The last thing we wanted to be doing during the Christmas season was sitting on Zoom instead of being able to meet up with friends and family in the flesh.
Now, thanks to a four nations agreement to ease some coronavirus restrictions, families will be able to meet in “bubbles” during the festive period.
However, only three households will be able to meet between 23 and 27 December, meaning normal rules will stay in place for the rest of the holidays.
This means that festive parties and work celebrations are completely off the table this year, so it’s looking like a return to virtual hangouts is inevitable.
After spending nearly a whole year on Zoom, instead of meeting people face-to-face, many of us are feeling sick of the extra screen time.
As a lot of offices and friendship groups are already planning for online Christmas parties, there are ways to make sure people actually enjoy the virtual meet-ups.
Here’s a list of simple ideas that could be really fun and festive.
The end of the Great British Bake Off has really left a hole in our hearts, but there is one way to bring the magic of the tent to Zoom.
Organise an easy, virtual Bake Off by sending your participants instructions to make a simple and cheap recipe, such as Christmas crispy cakes or festive malteser traybake.
Encourage them to buy the ingredients, then set up their cooking base on-screen so you can all laugh at each other’s inevitable baking failures, and chat at the same time.
Of course, there needs to be a virtual winner, so choose a couple of judges who can pick the best-looking end dessert.
In the same vein, virtual cocktail making is a fun activity - and who can say no to a cocktail?
Choose a tasty, but easy, cocktail recipe that participants will be able to mix, step-by-step on-screen, such as strawberry daiquiris, mojitos or espresso martinis.
Make it a competition to see who can produce the best-looking cocktail - and who makes the worst.
The best bit is, of course, getting to enjoy your drink at the end with the group.
Zoom quizzes may be overdone, but you’ll only get one chance to organise a festive quiz so you may as well go all out.
Christmas jumper attire is encouraged, and make sure all the rounds are suitably seasonal - we’re talking classic Christmas movies and songs and festive trivia.
If you’re struggling to think of themes, we’ve done the hard work for you with a list of 25 festive pub quiz questions that will go down a treat.
Murder mysteries never get old, and setting up a virtual detective’s game is seriously easy.
There are plenty of free murder mystery scripts online to download, which you can send round all the participants.
Choose a character for each person out of a hat, and encourage them to dress up as extravagantly as possible - and accents are definitely encouraged.
The winner is the person who solves the mystery.
This can make for a hilarious, quirky night - but it’s best organised with a smaller group of people.
It’s simple, it’s effective and it means people aren’t sitting down all night.
Make a list of household objects, such as a spoon, a toothbrush or even a sock, and ask participants to collect them - the first person to return with the object wins the round.
The more obscure the objects are, the funnier, or you could even go one step further and write a riddle for people to guess what they need to find.
Wine or gin tasting
One for the wine and gin lovers, this virtual idea is a bit more expensive than others, but a fun one if you fancy a few drinks.
Whatever drink the group prefers - wine or gin works best - choose a few mini-bottles that participants can pick up from their local supermarket.
One person has to be the drinks connoisseur, talking everyone through the flavours and suggesting food and mixer pairings - it doesn’t matter if they don’t know what they’re talking about!
To make it a bit more exciting, with every drink participants could be asked to share a fun fact or anecdote.
Christmas movie night
Everyone loves a movie night, and it’s a no-fuss way to spend time with the people you love over Zoom or Skype.
Simply ask everyone to pick up some classic movie snacks, like popcorn, fizzy juice and chocolate, and collectively vote for a Christmas film to watch on Netflix.
If you can’t decide, get all participants to suggest their preferred movie and pick out a hat.
Once everyone’s settled, play your movies at the same time and take breaks every 30 minutes or so to discuss (or chat about it at the end if you’re not keen on interruptions).
Bingo nights are a total crowd-pleaser, and it’s really easy to set one up virtually via Zoom or Skype.
The best part is there is no limit to the number of people who can join in, whether you have three friends or 30.
All you need to do is send bingo cards to all participants for them to print - there are plenty of free online resources.
Then, find a number generator and share your screen with everyone so they can see the numbers as they are selected.
The usual bingo rules apply, and if you could even organise prizes for the winner and runners up.
Okay, this idea isn’t for everyone, but for the more extroverted groups it could make for a hilarious night.
This works just as a normal talent contest would. Simply tell participants to come up with an idea for a performance which they can easily do on Zoom or Skype.
This could be anything from a dance routine, to singing, to acting, to telling jokes.
There needs to be judges, of course, who score each entrant before choosing the overall winner of the virtual talent contest.
The prize is eternal glory.