How to Get the Family Together for the 2020 Holidays

Keegan Brooks, Staff Writer

Have you ever been in a class where no one answers when the teacher asks a question, or where the teacher just talks to themselves? 

That is something you don’t want to happen on your holiday Zoom call with your family. So here are some ideas on how to make your virtual holiday celebration with family run smoothly:

Choose a Platform

The first step in hosting a virtual holiday celebration is choosing a platform. The platform you choose needs to be something that everyone can access and knows how to use. Some of the most popular virtual conferencing platforms include Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams. 

If you have relatives who may not be familiar with video meeting software, reach out to them a few days before the scheduled celebration to give them a tutorial. Additionally, you can find YouTube tutorials to send to these relatives ahead of the meeting. To be extra prepared, you can do a test run with the platform with these relatives.

For my family’s virtual Thanksgiving celebration, we chose Zoom as the best option. It was something that everyone had used before and was easy to set up.

Designate a Host

Designating someone to be the host of the meeting is the second important step in holding a virtual holiday celebration. This person should be in charge of hosting the Zoom meeting itself, sending out invitation links to people, making sure people get connected, and directing the conversation if needed. The host should also be tech-savvy or experienced with Zoom, as some family members may need help joining the virtual meeting.

Before my family’s virtual Thanksgiving celebration, two different people sent out Zoom invites to everyone due to confusion about who was going to host it. This was a bit confusing with some people joining the wrong meeting, so make sure not to make this mistake.

Have the Meeting Planned Out

Before the day of the celebration, make sure to have the start time for the meeting set, send out invitation links to everyone, and plan out what is going to happen. Things to think about in advance include sharing recipes before the meeting or virtual activities during the call.

Virtual activities can include how previously shared recipes turned out, playing virtual games, taking virtual family photos, or having younger children perform music or skits. For example, family members can share recipes the week before the meeting and then discuss how their dishes turned out and discuss their cooking experiences.

For example, before my virtual Thanksgiving, my grandmother shared her recipe for making chocolate peppermint pie that several people in the family made.

Play Some Games over Zoom

Playing games over Zoom is another fun way to pass the time. Examples of popular games played over Zoom include charades, a scavenger hunt, Pictionary, trivia, mafia, Heads Up!, and Codenames. To learn more about these and how to play them, check out these guides published by PennLive and The Washington Post.

Creative Backgrounds

In terms of your background on the virtual meeting, you can either decorate your house behind you or set an image as your virtual background in Zoom. You could set it to anything from an image of a tropical beach to an image of Santa’s workshop.

Take a Family Picture

While it might seem like something impossible to do if you are not in person, you can still take a family picture virtually. This involves getting everyone’s video feeds on one screen in a grid and taking a screenshot, or several.

And it doesn’t have to be just people in the Zoom call either; you could bring your pet on-camera and take a family photo of everyone’s pets.

Don’t Make the Meeting Too Long

While a normal holiday celebration and dinner may last for hours, your virtual celebration will be much shorter. People’s attention spans will fade after a while, and I would say that an hour is around the maximum time for the meeting.

But just because the Zoom call ends, that doesn’t mean the holiday celebrations need to stop.

You can continue the conversation and supplement your day with a family text thread sharing pictures and messages.

And, don’t forget the holiday memes in your family group chat!