In our high-tech world, families are more spread out across the miles than ever, yet it's never been so easy to stay connected. Sharing holidays and family events doesn't have to be limited to in-person contact. There are many ways to share occasions, spread the happiness and celebrate together from afar.
In spite of, or perhaps because of, all the high-tech ways of communicating today, people truly appreciate handwritten letters. Let children compose their own letters to grandparents; if they can't write you can help them, but let them tell you what they want to say. Encourage them to draw a picture or two, as well. Family newsletters are another wonderful way to stay in touch. Send copies to everyone in the family, and let them know what's going on in your life.
Try a fresh take on the family newsletter by going digital with email templates from MailChimp, Smilebox or an independent graphic designer (a search with the terms "digital Christmas letter template" will yield dozens of options). A group chat on social media or shared photo album, through Google Photos, SmugMug, iCloud or another web-based platform, are also great ways to share events in real time, so Grandma and Grandpa feel as if they're not missing a thing.
Several retailers, including Walgreens and CVS, offer online photo centers through which you can upload pictures for printing at a location near your relative for them to pick up. Photo cards are a wonderful way to send holiday greetings and let long-distance relatives watch as your children grow up. Unique holiday gifts that will bring your family a little closer to grandparents and other relatives who live far away include photo-personalized Christmas ornaments, blankets, throw pillows, mouse pads, mugs and even puzzles. Visit the photo departments at CVS, Walmart and Walgreens stores, or go online to sites such as Shutterfly, Amazon Prints, Snapfish and VistaPrint. Hallmark offers a photo album with a built-in audio-recording device so you can record yourself telling a favorite story that can be played back over and over. This is a terrific way for grandparents to read to faraway grandchildren.
You aren't prohibited when buying your favorite people the perfect gifts just because you are on the other side of the country -- or ocean. When you need Santa's delivery to be made overseas, you can choose from several retailers specifically dedicated to international deliveries, such as Amazon Global, Gifts for Europe, Gift Tree and Gifts International.
Next time you are having a get-together, make sure that you invite the whole family, even if they can't make the commute. Everyone, near and far, can gather around the Christmas tree, reminisce and enjoy watching loved ones' open presents. Using free and low-cost apps such as Messenger, Google Duo, imo, Tango Messenger, ooVoo, FaceTime and Skype, you can watch, speak and enjoy "being together" even if miles separate you. Some of these apps are specific for certain devices; also not all apps will work in every country. It's best if you schedule the online meeting beforehand to make sure everyone will be available.
The holidays are a time for family togetherness, and with today's technology, you needn't feel so far apart.