One of the best things about holidays is the traditions. Families enjoy doing the same thing year after year for Christmas — and embrace the predictability and routine of being together, sharing gifts, celebrating meals together. But over time, as families grow and circles widen, people shift to accommodate their changing needs.
As people move away and job and financial constraints restrict travel, there’s an ever-growing desire to connect with our loved ones from miles away.
If you’re in different time zones, pick a time that works best for everyone and do something at the same moment, like settling down for a healthy dose of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”
If everyone in your family is unable to be under the same roof, count yourselves blessed to live in an age of technology that, when used well, can bring families together in spite of distance:
1.) Try the Google Keep app.
Google Keep has become a favorite app for sharing lists and notes digitally. This year, we’ve used the app for adding to Christmas lists and updating mailing addresses. You simply add a “collaborator” and your lists become shareable for anyone with a Google account.
2.) Use Skype or FaceTime.
Skype people in! Skype and FaceTime are by no means new, but they can be easily incorporated into family traditions. Set up a place at the table and let others watch the kids open gifts, or involve them in after-dinner conversation. Sure, it’s not quite the same as actually being present, but it’s certainly better than missing out altogether.
3.) Check out photo-sharing apps.
Facebook has been a great tool for over a decade for sharing photos, but what if you’re looking for something a bit more intimate or private? Dropbox is great for sharing files and photos, though a small fee is required. With Dropbox, you can upload all your photos of holiday festivities without bombarding Facebook friends.
For those with Apple devices, the photo folder has an option for “shared” photos. In this album, you can share photos with family members for free and download them to your own device.
4.) Start new traditions.
If your kids have cousins across the country they’re dying to get to know, let them pick out gifts and send them off. Maybe have them make ornaments to exchange through the mail. Start writing letters, allowing the kids to pick out stationery for one another as gifts.
If you’re in different time zones, pick a time that works best for everyone and do something at the same moment — like settling down to watch “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” or drinking a cup of hot cocoa. You don’t have to be with one another physically to be with each other in spirit.
Keeping traditions year in and year out — and adding new traditions — is something special for many families. As you spend your holidays with family near and far, use some of these ideas to keep everyone involved no matter where they may be!
Liz Logan lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her growing family. She is pursuing a master’s degree in creative nonfiction.