7 Ways to Bring Storytelling to Your Virtual Holiday Celebration in 2020

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Santa waving at his phone for a virtual holiday celebrationYou don’t need to have paid attention to every other TV commercial since early November to know that the holiday season — like most things — will “look a little different this year.” No matter how (or what) you typically celebrate as the calendar draws to a close, your plans for 2020 likely are radically different from before.

With the mission to help people tell their personal stories, we at ECHO are keenly aware that something precious is in danger of falling through the cracks. The holiday season usually affords many of us the opportunity to spend time with loved ones we might otherwise never see. And it’s during this time that we share memories and stories. With so many of us keeping apart right now, are those stories going to be lost or forgotten? Not if we can help it!

Family and friendship are built on a foundation of shared experiences. So, even if you have no choice but to spend the holidays apart, you can — and should — still bridge that literal and figurative gap with stories. In fact, with the pandemic reportedly contributing to unprecedented incidences of loneliness among the global population, it’s arguably never been more important to uphold the crucial human connection that storytelling provides.

Here are 7 ways you can keep storytelling alive this holiday season.

  1. Schedule a Digital Reunion

    Even the technologically averse have begun embracing the modern marvel that is video chat. Platforms such as Skype, Facebook Messenger, and Zoom are free and largely intuitive, and allow you to connect with those you miss no matter where they are in the world. Pick a day and time, and be prepared to catch everyone up on your most memorable moments from this very unusual year. (If you have the means, this is the perfect opportunity to give a tablet to a relative who would love to see your face.)

  2. Go Analogue

    Back in pre-internet times, it was common to make a real project of mailing everybody in one’s circle an end-of-year chronicle — usually handwritten and elegantly presented inside a thoughtfully chosen card. (Some of us have never abandoned this practice.) Emails are perfectly nice, of course, but people of all ages still love to have and hold a beautiful physical object. It’s a much more poignant and intimate gesture than simply clicking Send. The card/letter combo is ripe for a comeback!

  3. Bring Back Storytime

    Whether in person with your bubble or online, gather together your loved ones to read a cherished story (from the pages of a hardcover or by the light of an iPad). It doesn’t have to be a festive tale — just something you think your audience will enjoy and that encourages time spent together. Crackling fireplace and fuzzy slippers not required.

  4. “If Music Be the Food of Love…”

    We don’t all love the same music, but almost everyone loves music. And the music we do love tends to reveal a lot about us: our temperament, our aesthetic preferences, the era in which we grew up. If you’ve ever given or received a mix tape, you know how much a selection of songs can say about a person. Put together a Spotify or YouTube playlist, give it a theme (“Top 20 of 2020,” “The Year I Was Born,” “Festive Faves”), and share it far and wide.

  5. And Speaking of Food…

    Food not only brings people together and helps cultivate shared memories, it plays a part in shaping who we are, according to psychologists and scientific research. While we won’t be gathering this year for large family meals or refreshment-laden house and office parties, we can still feast together virtually. Use one of the above-mentioned chat platforms to have a socially distanced dinner. Or better still, host a cooking competition from your kitchen! Share a favourite recipe in advance with friends and family, then guide everyone through the steps. Compare results at the end. No matter how successful your efforts, you’ll be talking about it for years to come.

  6. Record a Memory Video

    Just about every home computer and smartphone allows you to capture video. Film yourself sharing your most memorable moments of the year (or from your lifetime) and share them with those close to you. In just a few steps, you can upload a video to a private YouTube channel (to be viewed only by folks of your choosing) or make it available for download via a file-hosting service like Dropbox. Unlike a virtual chat, this is a document of you that they can keep forever.

  7. Virtual Quiz Game

    How well do your children or grandchildren know your history? How well do you know theirs? Prepare a list of milestones and noteworthy events from your past, and arrange for friends and family of your choosing to do the same. Then schedule a virtual chat and take turns quizzing your fellow contestants. The winner claims bragging rights and maybe a real-life gift to be claimed when life has returned to something more like normal.

However you choose to celebrate the season, we hope you’ll find a safe way to share stories and memories while you do it. Our mission is to help you deepen relationships with those who matter most to you, and this year especially, those you feel closest to may be physically farthest away. We encourage everyone to find ways to bridge that distance and build meaningful memories that you’ll treasure together long after we’ve all been vaccinated. Happy holidays!