How to Stay Connected During a Socially Distanced Holiday

Family sitting on floor having a video call on laptop during christmas. European family greeting friends during a video call.

So you survived a socially distant Thanksgiving. But is it just us, or do these next holidays (whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa) feel harder to manage without all your friends and family around? 

Many of us are already coping with feelings of loneliness and isolation, but it seems to be intensified around this holiday season. Coach tip: try this holiday gratitude meditation to cope with these feelings and restore inner peace.

According to Stanford Medicine, social connection leads to better health, happiness, and a longer life. Whereas, loneliness can actually be worse for your health than smoking, high blood pressure, or obesity. This is why staying connected with loved ones is more important now than ever.

If you’re bored of just the same old Zoom or Facetime calls, we’ve come up with some holiday festive activities that can be done socially distant, while still feeling connected. Who knows? It can even be the start of some new traditions once things return to “normal”.

Gift Exchange 

Although gift giving and receiving don’t necessarily have anything to do with the meaning of the holidays, it’s become a central tradition that most of us look forward to. 

But unless you live in a household with lots of people, you’ll probably have to go virtual with this one. Here’s what you can do:

  • Start a virtual gift exchange with friends, family, or even coworkers. There are sites like Elfster that make this easy. 
  • Upload your wishlists. You can set a budget or a fun unique theme for gifts.
  • Draw names. Elfster does this for you once everyone signs up!
  • Send gifts out by the deadline.
  • Schedule a gift opening on Zoom with everyone participating.

We promise it’ll be just as fun, if not more convenient, for everyone involved! 

Covid-Friendly Cookie (or Cocktail) Swaps

Cookie swaps, or cocktails if you prefer, are a fun and tasty way to keep spirits high this season. There are a few ways these can be done.

Cookie swap

  • Swap your favorite holiday cookie recipes with your friends or family, and bake them together virtually on video chat.
  • If your loved ones live nearby, or you’d like to do this with neighbors, bake your favorite cookies, and leave them at the doorstep. Of course, you’ll want to practice Covid-safety and sanitary measures when cooking for others (e.g. masks, gloves, hair secured away from food).
  • Or if you don’t feel like baking, send them your favorite cookies from their local bakeries for delivery.

Cocktail swap

  • Exchange your favorite holiday cocktail recipes, then make and enjoy them over video chat.
  • If you live nearby to your friends, family, or neighbors, you can drop off a DIY cocktail kit with instructions for the cocktail. Then, tag them to do the same.

Recipe exchange

  • Swap your favorite holiday recipe with your friends or family before the holiday dinner. This can be an appetizer, side dish, main entree, or dessert. Bonus if everyone gets a little creative and puts their own spin on it.

Family Holiday Dinner

Sharing a meal together is another central part of the holiday festivities, and there’s no reason for you to eat your holiday dinner alone. Here are some options for still having a traditional family holiday dinner, while staying safe:

Cook meals together virtually

If your family has traditional recipes that are used each year for holiday dinner, each member can make one dish, and get tips along the way via Zoom (or your Facetime app of choice). Another option is to have everyone do a recipe exchange (mentioned earlier), and give a taste test when it’s time to enjoy the feast.

Enjoy the meal together

This is great to do whether everyone cooked together prior, or just gathered for the meal. However, it adds another layer of fun to talk about the cooking process for each item, and the outcome.

Playing Board Games

Is your favorite part of the holiday the games? Well, this one’s for you.

Here’s a list according to Good Housekeeping for the best games to play on Zoom:

  • Heads Up!
  • Scattergories
  • Cards Against Humanity
  • Trivia
  • Bingo
  • Most Likely To…
  • Pictionary
  • Names, Places, Animals, Things
  • Charades
  • Psych
  • 20 Questions

There are online or app versions that everyone can download and play together while on video chat.

Neighborhood Scavenger Hunt

If you have kids, this can be a fun activity to do around the neighborhood. Here’s how it works:

Post the rules for the scavenger hunt in a neighborhood correspondence, or even the Nextdoor app. For example, leave an elf in a window or as part of an outdoor decoration, and try to spot X number of elves throughout the neighborhood. 

Bonus: you’ll get a little exercise in and appreciate all the holiday decorations!

Group Wellness Class

Group fitness or wellness classes can apply to even non-holiday activities. This can be a meditation, yoga class, or a workout suitable for every level of fitness.

Here’s one that even the kids would enjoy!

Final Thoughts: How to Stay Connected during a Socially Distanced Holiday

Even with social distancing restrictions, you can still celebrate the holidays safely, and feel connected to your loved ones. All it takes is a bit of creativity!

If you’d like more ideas to stay healthy and celebrate the holidays, try Yes Health free for 14 days, and see what your coaches recommend for you.


Yes Health is a low-cost, weight loss and diabetes-prevention program committed to helping everyone live healthier, happier lives.