Tips for Seeing Friends & Family Over Christmas Break

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(Credit: ABC7 Chicago)

Jenn Uche '22, Opinions & Creative Writing Editor

Winter break is among us— a time to de-stress and enjoy leisure time without the looming stress of papers, tests, grading, and Zoom meetings. I know I’m especially looking forward to getting up from my desk, cricking my neck, stretching my legs, and meeting my family again.

And how about a few days from now? When I’ve learned all my siblings’ names again? I bet I’ll feel the desire to chat with Grandma about Christmas stories, and hear my mom making plans with Auntie for Christmas Eve dinner — and I’ll start missing my friends from school.

And like a (shocking metaphor), I remember Covid-19. In the midst of happy holiday celebrations, we must remember to stay safe and social distance. 

A recent survey revealed that roughly 44% of Montrosians will not be visiting their families in person, and 19.3% are still unsure. And while 29.3% of Montrosians are sure to visit friends, 89.5% REALLY want to.

The winter holidays are usually a time known for family— so of course, it’s disappointing to have to be restricted in seeing family— especially when we’re living in such a stressful year. While we won’t be able to see our family and friends, there ARE ways to still keep in touch.

1. Plenty of Montrosians said that that would be using FACETIME or PHONE CALLS to communicate with friends and family safely. An easy way to see familiar faces!

We should go through the obvious about how we usually stay connected, like through phone calls and texts. However, some Montrosians are ramping it up!

Mia Cahill Farella ‘27 said: “I usually send my aunts and uncles a Merry Christmas text, email or card.”

And Cee-Cee Deslaurier-Tate ‘24 said: “My family will probably make some phone calls to other family members and friends, and we might do a Zoom or two to play some virtual games.” 

History Department Coordinator Mrs. Kristine Forsgard said: “FaceTime and Zoom. Tips: be creative with the background you select. For example, highlight your decorations/Christmas tree. As a special gift, write a special poem for this CC/Covid Christmas that incorporates the friends/family of your Zoom Holiday encounter. Have a mug of hot chocolate close by! Finally, share photos of past Christmas celebrations.”

Maevis Fahey ‘21 added that, while it can be really hard to stay connected, it’s still trying to reach out that counts. She said: “FaceTime and Netflix Party are great! Also maybe writing cards to friends or family. The most important thing is making people feel loved and connected — not forgotten. The little things always count.”

2. Other Montrosians are planning on using ZOOM!

Never would we have thought in May that we would be using the platform Zoom for so much communicating for so long. It has proven useful for so many people— especially since it only requires an electronic device!

A Montrose student said: “My grandparents will Zoom with us!” 

And another, talking about what they’d do on the Zoom, said: “My friends and I Zoom and FaceTime a lot to stay in touch and play games or watch movies together online.” 

Mrs. Michelle Barrett, a Montrose parent and member of Montrose’s Communications team, said: “Zooms, telephone calls, and texting photos. I’m also putting together a Memory Box for my parents for a Christmas gift. My dad has memory loss. The idea is that my mom will read one memory a day to him for the 365 days of 2021!”

3. If you are planning on visiting family, plan to stay OUTSIDE and a SAFE DISTANCE away!

Of course, families will want to meet their family for the holidays in-person. But safety must be remembered above all in order to ensure a good holiday memory in the future. And should there be some fun family activities to do together during the holidays? Of course! In order to ensure a safe experience to remember, some Montrosians came up with ideas to meet and still practice safe social distancing. 

Mrs. Maura Conry, who works with Ms. White in the Academic office, said: “When visiting in person, it will be outside, around a firepit and not to eat a meal, just to chat. Also we’ll meet to walk or hike.”

Middle School Coordinator and English teacher Mrs. Roberts said: “We will use Zoom and phone calls. While we will see some family during the break, we are planning an outdoor day hike as opposed to the usual Christmas meal. You do what you can.”

Upper School history teacher Mrs. Michel said: “Caveat on the visiting friends part — if we have an unusually nice day, I might meet a friend outdoors, but definitely no indoor socializing. Otherwise, I plan on catching up with friends and family over Zoom!” 

Anna Sheehan ‘21 said: “Let me just say, when I visit family it will be outside with masks. But as far as additional connecting, I want to drop off presents at people’s houses and surprise them!”

4. It’s a popular idea to play VIRTUAL GAMES and ACTIVITIES with the family and friends whom you won’t be in person to see!

As a way to connect with friends and family over the holidays in a safe and fun environment, why not try virtual games? Plenty of Montrosians have great ideas.

Caroline Reichard ‘21 said: “Texting, Zoom calls with family, FaceTiming with friends, etc! Skribbl.io and Among Us are great, as are other online games.” 

You can also watch movies and TV shows together! Donna Phinney ‘21 said: “Disney+ group viewing or a Netflix party with FaceTime!” 

Another Montrose student gave the suggestion for Zoom games. She said: “They are incredibly fun! I will be doing that with my family and friends this Christmas, and I urge others to look into that, too! We are so lucky to be in school and don’t want this joyful Christmas season to ruin that! Keep this school joy-filled, not Corona-filled! PLEASE!”

Upper School Science teacher Ms. Thordarson also recommends playing games over Zoom. She said: “Our Saturday Zooms, which we’ve been doing since April, have been mostly trivia nights, where family members take turns creating trivia games in Kahoot that we all play. Codenames also works well because there is an online version of it.”

Again, it’s hard to adjust to Covid-19 restrictions during the holidays, but remembering safety, figuring out ways to stay connected, and positive thinking are what will make us remember our winter Coronavirus season with good memories.

Don’t forget that the true meaning of the holidays is to remind your loved ones that they are loved — and smile! Times are tough, but— we’re gonna sound corny— family is so much stronger. 

Smile when you see your family on Zoom, be grateful for health, call a friend or co-worker, reach out safely, laugh a lot!— be happy and remember— ‘tis the season to have love, be in love, and to love.

Jenn Uche ’22

22juche@montroseschool.org