Suggestions for keeping holidays special at a distance

Many of us will be missing our loved ones this holiday season.

In normal times, with busy schedules and families scattered across the country, holidays may be one of the few times families spend together.

We look forward to these special occasions all year long. These visits help to strengthen our family bonds and keep traditions going.

This holiday season, without COVID-19 under control, many of us are rethinking our get-togethers and already grieving in some ways the loss of this coveted occasion.

I’ve been thinking about my own family and how much I would like to see my mother back east. Because I don’t plan to visit, I’ve been considering things my family could do to share some of our traditions without actually being together.

Recently a friend turned 65. His wife asked each of his friends to do a short video wishing him a happy birthday. My husband and I created a David Letterman-type “top 10” of the reasons we loved our friend Leo. We recorded it on Zoom (it could have been recorded on our phone, as well) and uploaded it to a shared site that his wife created.

She streamed the videos together, and it was a funny, fitting tribute to our friend.

I thought that might be a nice way for our extended family to celebrate with one another. We could create a theme—funny, nostalgic or sentimental—to tie the videos together.

My family loves to cook, and holidays include a spread of way too many delicious dishes and far too many desserts. I was thinking we might all, in advance of the holidays, make our special dish and take a picture of ourselves with it.

Then we could send the picture and the recipe to one family member, who would create a family cookbook on a site like or Copies would be sent to all family members.

For another idea, each family member could write out their best or funniest holiday memory and we could create an online scrapbook with pictures to go with it. Then maybe we’d do a Zoom call to read the memories and swap additional stories.

For my mom, I was thinking about a handmade gift my sisters and I could give. One idea is to create packages of microwavable mug cakes and include them with a pretty mug, naming the entire gift “Hug in a Mug.” What better treat on a cold New England winter night that a warm mug of cake with ice cream.

Another thought I had was to ask my crafty sister to help me create a framed picture that includes each sibling’s name and the city and state we live in along with a map or trinket from that area. My sister would use her calligraphy skills to write the title: “Mom, distance means so little because you mean so much.”

One last special treat I am thinking of for my mother is to order her a personalized Cameo shout-out from a member of the New England Patriots or someone from “The Bachelor” or “Dancing with the Stars.” Those are three of her favorite television pastimes.

If you start now, you may be able to think of some creative ways to celebrate the holidays from afar.


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Andrea GallagherAndrea Gallagher

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