Given the ongoing confusion around Christmas bubbles, many friends and families will be choosing to stay apart over the festive season to ensure they stay as safe as possible. However, there are still plenty of ways to stay in touch and spread a bit of much-needed cheer using the wonders of modern technology.
Britons became increasingly adept at video calling throughout the first national lockdown in March, with more than seven in 10 adult internet users making video calls on at least a weekly basis, according to research from Ofcom.
Consequently, FaceTiming loved ones on Christmas morning to watch them open their presents is the next best thing to being there in person, or making video calls through Facebook Portal or Amazon Echo Show smart devices. Similarly, if you’re not all quizzed out from earlier in the year, a vigorous post-dinner Zoom will be sure to reinvigorate participants’ competitive streaks.
Quizing to help stay together
The Jo Cox Foundation is holding a free online festive pop culture quiz with SocialEyes as part of the Great Winter Get Together on 23 December, an annual campaign to combat social isolation.
“The festive period is a time when we’re all supposed to be surrounded by people, enjoying an abundance of food and drink and having lots of fun,” said Kim Leadbeater, Jo’s sister.
“Sadly, it’s not like that for a lot of people who might be on their own or struggling with loneliness.”
Baroness Barran, the Minister for Loneliness, said the smallest actions can make a huge difference to lonely people, including sending a card, giving someone a call or signing up to volunteer digitally.
“We can show our friends and family how much they mean to us, even if we can’t all physically meet up,” she said, urging people to get involved to “make sure no one feels alone over the holidays”.
Festive exercise to get the blood pumping
If you or your loved ones have Fitbit or Garmin fitness trackers or Apple Watches you can challenge each other to meet specific exercise goals – a fun way to encourage them to get outside on a festive walk where safe to do so. Likewise, runners and cyclists can show off their pre-breakfast achievements using Strava, the social network for athletes.
Socially distanced Monopoly – in under an hour
Being physically distant doesn’t have to spell an end to fun and games either – while the annual game of Monopoly may be off the cards in the traditional sense, creator Hasbro has developed an app version for £3.99 you can play with friends and family on a smartphone or tablet. It even has a quick mode that promises a completed game in an hour or less to avoid tensions running high.
Alternatively, free video calling apps like Houseparty has a variety of madcap games at its disposal, including karaoke, Uno, trivia and the Pictionary-style Quick Draw for the artistically inclined.
Tune into festive fare in sync
If tuning into the Queen’s Speech or snoozing in front of films is a central tenet of your Christmas Day, BBC iPlayer and Amazon Prime Video have features that allow you to watch programmes and films at the same time as others in perfect sync, while you can do the same on Netflix through a Google Chrome web browser extension called Teleparty.
Mod cons aside, a good old fashioned phone call is an equally important way of letting someone know you’re thinking of them during what’s been a tough time for many.
How to watch live-streamed church services this Christmas
From mighty cathedrals to smaller churches across the nation, plenty of holy services will be live streaming services to their congregations from a distance this year in recognition that while public worship spaces are allowed to remain open, many would-be visitors may be shielding or unable to attend in person.
Westminster Cathedral will be broadcasting its Vigil Mass of Christmas at 18.00 on Christmas Eve and Pontifical Mass of the Day at 10.30am on Christmas Day, while Chicester Cathedral will be broadcasting its Midnight Mass from 23.30 on Christmas Eve on its website, Facebook and YouTube pages.
A handy website called churchservices.tv lists hundreds of live-streamed masses every day from across the UK allowing remote viewers to tune in, including throughout the day on Christmas Day. Participating communities include Christ Our Light Church in Ballincollig, Cork, St Barbara’s RC Church in Muirhead, Glasgow and St David’s Church, Mold in Flintshire.