Christmas will be a little different this year – to put it mildly. But whether you’ll be celebrating with your loved ones in person or virtually, the magic of the festive season is still there to be enjoyed.
We’ve gathered inspiration from the Which? team to help give you some ideas – from getting busy in the kitchen, to finally learning to take photos or making the most of Alexa to boost the Christmas spirit.
Forming a Christmas bubble? Find out how to make Christmas more COVID-safe.
1) Become a master of the video call
Most of us have become a dab-hand at video calling since the first lockdown, and this Christmas will put our new skills to the test.
You probably have a go-to app already, but it can’t hurt to have a couple of backups to hand in case quality takes a hit. We put some of the most popular ones through their paces earlier this year to find the best video calling apps, where we rate video and audio quality on both optimum and poor connections.
Here’s a couple of other ideas that can help you get the most value out of virtual catch ups.
Try a virtual party game
While traditional party games might be out for many people, there are virtual substitutes in waiting. We assembled a crack team to put five popular video calling games to the test: Jackbox TV, Geoguessr, Among Us, Charades and Skribbl. Find out how we got on in our guide to the best games to play on Zoom this Christmas.
Houseparty could also see a resurgence, with its focus on games with friends. Our guide to Houseparty explains how to use it, and what you need to know about security.
Take virtual festive group photos and videos
Just because you can’t be in the same room doesn’t mean you can’t take a festive group photo, so don those cracker hats and try to ignore Uncle Morris’s bah humbug expression.
Exactly how to do this will depend on the device and the app you’re using. Zoom lets you take quick snapshots or even a video – though make sure this is toggled on first in Settings, Recording. A quick Google search for taking photos or videos on your app of choice should help for the rest.
Make sure your call is set to ‘gallery’ or ’tile’ view so everyone is in shot, and warn people you’re planning to take a photo or video before you start.
2) Make the best Christmas dinner, ever
You may not have been planning to do much cooking this year, but if that’s changed, now’s your opportunity to shine.
Even if you’re dining solo or ‘a deux’, there are few things more satisfying that the perfect roast, and no better time of the year to perfect one – and enjoy the leftovers.
We have absolutely got you covered on this front: our guide to the complete Christmas dinner menu will help you tick off staples such as how to cook a turkey crown, roast beef, roast potatoes and parsnips. We’ve even covered how to cook red cabbage.
Or perhaps you’ll be catering only to your own tastes this year. If you don’t fancy the effort of whipping up a full roast dinner, take comfort from the fact there’ll be no one around to judge you for indulging in nothing but richly delicious Christmas pud, or rap your knuckles for snaffling more than your share of the best pigs in blankets.
Whatever you go for, celebrate with a glass of bubbly – you can start with our guide to the best champagne, where you’ll find links to our diligent research into the best red wine, best vegan wine, and we even offer some tips on how to read wine labels so you can fake your way to connoisseur status. If you’re feeling a bit more creative, why not try making the perfect slow cooker mulled wine, or rustle up some great home made mince pies.
in fact have a look at all our food and drink reviews and advice to enhance your culinary status at Christmas and beyond.
3) Put your new-found cooking skills to the test
If your Christmas dinner success has inspired you to polish your skills around the kitchen, why not take this opportunity to experiment a bit more often?
Mastering a foreign cuisine is guaranteed to impress – make a perfect bolognese, and a whole lot more, with our Italian cooking tips. More a fan of curries? Our 10 expert tips for authentic Indian cuisine can help there, or if sweet and sour is more your bag, find out how to perfect Chinese cooking, as well.
If you’re after a more straightforward dish, soup is a great winter warmer, especially if you make it your own. Find out how to make tinned soup tastier with some simple hacks. And if you have a few bits and pieces going spare at the end of all this cooking – making the most of your leftovers will ensure nothing goes to waste.
Now that the great yeast shortage of 2020 has ended, you could even get busy with a bit of home baking. If homemade loaves are your go-to baking fave, don’t just choose the easy option – find out how to make the most of your bread maker.
4) Practise your winter photography
It’s cold outside, but that won’t stop budding photographers taking advantage of the muted shades of the season during an afternoon stroll. If you’re eager to creep into more advanced territory as a photographer, or always wondered what all those settings and features mean, now could be the perfect time to indulge that hobby.
Winter offers photographers unique palettes and effects to capture, so despite the biting weather, it can become a period of real creativity if you try. We’ve rounded up tips including subjects to look out for, keys settings to use, and what to do if your camera gets drenched. We’ve also thrown in some product recommendations for good measure. Read our guide to winter photography for more.
If you’re keen on not venturing too far afield, there are plenty of options closer to home. The joy of still life photography is in turning mundane objects into visually appealing subjects – it’s a great way to reappraise your living space and make the most of what you already have. And if you want to share your gift-haul on social media, then it might come in handy there too. Get some tips on great photography you can do at home.
5) Get to know your voice assistant
Ask most voice assistant owners what they use their all-singing, all-dancing, AI-powered devices for, and you’ll usually get one of three common responses: check the weather, play the radio, and set alarms.
But these clever gadgets are capable of so much more, and since the period between Black Friday and Christmas is silly season for serious sales on Amazon Alexa and Google Home devices, it stands to reason some people will be unwrapping a smart speaker on Christmas Day.
Whether you’re dipping your toe into the water for the first time, or think you’re a dab hand at dialogue with our new robot friends, there are guaranteed to be some surprises in store.
Alexa owners are in for a real treat – Ask Alexa, our weekly guide to the best Alexa commands, tips and tricks is bursting at the seams with great things you can try. Alexa comes alive at Christmas, so try asking her anything that comes to mind. Here are some ideas:
- Alexa, do you believe in Santa?
- Alexa, sing Jingle Bells
- Alexa tell me a Christmas story.
- Alexa, is Die Hard a Christmas movie?
If you own a Google Home or Apple Siri device, read our guide to the best Google Assistant and Siri commands. And if you’re not fortunate enough to own one, our reviews of smart speakers with voice assistants can help you choose.