We Asked, Readers Answered: How 13 People Across the Country Are Staying Connected to Loved Ones This Holiday Season

updated Nov 19, 2020
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Credit: Cathy Pyle

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact millions of families around the world, many have begun reevaluating what the 2020 holiday season will look like for them. With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advising that people avoid large, indoor celebrations with members outside their immediate household, it’s become clear that the safest route might have to be a creative one: A virtual Thanksgiving dinner (psst, Zoom is offering a free unlimited special to help make this happen), an outdoor Christmas, or even replacing a traditional celebration with something entirely new (and remote).

But if there’s one thing 2020 has underscored, it’s that staying physically apart doesn’t have to mean staying completely disconnected. Throughout the past few months, people have found endless ways to stay in touch with long-distance loved ones, whether through FaceTime cocktail hour or screenless activities like a recipe chain or writing snail mail.

As the winter months approach and the holiday season is fully upon us, finding ways to stay in touch will become more important than ever. People are already combatting feelings of loneliness and isolation amid the pandemic, and it’s especially common to feel that way during the holiday season even without coronavirus in the mix. 

To find out how others are staying connected with loved ones all through the holidays, we spoke with several people of all ages and across all parts of the globe. Ahead, find out how they are planning to keep some of their traditions alive, and maintain the love and magic of the holidays—even from far away.

“My family lives on the other side of the country and I’m not sure I’ll get to see them this year since none of us feel safe flying with the pandemic. I’m pretty sad about it, but we’re talking about having a FaceTime holiday dinner and opening Christmas presents together virtually. We’ll do the best we can.” —Kyle, 29, New York

“We are working towards agreeing on the COVID precautions we will take that will allow us to feel comfortable enough to hopefully spend time together. Everyone should feel that it’s a ‘safe space’ [… and] each person bears a responsibility to protect the health of the group in the ways that have been agreed on together. There’s too much going on in the world for anyone to have the added stress of wondering if a loved one is bringing risky behavior and a virus to Christmas dinner.” —Erin, 38, Massachusetts

“SO. MANY. FACETIME. CALLS. (When they actually answer, that is.)” —Leila, 24, Connecticut

“I’ve been taking walks as often as possible and calling people at the same time! It helps me stay both active and connected.” —Isabel, 24, California

“I’m lucky that my family lives nearby. We’re planning on doing a two-week quarantine prior to any holiday gatherings, and we might try to get COVID tested on top of that for extra precaution. My girlfriend’s family doesn’t live close though, so she’s going to be with us this year for Thanksgiving and Christmas.” —Eliza, 38, Michigan

Credit: Cara Dolan/Stocksy

“During the pandemic, I started trying out phone calls instead of just texting or emailing, calling people that I’ve lost touch with for a period of time.” —Maude, 65, Pennsylvania

“Writing letters, sending care packages and reminiscing about time we spent together pre-COVID.” —Kat, 26, Dublin

“My family is scattered around the country. We decided to do a Secret Santa sort of thing with sending packages in the mail, little things at first and then leading up to a bigger gift at Hanukkah. It’s a fun way to stay connected and still think of each other with gift-giving, even though we can’t be physically together.” —Jac, 25, Washington

“Living in a different state from my entire family, I’m accustomed to staying connected by phone calls, texts, and FaceTiming. Nothing new here!”—Dan, 33, North Carolina

“We usually travel for the holidays but will be home this year. We are trying to figure out ways to include other family members whether it’s through FaceTime or Zoom, and just staying in touch with regular texts and calls. It’s hard because my kids usually see their grandparents during the holidays, but my partner and I are both medical workers and it doesn’t seem safe to get together with elderly folks from out of town this year.” —Dani, 42, Maine

“Luckily, I live close enough to my family that I could go visit them if I wanted to, but in the moments that I can’t, I love FaceTime as an alternative. This allows me to see them and speak to them in a way that feels more personal than a phone call or text message.” —Camille, 22, Florida

“My parents and I have always talked on the phone at least every two days, so we’re still doing that. They FaceTime me with the dog, which is a huge part of how I’m getting through this, honestly. I am hoping I’ll still be able to make it home to France from England for the holidays, but if I don’t end up being able to, I’ll send them presents and I’m sure they’ll do the same for me.” —Iris, 25, London

“I’ve already decided that I’m not ‘going home’ for Thanksgiving or Christmas this year, I’ll be spending them with just my partner. I plan to stay connected to family via FaceTime, etc. as well as via my annual Christmas letter. I write and mail a Christmas letter every year to family and friends and this season’s edition is going to be even more important, chronicling such a wild year.” —Dannie Lynn, 26, Illinois