Christmas 2020 is definitely going to be different. In fact, here in Scotland we’ve already been warned to plan for a “virtual Christmas” this year. But what does that really mean? Turns out it means quite a bit more than just a few Zoom calls. Christmas is not cancelled!

How to Have a Virtual Christmas

I live in Edinburgh, which usually goes in for Christmas in a big way, with markets, fairground rides, and loads of events. It’s an annual tradition to take my kids to lots of the Christmas activities, and I look forward to it every year. This year’s events have all been cancelled – except that they haven’t….not quite.

With many things moving online, Edinburgh’s Christmas is getting ready to launch a digital version of events – and it got me thinking about what other virtual Christmas events might be available.

How to enjoy a virtual Christmas in 2020
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When I saw how much was happening online, I started to quite look forward to a virtual Christmas. I know it’s not the same. But it’s what we’ve got and there are loads of different ideas to suit everyone.

So here is what I’ve found so far. From virtual Santa visits to virtual Christmas markets to virtual pantomimes, it’s all here. You’re welcome.

Virtual Santa Visits

Even a global pandemic isn’t going to stop Santa Claus from coming to town. Going to Santa’s Grotto to meet Father Christmas is a festive staple for so many families, and while some live visits may still be going ahead, there are quite a few online options popping up where you can meet Santa virtually.

(Obviously these are mostly new for this year, so I have no personal experience of any of the services listed below. Please shop around and make sure they’re suitable for your own child.)

Santa’s Grotto Live

Santa’s Lapland

Santa’s Calling You

Santa Comes To Tea

Virtual Santa Visits

Santa HQ

Elf Town Galway

Meet Santa

Picture of Santa Claus on phone
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There are also some great Santa messaging apps that have been around for a few years that will help kids to believe Santa is still coming this year. We’ve used Portable North Pole for the past few years, and even the free service can be tailored to the child to produce a lovely video message.

Track Santa’s Route Online

Track Santa Claus live as he takes to the skies on Christmas Eve. These sites have been around for a while and are great fun for kids.

The NORAD Santa Tracker is the most famous of them all. The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) tracks the North American skies all year, but on Christmas Eve they’re also in charge of tracking Santa Claus as he travels the world. This year’s website goes live on 1st December 2020.

You can also track Father Christmas via the Google Santa Tracker which has games for the kids to enjoy throughout December too.

Santa Village Webcams in Lapland

Trips to Lapland won’t be an option for most people this year, but you can visit virtually via the Santa Village webcam which streams live from Rovaniemi in Lapland. I haven’t seen much happen there yet but I’m presuming the residents of Santa Village will appear more as we get closer to Christmas.

There’s also a great YouTube channel featuring lots more footage of Lapland at Santatelevision. 

Virtual Christmas Markets 2020

I do love a Christmas market. Wandering about all bundled up with a hot chocolate or a mulled wine looking at the stalls and trying out the snacks – what’s not to like? However, with many markets closed this year, some of them are trying an online version. Here are a few to check out (mulled wine in hand of course) and there are more appearing so be sure to check for one near you.

World’s Biggest Christmas Market – here you have the chance to select by your own country. 

Virtual Christmas Carol Services

I hadn’t even thought of this being an option but am very glad it is. Some UK charities are holding virtual carol services that you can join to sing along – and also help to raise funds, so please donate if you can.

Shelter’s Home.Hope.Song from St-Martin-in-the-Fields – Thursday 3rd December, 7pm GMT 

Afghanaid’s Virtual Carol Concert – Friday 4th December, 6pm GMT 

Marie Curie: Carols in the City At Home – Monday 7th December, 7pm GMT

Virtual Carols by the Alzheimer’s Society – Thursday 17th December 2020, 6:30pm GMT

O Come Let Us Adore Him on letterboard
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Virtual Christmas Pantomimes

If you don’t live in the UK and have never seen a pantomime, then this year is your chance to enjoy an online version!

Panto is so integral to the British Christmas experience and yet it’s quite hard to describe… Part theatre, part musical, part cabaret, terrible costumes, even worse jokes, men in drag, camp baddies, and a whole lot of fun. It’s definitely unique! I think the best pantomimes are actually the really cheaply-produced local shows, and that’s what I’ll definitely miss this year.

Here are some ideas for online pantomime alternatives for this year:

Cinderella (this one’s live and interactive with performances for different time zones!)

Jack and the Beanstalk: 4th December to 10th January 2021. 

Goldilocks and The Three Bears: 1st December – 31st December 2020 

And of course…Having a Virtual Christmas At Home

If restrictions in your area mean you can’t have family get-togethers this year, here are a few ideas for virtual Christmas fun. Organise your own virtual Christmas activities with some of these ideas. 

Stream Christmas Movies Together

Get the kids and their friends or cousins together to watch a movie virtually. Amazon Prime Video, BBC, and Disney + are now offering streaming together services via Amazon Watch Party, BBC Together, and Disney GroupWatch. Some of these services are still in Beta but they’re definitely worth checking out.

Virtual Board Games

Old-skool fun made virtual! Jump on a video call and get the board games out.  Obviously some games are more suited to this than others, but anything like Trivial Pursuit (or Trival Pur-fight as it’s known in our family) will work, with one household in charge of the board.

Virtual Karaoke

Another excellent use for a video call. You could even set up a room on Sync Video, a free, no-sign up service that lets you sync videos so that every attendant of your virtual Christmas party can watch them at the same time.

Christmas tree with lights
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Virtual Secret Santa

This one needs to be organised in advance, but is great for families or groups of friends who can’t be together.  Use an online service such as Draw Name to pick names from a virtual hat and deliver your anonymous gift ahead of Christmas. Then have fun opening them up together on a video call.

Name That Tune – Virtual Christmas edition

Whoever is hosting this one can queue up a selection of short clips from a classic songs (Christmas tune or otherwise), and see who can guess it first.

Enjoy Your Virtual Christmas

However you’re celebrating, I hope you have a great holiday season!