Near and far, the holidays bring out special traditions to keep families connected across continents. Here’s how our readers do it, and how you can do the same.
The twinkling lights are up, the festive music is playing, and the aroma of your favorite holiday treats fills the house. But something still feels like it’s missing—the laughter and chatter of your closest family members.
If members of your family live overseas or simply can’t make it home for the holidays this year, it can put a damper on tradition and leave you feeling disconnected. However, there are plenty of ways you can bridge the physical gap between loved ones and still feel a sense of togetherness. We put together some of our favorite ways to stay connected through the season, and talked to some of our readers to find out how you stay close during this special time of year.
Schedule video calls to open gifts together. If you traditionally exchange gifts in person, keep this ritual going by arranging a video call to open presents at the same time. Share reactions in real-time as you unwrap, making it almost as good as being in the same room. Video chats are the next best thing to celebrating holidays in person.
Cook the same dishes while you catch up. Prepare beloved family recipes—like your mom’s mouthwatering biryani or your aunt’s rich kheer—while chatting over speakerphone or video. Share cooking tips and secrets as you work or enjoy the finished meal together. It’s not the same as going elbow-to-elbow in the kitchen, but making treasured dishes keeps tradition alive.
Share photos and videos. Don’t just wait until the holiday itself, but share your favorite shots regularly leading up to and during the holidays. Upload special moments big and small through the season—decorating, baking, visits from relatives or friends, religious celebrations, New Year’s countdowns—to a shared family chat or cloud album everyone can access. Viewing visual snippets of how each of you spends the season fosters connection.
Do an online gift exchange. Instead of mailing gifts internationally or not exchanging at all, organize a virtual gift swap. Draw names, set a budget, and exchange thoughtful presents by mail. Then gather extended family online to open gifts together and react in real time, sharing gratitude and thoughtful words about each item.
Embracing creative ways to connect from afar ensures no one misses out on the most magical family moments. Distance can never dilute the joy of cherished rituals when you celebrate collectively in spirit.
Readers sound off:
“Holidays are all about laughter and connection for us. I firmly believe in the power of gatherings and delicious food to bring people together. Our festive tradition includes not just in-person dinners, but also I make it a point to make sure that even if we can’t physically gather, we stay connected virtually.
Our holiday celebrations kick off with warm, in-person dinners. These gatherings become a time to catch up, reminisce, and make new memories, all while savoring the joy that comes with simply being together.
We have friends and family all over. We make a conscious effort to bridge the gap virtually through video calls. It’s a wonderful way to include those who we love no matter where we are. We can still share the holiday spirit and feel close to one another.
At the end of the day, it’s all about connection and belonging. We try to create that through these shared experiences. Happy Holidays. Cheers!”
— Sunaina Ramisetty
Paksha Jewelry Founder
“I don’t have my immediate family in the USA. They all live in India, except my brother who recently moved to Boston for his masters. We exchange gifts with family between USA and India by sending boxes of sweets, gift cards, etc. through courier.
We also have video chats on the day of festivities to wish each other. I take the time to connect with others in the south Asian community by attending south Asian events and celebrations in New York and virtually.
For the exchange of sweets, I have a long discussion with my parents as to what they should be sending. I say a big no to Indian sweets and instead opt for a variety of nuts, Indian snacks, chocolate bars including dark chocolates, candles, and other tangible home decor.
Product Coach & Entrepreneur, Founder & CEO, MultiNova Inc.
A few pics of the box that I received from my parents this Diwali. It had a cute rattan basket (which I am going to repurpose), a scented candle (candles are a good substitute for ‘diyas’ which are small earthen lamps – lit on Diwali), a box of dark chocolate covered almond nutties, 2 dark chocolate bars, 2 packets of nuts.
Over the years, my family has nailed the perfect combo of chocolate and nuts that I am willing to consume. Indian sweets are very high in sugar and I always feel guilty after gulping over the entire box in a few days!