Celebrating Christmas online: Tips from the experts
December 2020

Millions of people will celebrate Christmas over Zoom/Facetime/Skype for the first time this year, but social-yet-distant holidays have long been a regular part of missionary life. Here are a few tips for marking festive occasions via the Internet, drawn from the experience of some of SEND’s missionaries: 

1. If children are involved, take turns. 

All of these platforms work best when one person speaks at a time. If the grandparents are watching grandkids open presents, residual noise might be fine, but if you want an actual conversation to take place, have little guys take turns in front of the screen while other children are occupied (ideally in another room).  

“If the kids aren’t naturally communicative, give them some tips or some ideas about what to talk about,” says Jane Miller, whose grandchildren lived overseas for more than a decade. “They can show artwork or sing. And remind them to ask questions of the grandparents, too—and to listen to the answers.” 

2. Play games. (All sorts.)

Physical games: Connect 4 works well, with one player telling the other player where to drop the pieces. And Leah Schwartz in Ukraine suggest Mickey Mouse Yahtzee with little kids or Battleship.  

Few-supplies-needed games: Charades and scavenger hunts can easily be adapted to Christmas. (Go find a present that you’d give to someone who likes small things, big things, soft things, smelly things, etc.) Scattergories works well for a group, and all you need is a piece of paper and someone to come up with categories. (Or to search online for ideas.) Christmas BINGO cards can keep the crowd focused; each person can make a card with predictions about what will happen during the celebration. (Someone will open socks; a cookie will be eaten.) 

Online: Check out, or see if your favorite game has an online version. Leah says, “For online games, we like to have two devices each—one to play on and one to see each other and talk on.”  

3. Focus on traditions that don’t require touch or good sound. 

“In our family, the youngest child who knows how to read, reads Jesus’ birth story from Luke 2. This we can do,” says Josie Oldenburg, who served in Ukraine. “However, we also generally sing carols together while my niece plays the piano. Zoom singing doesn’t sound particularly festive, so we’ll skip it this year.” 


4. Have a schedule.

Maybe that doesn’t sound very festive, but sometimes fun takes planning! Let the jokes arise spontaneously, but figure out ahead of time who will lead any games or MC your time together.

Beth Eckstein in Taiwan says a time limit has been key to her successful online parties, “I did a 50th anniversary party for my parents, and we kept it to exactly an hour,” she said. “People were wanting to stay longer, but honoring a definite time frame is a good boundary. It keeps people engaged and they’re more likely to be all in if they know there’s a natural cut off.”


5. Stay connected after the celebration.

To ease the blow of Christmas being “over” once the Zoom call ends, have everyone share a few prayer requests or hopes for the coming year. In the coming weeks, lift these things up to the Lord and follow up with your family members to let them know that they are on your mind, even if they can’t be in your home.  

This Christmas, no matter where or how you celebrate, remember that Jesus came to bring light into this dark world. Because the darkness cannot overcome the light, we wish you a meaningful, joyful Christmas. 

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