How to have Christmas together, when you're not together
Updated: Dec 31, 2020
With many of our Christmas plans in tatters, some of us have been left feeling isolated and removed from our family and friends.
I thought it would be helpful to put together some games, adventures, experiences and other Christmassy things that people can take part in together, even when they’re not together.
There will be a second list coming, (UPDATE: it's here) plus I'll also do a New Year's Eve one, (UPDATE: it's here) so there’s plenty more on the way. If you have any recommendations, send them through to me on firstname.lastname@example.org
Many thanks to everyone who has contributed ideas so far.
If you like to play games at Christmas, there are a number of games which work really well on Zoom. These include Charades, Scattergories (https://swellgarfo.com/scattergories) and Pictionary ( https://randomwordgenerator.com/pictionary.php)
If you’d like to try something a bit different, here are some recommendations:
Bring Your Own Book, is a game where your favourite book becomes part of the game. Each player need a book and they’ll have to search the book for answers to particular questions. You can buy the hard copy of the game or there’s a free print and play version if you sign up to the mailing list.
Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective There’s a few Sherlock Holmes games in this blog, games designers love mysteries and puzzles. In this particular game, you are presented with a mystery to solve, and it is then up to you to trace the threads of evidence through the byways and mansions of nineteenth century London. You will interview suspects, search the newspapers for clues, and put together the facts to reach a solution. Its for 1-8 players and you'll need to buy one version of the game (it sells for around £40 on Amazon), but everyone else can download the playsheets
Code Names is a brilliant game if you like word association and deduction. It’s for 4-8 players split into two teams, led by rival spymasters. The spymaster know the secret identities of 25 agents. Their teammates know the agents only by their Code Names. Your aim is to connect with your agents first by following the clues your spymaster gives you. You’ll need to print a few things out and it’s is enormous fun. It’s very easy to understand and play.
All of the above recommendations come from Board Games Geek; a fantastic community of people obsessed with games (particular thanks to Keven Davis on this one) BGG is a huge bank of information about board games, some of which translate really well to Zoom. There are more recommendations of games on this thread:
I’d also suggest checking out https://boardgamearena.com a site which has over 250 classic board games you can play online. It features a number of family favourites and there are lots of video explainers. Get your friends and family to sign up and you can play each other your favourite games using the private room function. Set up Zoom to chat as you’re playing or play on Discord.
Interactive group fun
COVID has meant that a whole community of games designers and theatre-makers who create interactive theatre, escape rooms and immersive adventure have had the rug pulled from under their feet. Fortunately, many of them have completely reinvented how they work and have created a whole on genre of interactive online games and adventures. This is the most fun you’ll ever have on Zoom.
The below recommendations are ticketed events. Some take place at particular times, some at any time you want. Many are suitable for the whole family (but do check beforehand), and all are playable by beginners.
The Mermaid’s Tongue
Part interactive theatre, part escape room, this 90 minute adventure can be played by up to 6 people at a time. This online quest will have you cracking clues in this gothic thriller. It’s been extraordinarily well received, but be prepared to leave feeling slightly discombobulated…
£15 per player
Created by the team behind the top escape room in the Netherlands. They are amongst the world’s finest purveyors of mystery and suspense and have even created interactive adventures for Simon Sinek. The Vault is an online version of their very popular game in Amsterdam where players attempt to break into the world’s toughest Vault. It’s ace. Be quick – there’s a limited number of slots available over Christmas
Team size 2-6 players
149 Euros per team
Sherlock in Homes
Another Sherlock Holmes mystery! Sharp Teeth Theatre and Bristol Old Vic bring you an online murder mystery, where you and your friends and family will try to unravel the most cunning of cunning plots. Designed for Zoom, you’ll meet an array of different characters. Expect dastardly behaviour, a plethora of deerstalkers and very deadly death (the worst kind). It’s very silly and enormous fun.
Tickets are £10 per device
Running until the end of January
Moriaty’s Game – Hidden City
Hidden City make games that are played around cities, but they’ve adapted this one to be played from home. You and your teammates are trying to track down a dangerous criminal, and uncover the truth about a mysterious informant. It can be played by up to 5 people, via mobile phones. It can be played at your time of choosing and it’s a great one for teenagers. Its very interactive in lots of ways you won’t expect.
The Night Before Christmas
This is a kind of ‘create-it-yourself’ party which has been designed specifically for Zoom. It’s actually a LARP (Live Action Role Play) which means that the game is created by the participants themselves – there are no actors or performers. Each participant is given a pre defined character to play along with that character's goals and objectives. However, not all the characters are what they seem and some seem to have very mysterious motives…
It has been designed by Freeform Games, who also have a number of other online Larps available.
£20 to download
Saving Scrooge – A Holiday Haunt
Created by Fantasy Escape Games, you and your team can play together from anywhere in the world (time zones permitting!). This game is aimed families and is particularly good if you have younger children. The game takes place in Scrooge’s home and you play ‘The Spirits of Christmas Yet to Come’. Book a private game and the action takes place over Zoom with a games facilitator playing different parts, helping you when you need it. You can choose beginner, intermediate or expert games.
NOTE: This escape room operates at Pacific Standard Time, so be aware when you are booking!
$18 per player
Family film parties
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without the family film. There are a number of platforms you can use to host watch parties, meaning you can invite people to watch a film or TV Show and chat all the way through. You may already know about Netflix Party which allows you to watch films together and chat, but it’s a bit glitchy at times and not massively user friendly, so here are a couple of alternatives. (And at least you won’t be arguing about who gets which Quality Street.)
Scener is a browser extension that allows you to watch Netflix with your friends and family. It has a chat functionality, with audio, video and text chat. You can either host parties in a private room or join a public theatre.
Two Seven supports a really wide range of platforms including Youtube, Netflix, Amazon Prime, iPlayer and Disney+
Film recommendations that you may not have considered include Klaus (Netflix) – a really beautiful animation; Jingle Jangle (Netflix) – a tale full of imagination and wonder about an eccentric toymaker and his adventurous granddaughter. Jake Gavin’s Hector (BBC iplayer) is a heartwarming tale of homelessness at Christmas, (but definitely not one for the kids.)
There are so many performances being live streamed at the moment, it can be hard to know which ones to go for. I've picked a few here. Some of them are live streamed at specific times and some are available to watch whenever you'd like.
If you are watching shows which are available for a long period, I'd suggest setting up a specific time to watch them with family and friends. You can host watch parties yourself using the platforms above (the ticketed events will have security settings that won’t allow you to do this, but you should be ok with the other events – try it out first) If you can't do this, set up a whatsapp group to chat as you go through (which you’d NEVER be able to do in a real theatre). You could even have an interval and munch on sweets really noisily.
National Theatre - FREE
NT are live-streaming their first pantomime in a number of years between 23rd and 27th December
It’s free and on YouTube
Christmas at the (Snow) Globe
National treasure Sandi Toksvig and her merry company bring laughter, carols and the joy of Christmas from the Globe Theatre straight to your home with this very festive film premiere.
Price is £15 per device
London’s best children’s theatre, The Unicorn, are hosting some deliciously dark theatrical readings from Phillip Pullman’s Grimm’ Tales. They are all on You Tube, so can be watched whenever you like and there are some amazing artists involved including Rory Kinnear, Le Gateau Chocolate and Kayla Meikle.
The Snow Queen
NIE (New International Encounters) are wonderful theatre company and produce joyous and heart-warming shows. This show has been designed specifically for zoom (as opposed to being live streamed show created for a theatre stage) and includes music, animation, wild woods, a Mongolian yurt and some reindeers. It’s wonderful.
Tickets are on a pay what you can basis.
The Lark Ascending
The Bristol Ensemble has produced an absolutely beautiful concert to celebrate 100 years of the Vaughan Williams’ classic. It's not just The Lark Ascending, but some other wonderful pieces and you can even sing along to Jerusalem at the end. You can really go to town on this one, try switching the lights off and lighting a few candles. As an added extra, Dr Johnathan James, who presents the concert, delves into Vaughan Williams’ score and brings some insights to the structure and harmonies. It’s well worth a watch afterwards.
It starts at around 13.00 on the below link.
FREE, but with a suggested donation of £10.00
Hold your own Christmas party (and support a good cause)
Just because we can’t see each other, doesn’t mean we can’t still have a good party. And there are loads of ways you can do this, as well as helping those that need it most.
Not Your Christmas Party
Trussell Trust are hosting games parties on their platform. If you register on the site, you’ll be sent a pack of fun games and party ideas and you’ll be supporting a really good cause too.
Games Night In
Macmillan Cancer Support have a number of online group games you can play including a Horse Racing Night and a Quiz Night.
Lots of people will be choosing not to go to Christmas Services this year and so here are a couple of online options
Westminster Abbey are live-streaming their midnight mass.
Wells Cathedral is absolutely beautiful. They are live streaming a Christmas Day Eucharist at 10am. It's been pre-recorded which means that there shouldn’t be any technical issues.
More ways to connect with each other over Christmas including more games, adventures and Christmas performances. Plus there will be a further edition with the Best things to do on New Year’s Eve
Thank you to everyone who contributed ideas to this round:
(apologies to anyone I've missed out!)