Don’t get me wrong, I love a festive get-together; mince pies, dodgy Christmas jumpers, foil Christmas decorations that have been pulled out at every festive party since the late 1980! However, after the last couple of years of virtual parties, I find part of myself quite enjoys a Christmas get-together with a commute of less than 2 minutes (between the office and the sofa). It’s been a slow return to ‘normal’ for many of us, with many in-person events only restarting over the last couple of months.
It’s also still difficult to navigate the personal space issue – how much space should you give the person you are talking to? Is 2 metres too much in a crowded room to have a meaningful conversation? Does it make the other party feel as though you think they are contagious? Should you wear a mask or not (obviously according to the requirements of the venue)? And if you are planning events, do you go for an inside or outside party? Do you fill the venue or invite fewer people to allow for social distancing? Gone are the days when the only challenge was finding entertainment that wasn’t too terrible, and trying to cater for different dietary requirements. Despite the obvious challenges (zoom fatigue, dodgy wifi and the fact that there’s always one person who can’t find the mute button), the online parties I attended last year were enjoyable. I could wear slippers, sit on a comfortable chair and even take my pets, no need to take half a day off to prepare and travel to the party. I was also involved in organising some online parties last year, and with a little bit of creative thinking I can safely say that the activities were just as fun as those I’ve participated in at live events.; We had a scavenger hunt game that involved people running around their houses looking for obscure items and racing back to share them on screen, and an online “Bake off”; Friends of mine attended online perfume testing sessions, wine tasting and painting classes, even online comedy shows, all from the comfort of their own homes.
We were still able to experience social interaction (sometimes even more than if we’d been attending an in-person event at a noisy venue), and all of the virtual parties provided an opportunity to spend time with friends, family and work colleagues in an informal setting, which felt very different from the formality of daily Zoom meetings. With some uncertainty about what the Winter will bring in terms of social distancing measures and restrictions, it may be worth considering whether a get-together might be better online (or at least with an online option for those who cannot attend in person).
There are still some people who are unable or reluctant to travel, or perhaps have family commitments that make it challenging to attend functions, and who otherwise feel left out of these events. Though I look forward to seeing people in person, I am also looking forward to the few online events in the diary already. Who wouldn’t be happy attending a party in fluffy slippers?