Don’t Let Distance Deter You From Celebrating the Holidays


Event planning is my happy place. In fact, when my husband tried to throw me a birthday party for a milestone age that shall not be mentioned, I couldn’t let him. Well, actually I tried for about a week, but sitting on the sidelines was killing me.

I appreciated and acknowledged his effort but then promptly shoved him aside because he was in my wheelhouse and throwing a party is my jam!

It was one of the best birthdays I have ever had despite reaching a pretty significant milestone age.  In fact, one of the gifts I received was a tower of toilet paper with a sign that said, “Holy $#^t! You’re old!”

When we look back at that day, we joke about how that gift was probably the most valuable item I received because two days after my birthday, the Shelter in Place order was issued as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. And, well, we know how that went!

Eight months later, we’ve all somehow stumbled through a strange new norm of working from home, wearing masks in public and standing 6 feet apart just to talk/mumble to our neighbors.

Typically the month of December would be another busy time for me because I’m juggling not only the office party but a separate gathering with my in-laws and my side of the family, as well as coordinating parties with our different group of friends. But this year, the world has come to a screeching halt, so now what?

Adjust – Recalibrate – Celebrate

The question is not what, it’s how.  The answer is that you adjust and you recalibrate so you can still celebrate. We can’t forget the reason why we gather — it’s to reconnect with friends and family, so as far as I’m concerned COVID-19 isn’t canceling anything! It’s just challenging us to find another way to reach out and share in the gift of giving from a distance.

When I plan, I operate on the who, what, when and where format of communicating.

Virtual Holiday Parties Can Be A Great Alternative With The Right Plan and Attitude

The premise of event planning, sans face-to-face gatherings, is essentially the same. You need a date and a time to meet up but this time it’s online. That’s your WHERE and WHEN.

WHO will be there for your designated virtual party date depends on what group you’re planning for. You can still shoot out an email, pick up the phone or even get fancy and send an invite in the mail.

WHAT is the fun part. All the things that you typically do to prepare for the holidays can still happen, but you can expand upon it so it works well for virtual gatherings.

  • Decorate – At my husband’s workplace, they used to decorate their cubicles for the holidays. Sure, there are pre-made virtual backgrounds for your video call that you can pick from, but what if you actually decorated the wall behind you? Perhaps instead of your work colleagues staring at your living room wall, you’re now relaxing in a log cabin by the fire, or sitting on a ski lift.  For friends and family, setting the dining table can now be an opportunity to get creative and come up with some interesting centerpieces. Maybe it’s a family tree with photos or a combination of winter fruits and flowers gathered from the local markets. Or try your hand at folding napkins in fun shapes. You know you’ve always wanted to try it, now is your chance
  • Friendly Competition – The first thing that comes to mind is the ugly sweater contest. The uglier the better! Then again anything can be turned into a contest to create some friendly competition including the napkin folding or centerpiece decorating.
  • Let’s Eat!! – Almost all gatherings should be centered around food in my book. So perhaps you time your call so that you’re all eating together, but always start off with a toast. Even virtually a good “cheers!” still brings smiles minus the sound of clinking of glasses. While this year the potluck idea might not work, it doesn’t mean you can’t contribute. If an annual gathering was typically local, you can whip up your dish and drop it off prior to your online call, or if there are people that are too far for that option, support local businesses in their area and send over dessert or a bottle of bubbly.
  • Give – Gift giving is the epitome of the holidays. The gift of giving, big or small, handmade, homemade or store bought, it’s the thought behind it. I feel like there should also never be pressure to spend money to give from the heart. There’s always an opportunity to get creative here as well – you’re only limited by your imagination. As a group or on your own, you can decide to give a gift in the way of perhaps a handwritten poem, you can upcycle an item, make coupon books specific to a person, donate to a charity or give in the form of an act of kindness like shoveling a neighbor’s lawn.

Secret Santa Gift Exchanges and White Elephant Exchanges are always fun. It also helps solve the issue of feeling obligated to get everyone in the party a gift. Just make sure you set a price limit to spend on the gift. To make your life even easier, use a company like Elfster that will help take the stress out of the whole process entirely.

So I think I covered all the bases of who, what, when, and where – now here’s the why:

The reason why you should still have a holiday party even if it’s virtual is because you need your friends and family and they need you and in this uncertain climate, keeping in touch with people that are going through what you’re going through can often provide the most valuable support.

Happy Holidays.

When you do think of a good Secret Santa gift and are ready to play, use the Secret Santa generator that makes everything easy for everyone, whether in-person or remote. Thanks to Elfster, you can easily shop for gifts and start a Wish List. Plus, you can access it all from an iPhone app or Android app.

Garmen C

Garmen C was a journalist and television producer who moved on to focus on raising money for non-profits. She’s always been an avid event planner and gifter!

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