Talking tech since 2003

2020 has been a long and winding road, hasn't it? As the year comes to a close, it seems that everyone is worried about what exactly the holiday season is going to look like. Will Santa still come to the mall? Is Thanksgiving going to be the same if some of us have to stay home? There's a sense of anxiety that millions of people feel when it comes to the pandemic, and being safe when visiting loved ones (or whether or not to do so at all) ranks high on the list of concerns.

Don't panic! There's plenty of new and improved ways to stay connected with loved ones if you can't be with them for the holidays this year. It will be as if you're at their side, even if you're miles apart.

Take advantage of technology

This one's obvious – you can do just about anything with your smartphone nowadays! Toss your associations with work or school to the wind for the day. With things like FaceTime, Zoom, WhatsApp, Skype, and more, the people you care about are only a call away. Simply add all of your family into one chat group, and friends in another (Don't mix it up! Aunt Sue probably doesn't want to hear about your hot date the other night). If everyone can't physically get together, it might be good to schedule a group call, for a few minutes or a few hours, so everyone can say hello and have a sense of togetherness.

Everyone can buy their drink of choice and cheers to a virtual Friendsgiving. Opening gifts together is also a great idea. If you aren't able to be there to watch mom and dad open their gifts, you'll still be able to see their reactions! If group calls aren't your style, or you find yourself busier than expected, you can still send voice recording texts individually. This creates less of an urgency and more of a casual conversation.

Have a Teleparty (formerly Netflix Party)!

The family tradition of watching The Grinch Who Stole Christmas can still live on this year! Teleparty is a Google Chrome extension that anyone can download. It's simple: whoever wants to watch the movie/TV series can join on the extension and everyone can watch it together! It's fun, easy, and you can still lay on the floor, in your matching fuzzy socks, with some hot chocolate like old times.

Gift them ahead of time with the smell of home

If you live a bit farther away from the important people in your life, you may strive to find a gift to send that makes them feel like they're with you. It's tough, even with virtual hangouts and technology, to get that same feeling of Thanksgiving in Chicago or prepping dinner with the family at the start of Hanukkah. It's fairly common knowledge that scent is intertwined with memory and emotion, but if you weren't aware of that, now you know (no judgement)!

That's why candles have always been my go-to gift. I always wished there was a way to customize (to a degree) what scented candles you give someone based on things like memories, because it's like a photograph. It will always take you back to a certain moment in time and that type of gift holds more value. That's where homesick comes in. Homesick has candles called "Latkes and Lights," "The Nutcracker," "Grandma's Kitchen," and "Let's Toast."

Here are the notes for "Latkes and Lights":

Top Notes: Baked Apple, Butter, Potato
Mid Notes: Pomegranate, Pound Cake
Base Notes: Vanilla, Sugar, Musk

They also feature candles based on different states, cities, and countries, like "Chicago":

Top Notes: Sandalwood, Bergamot
Mid Notes: Fresh Water, Chocolate
Base Notes: Jasmine, Musk

Make a collaborative Spotify holiday playlist

Maybe there's a song that your best friend absolutely has to belt out when she's had a bit too much eggnog, or a tune that your Aunt always hums while baking apple pie. No matter the melody, there are plenty of songs that bring us joy during the holiday season. Create a playlist on Spotify, tap the "..." under the playlist title, and select "Make Collaborative." You can then share the playlist with your loved ones and they'll be able to add their favorites so that you can all listen together and experience the same holiday mood. Press "play" and bake some holiday cookies or decorate the house. I've already made one for Thanksgiving, and you can bet your bottom dollar that I'll be making a Christmas playlist too!

Send a card that will make someone's day

These days, getting physical cards to put into the mail sounds like a lot of unnecessary work. You have to find the right ones, buy them, write in them, stamp them and mail them out. But that's the point! The effort you put into sending someone a message (especially when you could have easily just sent a text) is a surefire way to put a smile on someone's face. There's so many great places to find unique cards.

My favorite is Paper Source. You can not only customize greeting cards, but also create your very own custom stamp (might as well go all out, right?) to put on the envelopes. Some of them don't even need anything added – they're great on their own. This one, for example, couldn't be more accurate in 2020. Take the time to write one out, and send it with love.

Make a collaborative slideshow of holiday gatherings

Gather all of the photos/videos you can find from holiday get-togethers over the years. Find your favorites and save them in a separate album. Then, simply ask your friends and family to send you any media that they might have from years past. Surely you'll come across some hidden gems. Save them all, and compile them into the album you created. If you've got an iPhone, you can select the album's name at the top and you'll see a video already created with all of the media there. Edit it if you'd like by adding music and share for all to see! You can do all of this in iMovie as well.

A great alternative would be to use the PhotoShare Friends and Family Smart Frame. You can send photos directly from your phone to the frame through the app, and add friends and family to the app as well! Buy them for other households as gifts, and bask in the memories when the holidays come around. Place the frame in the living room or bedroom for a sweet reminder each time you walk past. Encourage everyone to add a few new ones from this year because there's no denying that 2020 will be a year to remember!

No matter where you end up or who you end up with, remember: There might be no place like home for the holidays, but whatever place (or people) you consider to be home will always be a part of you. Even if we have to be apart, we're all experiencing this ride together. Let's make the most of it and toast to a new year!

Just...don't spill the champagne on your laptop. Been there, done that.


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