From carol concerts to Santa’s grotto: five of this year’s best digital Christmas activities

Andrzej Lukowski
·4-min read
<span>Photograph: Westend61/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Westend61/Getty Images

There’s only one certainty about this Christmas: it’s going to be different. But instead of letting that get you down, why not embrace the change? We’ve seamlessly adapted to working from home, our social lives have moved online, and who hasn’t enjoyed a video quiz – or two – this year? The same goes for Christmas – after all, there’s manifold digital alternatives to our usual festive fun. All you need is a spirit of adventure and a strong broadband connection. Festive fun starts here...

Bring the grotto to your home
Unfortunately, even Father Christmas has to adhere to social distancing advice, so there’ll be no sitting on Santa’s knee in 2020. However, it turns out that Santa has an absolutely phenomenal broadband setup and he’ll happily video call your kids in exchange for a donation to the Lapland coffers. These can vary from the modestly-priced UK-based Santa Comes to Tea (£12.99 for up to three children), a 40-minute session that includes a personalised shoutout from Santa, a singalong and a virtual sleigh ride, to the fairly eye-watering £85 for a 10-minute call for up to four children from the North Pole itself with Santa, Live from Lapland. Obviously you’ll need to manage your little ones’ expectations about Santa handing them a present through the screen (to be clear: he won’t), but all of the experiences come with personalised messages and various other wholesome activities.

Enjoy an online panto
Special web editions of one of Britain’s most traditional festive activities have been carefully crafted to stream into any family home. Enjoy an interactive online Cinderella, from Panto Live, that will actually be performed live, a pre-recorded Goldilocks and the Three Bears from The Great British Pantomime Company, and a Jack and the Beanstalk that Blue Peter legend Peter Duncan filmed in his own back garden, starring the man himself as Dame Trott, plus a real-life beanstalk.

Join a virtual carol concert
Carols bawled out in a small church at midnight are off the table this year but, rest assured, you can still get your fix of Hark! The Herald Angel Sings from some major streamed events. The Barnardo’s Kidsmas Live carol concert, powered by Vodafone, is on 1 December and will provide an hour of virtual fun hosted by Natasha Kaplinsky and special celebrity supporters. Come along to see kids belting out festive favourites and for the opportunity to win fabulous prizes from the comfort of your own home – and support vulnerable children and young people across the UK. There are also plenty of traditional shows for adults to watch – highlights include Home. Hope. Song., a star-studded concert hosted by Edith Bowman and broadcast live from St Martin-in-the-Fields in London in aid of Shelter on 3 December. If you miss that, on 8 December, Jon Snow presents Starry Night, raising money for Action for Children, with appearances by, among others, Jenny Agutter.

Related: From making Oscars history to baking and home PE lessons: how well do you recall these moments from 2020? – quiz

Christmas markets at your fingertips
There is no substitute for wandering around your city centre after dark taking in the smell of the glögg and the roar of the crowd while idly wondering what to buy. However, there are plenty of online markets where you can get your Christmas shopping fix. And, of course, it means that events that used to only have a local presence now have a national – or even global – one. Check out Santa’s Little Helpers, a Facebook-based market with almost 200 independent “stalls” that was set up as a successor to Bath’s much-loved Christmas market. For that authentic feel, dim the lights, turn off the central heating and knock back some mulled wine as you browse.

The office Christmas party still lives
Seeing as those long months of home schooling means your kids have been glorified interns this year (or maybe you became their intern?), you all deserve a good old office Christmas party. And, as it turns out, online office party experiences are surprisingly family friendly. To pick one obvious example, officechristmasparty.co.uk will set you up with everything from online quizzes to musical bingo and a video call with a Michelin-starred chef who’ll help you create festive party food. For a totally different experience, try doing a virtual escape room together – cult Durham sensation Mr X is suitable for those aged 12 and over – or team up with your teenagers for spooky interactive theatre show The Mermaid’s Tongue.

Vodafone #KeepConnecting
The digital lifelines that connect our families to the traditions we love at Christmas are more important than ever.

At Vodafone, we’ve built a strong mobile and broadband network that keeps you close to your family and friends … so that we’re still together, even if we are apart.

Find out more about how we’re helping you keep connecting to the magic this Christmas.

Third-party products mentioned in this article are not Vodafone products and are not associated with Vodafone or endorsed by Vodafone in any way. All prices accurate as of publication on 26 November 2020.