COVID-19 Has Many Teleconferencing for the Holidays
Many turn to teleconference for Christmas

Many families and workplaces are celebrating holiday gatherings through videoconference as COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders continue—including finding ways to share festive dinners, or passing the time drinking with friends online.

As suggested by the MuseumHack blog, many companies will be hosting virtual Christmas parties online reimbursing employees for a meal of their choosing, or sending credits for services like GrubHub, or DoorDash that provide delivery of takeaway meals, or more synchronized meals from HelloFresh, BlueApron, or Cratejoy.

Also, we could see more companies like Hire Space, based in the United Kingdom, which offer packaged experiences including a digital platform with themed break out rooms that guests can move in and out of complete with pre-ordered meals, drinks and deserts.

But many families may prefer videoconferencing with home cooked meals. With less family members eating together in one home, each meal prepared will likely be less extravagant than traditional meals.

Some families wanting to celebrate Christmas with the family on videoconference may find it difficult to support members who are less familiar with technology, either because they are older or simply Luddites. Still other families may find members who are resistant due to security concerns.

Some security concerns are well-founded. Zoom is facing legal problems for sharing user’s info with Facebook without permission. The FBI has received reports of Zoom users being interrupted by strangers promoting pornography, and hate messages.

Luckily there are more secure alternatives, including Jitsi Meet, Remote HQ, Cisco Webex, and Jami, described in an article by LifeStyle Asia, Ditch Zoom for these secure and encrypted video conferencing apps.

Whatever families do to celebrate the winter holidays during COVID-19 will have to be what works best for the individual family. Each family will need to find their own way to connect and make the experience memorable during this dark time of year.  

Many families, workplaces, and religious societies have already moved their holiday meals and celebrations online including for Hanukkah and Thanksgiving.

For example, a North Carolina ABC affiliate reports that the Ohef Sholom Temple in Norfolk celebrated Hanukkah virtually, lighting candles on a live stream from their Facebook page each day.

USA Today reported Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, shared plans to have Thanksgiving dinner with his family over Zoom. The article, Zoom-ing for Thanksgiving dinner this year? Here's how to make the most of it, shared tips on how to have a successful holiday meal.

USA Today included suggestions of how to manage technology for a holiday meal online, and activities that might be part of the experience, including sharing recipes, cooking together, playing games, and how to keep conversations positive. “2020 has already been enough of a year,” the article said.

Huffington Post also offered advice on videoconferencing during Thanksgiving in an article titled How To Host A Virtual Thanksgiving Dinner During The COVID-19 Pandemic. They recommended crafting cocktails with the family, syncing background music, coordinating décor, and taking a moment in “spiritual solidarity.”

Even Chase Bank sponsored a Friendsgiving experience, Thanksgiving with friends rather than family, with entertainer Awkwafina and Chef Brooke Williamson. Patrons could tune in to a cooking demo, which was later posted on Youtube, and order Friendsgiving items selected by Awkwafina.

Holiday videoconference events could become more common if COVID-19 continues beyond a few months, and could even outlast the pandemic as families continue to drift apart geographically.

New apps may become popular and new words may arise as videoconference events become a dominant form of social organization. Vice reports that the pandemic has already caused a new word in Japan to describe online social drinking, on-nomi, or オン飲み.