Being together for the holidays is something nearly every family strives for. In addition to eating and celebrating, the holidays present an opportunity for families, friends and loved ones to assemble, enjoy one another’s company and catch up on the past months or year.
But not all families can be in one place for Christmas and the New Year. Circumstances, expenses and prior commitments can keep families apart. Today’s technology, however, makes staying in touch with one another over the holidays more affordable and for many, more realistic, and many families, young and older, are embracing the computer as the new pen and paper.
Talking to a family member over a computer isn’t a hug, but it does go a long way in making families feel closer for the holidays.
McPherson High School graduate Sarah (Kelley) Florane lives in New Jersey, hundreds of miles away from her family in McPherson. On holidays that she, her husband and two daughters cannot make the trip home - her husband works for the Coast Guard and is not guaranteed holidays off - Florane said she uses a variety of technologies including E-mail, Facebook and Skype to show off her little ones and talk with family.
“We always at least call on holidays to wish each other a happy day, and if time/schedules allow, we Skype as well,” Florane said. “It really is a great way for the relatives to be able to see the little ones in action. And Facebook is great for them to feel like they get a glimpse into our daily lives.”
Other families don’t have the convenience of constant contact and must use what technologies are allowed to them.
Pam and Stan Hamel have a daughter, Andrea, living in Dubai. When Andrea left home in July, the family communicated using Skype. They also texted one another to set up times to talk.
“We would be on the computer for hours,” Pam said.
But after a few months, Andrea’s access to social sites, including Skype, became more limited, which meant Skype sessions would cut out and calls would fail.
“It became very frustrating, so we have now gone to Google Chat, which also has video capabilities,” Pam said. “It's totally free which allows us to talk without worrying about time limits.”
The Hamels still use video chatting to visit with their other children in Kansas City and Yukon, Okla.
For the Gibson family, who has a son serving overseas, access to technology is limited, which means phone calls are often the only form of communication.
Lori and Robert Gibson’s son Tanner is serving with the U.S. Air Force in Afghanistan. Tanner can only call them and the phone calls come only when he has time, Lori said. That leaves his family waiting for the phone.
Lori, her husband and her extended family were able to talk to Tanner on Thanksgiving but thus far, they have no idea what Christmas will bring, although they are hopeful they will get an opportunity to speak with him.
Nothing replaces seeing family and friends in person, but technology has gone a long way in making contact more efficient and for families that can’t be together, and that’s a big plus.

There are several different gadgets you can use to stay in touch with loved ones over the holidays. The following list is from
Skype is a great way to keep in touch with loved ones abroad because it’s so inexpensive. The software application allows users to make voice calls over the internet. You simply sign up for a Skype account and then search for contacts.
Seeing the face of a loved one as you chat is much better than just hearing a voice. If your computer doesn’t have a built-in webcam, you can buy one.
Photo sharing
With the holidays come and lots of photos. Photo sharing sites let you store and share your pics with friends and family anywhere in the world.
* Shutterfly:  Store unlimited photos for free, and instantly share your seasonal snaps with family and friends.
* Flickr: Easily upload 100MB worth of photos each month from your desktop, email, mobile device or browser. Label and tag your pics for easy organization and of course, share your photos by either using the Share button or creating a personal flickr web address to send to friends.
* Kodak Gallery:  Upload your photos, create albums of events or special occasions, and send the link to loved ones. Kodak Gallery also allows to you create photo books and beautiful photo gifts such as serving trays, water bottles and decorative tiles – all adorned with your images.
Video sharing
What better way to make loved ones feel like they’re part of the festivities than with a video of your holiday fun? Shooting and editing video is easier than you think, and a great way to treat friends and family to a holiday movie you create yourself.
Instant messaging
Do one better than email with instant messaging. Whether through Skype (see above), Windows Live Messenger or Yahoo Messenger, simply create an account, add contacts (and remind them to add you back) and start chatting when you’re loved ones are online.
The old-fashioned way
Okay, this one really has nothing to do with technology, but we couldn’t resist giving some love to letter writing. Pick up some nice stationery at your local art supply store and pour your heart with a pen.