There really is no place like home for the holidays. Unfortunately, home sweet home might not be a physical, in-person reality this season. With COVID-19 wreaking havoc for many families medically, financially, and otherwise, many are opting to postpone or avoid family gatherings due to concers with the health of relatives, or due to quarantine. But family is the most important thing, and being able to be with one another especially during the holiday season is important, so in this brief blog post, let’s take a look at some of the options available for remotely and virtually gathering your family together this holiday season.
If you can’t be face-to-face in person, still being able to see each other is the next best thing! Here are some options for video calling services that are free.
Jitsi Meet is a free online video meeting solution that offers video calling and screen sharing. Not only is it free, but you don’t even have to make an account or download any software to use it! Just create a meeting name, start your call, and have others join. Jitsi Meet offers HD audio and video, unlimited free access for up to 50 participants at a time, end-to-end encryption, multi-screen sharing, remote control, and other neat integrations as well. Not only is it available in your web browser on your computer, but Jitsi Meet also has Android and iOS apps as well. I personally use Jitsi a lot, and highly recommend it.
Google Duo is another free online video calling solution. Duo is available in a web browser on your computer, and also has apps for Android and iOS as well. If you don’t already have a Google account, you’ll need to make a free account which only takes a few minutes. It features one-on-one calling, group calling, and end-to-end encryption as well as a variety of fun features. Duo also integrates with Google smart products and is built-in to many Android devices already. I’ve used Duo on several occasions, and do not have any major complaints.
Facebook’s Messenger platform recently launched a new feature called “Messenger Rooms,” a video calling solution different than their existing group video call functionality. While you can still create a group message in the Messenger app and begin a video call, now you can create a video call “room” with a shareable link. Friends and family can join your call via the link–even if they don’t have a facebook account. With a wide variety of other fun and functional features, Messenger is definitely a viable option for gathering your loved ones virtually. Messenger is available on Android, iOS, and Windows 10 from the Microsoft Store.
FaceTime is perhaps one of the most well-known video calling applications in existence and is a functional solution for up to 32 participants, though everyone has to have an iPhone, iPad, or Mac computer. If your family isn’t entirely in the Apple ecosystem, this might not necessarily be the solution for you. Despite that, friendly features such as Animoji, stickers, and integration with iMessage–all without a subscription–make this another great option for some people.
For the technologically agnostic…
And don’t forget: there’s absolutely nothing wrong with simply picking up the telephone to have a phone conversation with loved ones, or even writing a letter. Because home isn’t necessarily a house, a dining room table, or living room with a Christmas tree. Home is where your heart is, and connecting with your friends and family from afar whether by video, phone, or in writing, can help you be home for the holidays.
What is the holiday season looking like for your and your loved ones this year? I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Wishing you each the merriest of holiday seasons and a safe and happy new year.