The Zoom party can certainly disappoint, especially when we are all frayed after months of isolation. For Thanksgiving, Erica Dumas, a publicist in Wood-Ridge, New Jersey, attempted to repeat a large holiday get-together with her extended family. Seven households took part. Ms. Dumas, her mother, and her sister came with the dishes and shared the menu with the other households. The three-course, side-dish menu included traditional Haitian and American dishes such as joumou soup, stuffed turkey, fried red snapper, and Haitian black rice.
In the end the food was good. The party? Not as much.
As soon as every household had finished roasting and giving thanks, the night became uncomfortable. The individual tables didn’t know whether to talk to each other or to turn their attention back to the screen. Ms. Dumas’ daughter, who is 3 years old, was repeatedly distracted by the video, as were her other young cousins. Finally, Ms. Dumas turned it off and concentrated on the quiet night at home with her daughter and boyfriend. “There was just so much planning for the day that it was kind of disappointing, ”said Ms. Dumas. “How is that all we’re getting this year?”
For Christmas, they plan to call a household via FaceTime and post photos of the children opening gifts via WhatsApp.
A piece of Thanksgiving was a success, however. After dinner was over, Ms. Dumas called her mother in Massachusetts and toasted the night with a glass of cremas, a Haitian drink. Usually the two share the creamy drink in person, making the moment feel like a fleeting connection to a usually special day. “It was delicious,” said Ms. Dumas. “It was like being home again.”
In order for this to work, we may need to review our expectations for the keyboard and accept that none of it is normal. “If you are trying to emulate a real get-together you will likely be disappointed,” said Ms. Turk, who is also an editor at Wired UK.