Celebrating in a pandemic: clubs adapt to virtual activities for the holidays

Hadley Carr

T’was the month before winter break when all through the Zoom, clubs were stirring, accepting their members from the waiting room. They had met weekly and planned with care, but few planned for the holidays and some sat on mute and stared. When some students had the crazy idea in their head that the holidays should be celebrated, that was all that needed to be said.

Best Buddies President Geneva Jacobs hopped in her car and began delivering art supplies and treats to members of the club. The bags were filled to the brim with balloons, glitter glue, Christmas erasers, paper, sequins, Hershey’s kisses, and candy canes. After the members of Best Buddies received their delivery, they met on Zoom to make and decorate paper snowflakes. 

At the beginning of the year, it was difficult to gain members and plan activities in a virtual environment. As is the trend with most traditions this year, the Best Buddies’ annual Zoo Lights trip was cancelled, but Jacobs said that Best Buddies “made the most of having to be virtual.” 

Best Buddies Member Ruthie Williams agreed. “Overall, Eva and Geneva did a great job putting the whole thing together and [making] sure that everyone was engaged.” Williams added that the activity “was [a] really nice [opportunity] to see everyone’s faces for a little…and just unwind.”

Though the French Club can’t make and eat crepes this year, they too have found a way to work around the virtual barrier. In a normal meeting, the club plays games like Kahoot or finds other ways to virtually experience French culture with movies, songs, or anything else of interest. The club is run in English, but senior and club coordinator Olivia Wood noted that “you might still learn a little French.”

Wood found the French Club in a similar position to Best Buddies. “It’s harder to do certain activities from afar, [but] I think we’ve found ones that work for our club.” French club sponsor and teacher Lynn Palmer added that while they won’t be able to return to sharing French food or playing crazy rounds of Twister in French soon, they are still able to have fun digitally. For the holidays, the club finished a French movie they’d been watching and rounded it off with a Kahoot to challenge their knowledge of French vocabulary and traditions. 

Overall, Palmer said that the leaders “organized themselves and have creatively used tech tools and their imagination to keep the club going.”

For the Jewish Student Union (JSU), their holiday parties would normally consist of dreidel, latkes, donuts, festive music, and other small competitions. Run in Mr. Besser’s room, the joy and spirit of the Hanukkah party would often attract nearby passing students, but this year, there weren’t many passersby hopping into the Zoom waiting room. 

Though JSU was able to compensate for missed latkes with a virtual baking session in late November, their Hanukkah plans shifted from the agenda of prior years. Rather than the party that they usually had, JSU decided to foster a discussion about the vandalization of the Anne Frank Memorial and the antisemitic attacks that occurred at the beginning of Hanukkah. 

Vice President Sophie Gross admits it’s difficult to foster more serious conversations as it can often prompt many emotions. Regardless, JSU has still been able to discuss issues ranging from the Holocaust to the antisemitic characterization of witches and goblins as portrayed in the media.

Along with Hanukkah, JSU also had to adapt to celebrating other high holy days such as Rosh Hashanah. Despite the limitations of a virtual setting, Gross recognizes the importance of fostering a safe environment even if that means a little awkward silence.