Together Separately: Ways to Feel Connected to Family over Shavuot

Esther Pransky May 9, 2020

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Here’s the good news: We all made it through Pesach intact even though we couldn’t be with our families.

But here’s the bad news: From the way things look now, Shavuot may be more of the same. Only this time, we have advance warning. As hard as it is to be away from our families, here are some creative ideas that can help us feel connected even when we’re apart.

1. Share your creativity

Your kids are coloring anyway, so why not send it to the family for the holiday? If you can take a quality picture or scan the artwork, you can turn it into all sorts of fun gifts.

  • Online photo services offer a range of gifts like mugs, canvas prints, blankets, coasters, and much more.
  • Make your child’s drawing into a pendant that Bubby will treasure.
  • If you have a LOT of artwork (6 – 16 pieces), you can create a museum or exhibition style poster. It turns even the most basic colorings into a sophisticated display piece.
  • If you don’t mind pricey, brevity.com will take a simple line drawing and turn it into a necklace charm made of stainless steel, silver, or even gold. It’s worth looking at the website for fun, even if you would never ever consider spending so much money.
  • Scan the artwork and print it on iron-on transfer paper. Then iron onto t-shirts, sweatshirts, tote bags, pillowcases, etc. (Be sure to follow the package directions carefully.)

You could also make a collection of artwork and send it in an art portfolio.

2. Record a Shavuot greeting

“I love you.”

“I miss you.”

“Don’t eat all the cheesecake!”

It’s not as good as being there in person, but the sound of your voice will make you seem just a little closer. Grandparents and grandchildren can record personal messages to each other:

  • What could be sweeter than a talking teddy bear?
  • Pictures are always appreciated, but you can take them to the next level by sending them in a recordable picture frame.

3. Make a Shavuot photo book

Even if you’re not tech-savvy, online photo services like Shutterfly or Mixbook make it easy to create a professional-looking photo book with pictures and captions. (Tip: These sites always have sales. Start shopping around now so you can catch the deal you want.)

ANY photos will be welcome. Babies, in particular, may have noticeably changed since COVID19 started, and you can do a “Look How We’ve Grown” theme.

Families with dramatic flair can have lots of fun dressing up and posing for stories like:

  • A favorite picture book that the grandparents like to read
  • An original story that you create
  • Famous family stories (i.e., the time Zaydy rode on a runaway horse, or the first time Bubby made latkas and had a hundred to give away)
  • Shavuot related stories such as Megillat Rut or getting the Torah

(Bonus for you: this will keep the kids busy for HOURS!)

And if you can pull off a cross-cousin collaboration, the grandparents will really kvell.

4. Riddles, teasers, and challenges

Exercise the family’s brains!

Before Shavuot, have family members contribute Shavuot riddles, teasers, or challenges. Compile them into one document, with each contributor’s name, and email or deliver it to your family to work on over Shavuot. Not only will it uplift the conversation at the yom tov table, but it’ll keep the family top of mind at every meal.

After Shavuot, get together on Zoom or a conference call to go over the answers and see how everyone did.

5. Send food

What’s Shavuot without Bubby’s world-famous blintzes? But never fear. Bubby blintzes are only a next-day delivery away.

If you live locally, of course, you can drop off your family members’ favorite Shavuot dish at their doorstep. If not, you can ship food, including perishables, following the USPS or UPS guidelines.

Follow these tips for shipping frozen or refrigerated food:

1. Freeze the food beforehand, if possible. Blintzes and cheesecake, for example, freeze well and are good candidates for shipping.

2. Seal the food in airtight, waterproof packaging. Insulate it with styrofoam, thermal bubble wrap, or layers of paper.

3. Pack with dry ice or gel packs.

4. Choose overnight shipping.

And let the recipients know to watch out for their package and bring it in right away.

6. Create a family contest

Get your whole family involved in a friendly competition where everyone wins.

Family members can log hours learned on Shavuot to earn prizes. (Or maybe babies can earn prizes for hours slept?)

Send your extended family the contest info before yom tov explaining the rules and prize structure. You can even get fancy and include prize categories (ex. For 10 hours learned choose from a $10 Amazon gift card or a pizza delivered to your home.)

On yom tov, participants can use a paper clip in a book or put tokens in a bowl to track their hours. After Shavuot, get together on a family Zoom or conference call for an awards ceremony. You can add quirky awards like “most hours learned in your bedroom” or “most hours learned while holding a baby.”

Some of these ideas take time to implement and with two-day shipping a distant dream, you’ll want to start planning is now.

And if the situation improves before Shavuot and we can get-together? These ideas will still be a fun way to show your love and make memories.