. This is the smart way to approach the holidays amidst a global pandemic — better to see family over Zoom now, than to risk COVID and never seeing them ever again — but the realization of smaller tables and fewer in person season’s greetings still stings.
But, if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we are nothing if not resilient — and a bit more nimble than we once thought. And with a bit of creativity and flexibility, we can make the best of our particular circumstances. So, with this in mind, we wanted to offer a list of small, nice things that families everywhere can do to stay connected with the relatives they can’t see this holiday season. From sharing recipes and table settings to scheduling Zoom happy hours and cookie baking get togethers, the list offers some suggestions of ways to get together to help family and friends stay close this season. And, hey, we may even get a few new traditions to add to celebrations in the years ahead.
34 Small, Nice Things to Do For Family You Can’t See This Holiday Season
- Send portioned-out ingredients for a beloved family recipe to everyone you normally see, so everyone can enjoy the recipe together.
- Even better, schedule a Zoom call so that everyone can prepare the recipe together and enjoy all the normal reminiscing, laughter, and passive aggression that takes place in the kitchen over the holidays.
- Have the kids make some place settings for the whole family and send them to relatives. Then, when you get together on Zoom, there’s a sense of togetherness and holiday joy.
- Host a Jeopardy-style quiz game over Zoom, the questions of which are all comprised of inside jokes or family lore. “This relative always passes out before Thanksgiving begins.” “Who is Uncle Mark?”
- Have your kids draw family members or festive scenes and get them printed as a canvas painting on Snapfish or another service. It’s a great personal gift that captures a moment in time.
- Bake something — say, a pumpkin pie from scratch in a really nice baking dish — and overnight it. You can use specialty shipping from FedEx and get it delivered for Thanksgiving dinner.
- Send flowers. It’s a nice touch.
- Who doesn’t appreciate a big hunk of meat? Head over to to Crowd Cow or similar service and send something special — maybe a prime rib, maybe a pork shoulder — to cook and enjoy around the holiday.
- Set up a family streaming movie date with Disney+ Group Watch or Netflix Party to maintain that ‘we watch these movies every year’ tradition
- Set up Zoom cookie-making or -decorating party with family and friends. If you are within driving distance, mask up and distribute the ones you made.
- Order everyone matching pajama sets to wear on the holiday so you can still act silly together.
- Set up a family game night over Zoom with games you don’t need set pieces for, like charades or Pictionary
- Create and share a playlist of holiday music so everyone can have the same holiday soundtrack.
- Secret Santa works over Zoom. Also, you can re-brand that gifting game for any holiday (Secret Turkey? Secret New Year’s Baby?) We could all use a gift right now.
- You know when family sits around the table with beers and plays games late into the evening? Why not do that over Zoom? If you have a particularly rowdy family, make it a drinking game.
- Have the kids put on a play and livestream it to the rest of the family. Even if it’s a complete nonsensical disaster, what’s not to love?
- Two words: Family PowerPoint. Whether it turns into a slideshow of the good times you all had over the years together or a lecture on sleep apnea and why it’s time Uncle Jim really did get that snoring checked out, it’ll be a lot of fun.
- Order a regional favorite food on Goldbelly and send it to family so that the entire clan can have, say, their New York bagel tradition in tact on holiday mornings.
- Have old VHS or super8 family movies? Convert them to digital — or just curate digital family footage. Then organize a family-wide digital film festival.
- Send family members/grandparents a photo book (try Shutterfly, etc.) with photos of last year’s holidays so everyone can reminisce about better times.
- Do you live close enough to relatives to drop-off food? Do it. Portion out dinner into Tupperware containers, mask up, and drop it on their doorstep.
- Have a “secret” family recipe you haven’t shared? Write it down in a card and mail them out to people so everyone can be surprised with finally knowing — and sharing in — the secret.
- Even better: Send everyone the same recipe and have a British Bake-off style contest where the best version of the recipe wins a prize.
- Schedule time to drink coffee together the morning of over Zoom. Holiday afternoons tend to get hectic. But morning coffee? That casual holiday routine is one of those lovely traditions that can — and should— be shared.
- Mail holiday cards. Lots of cards.
- Send everyone ingredients for the same holiday cocktail.
- Bombard family with lots of photos via text: What the kids are wearing. What you’re wearing. What you’re eating. What you’re drinking. The kids doing crafts. The kids napping. An adult napping. Just go big with photos of the day.
- Get the family working together online to solve puzzles and find their way out of a Virtual Escape Room.
- Among Us is the game of the moment for a reason: It’s the fun of murder mystery with the interactivity of video game. If your family is tech-saavy enough, it’s a great way to have holiday game night.
- Have a Zoom family joke night. Everyone goes around and shares their funny holiday-themed joke. The one with the most laughs wins.
- Bring some family members along via Facetime when there’s a snowball fight, the kids go sledding, or you go out to such festive — and safe — activities as a visit to the holiday lights at the local botanical gardens. Feeling like a part of the group from afar does wonders for someone’s spirit.
- Whatever you do let your relatives know that you miss them and love them and can’t wait to celebrate safely together soon.