One way to foster a feeling of intimacy when your family is spread across the country or the globe is to all share in the same tradition. "I know one family that sets a time the day before and they all make pie at the same time, using their Grandma Betty's pumpkin pie recipe," says Meg Cox, traditions expert and author of The Book of New Family Traditions. Grandma then "calls around to the different households and speaks to each of her grandkids, wishing them a Happy Season --and a delicious desert."
Use Technology Consider this the upgrade to passing the telephone around the room. Why not set up a laptop at the end of the table to video chat with your far-flung family? Decide ahead of time to have a Skype cocktail hour or dessert, suggests Susan.
Catch Up Time Whether you're seated at the same table or talking face-to-face via video chat, it can still be difficult to really know what's going on in people's lives. Don't be afraid to get to the heart of the matter. "One family, spread from coast to coast, has started a new tradition of 'catch up time' that begins as the turkey is being cleared and continues through dessert," says Susan. "Going around the table, each person speaks to these questions: What's going on with me now? What's been the most challenging part of the past year and the most rewarding? What am I looking forward to in the coming year?" If your family isn't used to talking about serious stuff, this might feel awkward at first, but the sense of closeness it nurtures will be well worth any initial discomfort.
Put It In Writing Some people might feel uncomfortable sharing aloud with the group. With that in mind, Susan suggests "[asking] each person to fill out a card noting something another person in the family did during the year that meant a lot." Or make it more broad by having people write down something they are grateful for in general. Place all the cards into a basket or jar, fish them out one-by-one and read the cards over dessert.
Here's to a joyful and meaningful Christmas time !