Skypanukkah + other Virtual Rituals

Julie Scelfo at the The New York Times had a piece today profiling how families are using video chat technologies to celebrate religious rituals together, virtually.

One example, from a Jewish family in Birmingham, Michigan:

“Debra and Martin Darvick set out a tin menorah given to them by long-gone relatives. Their son, Elliot, 27, struck a match and lighted the first candle. And his sister, Emma, 24, joined in a prayer.

But the Darvicks celebrated this centuries-old tradition with a modern twist — the family was in three different cities across the country, but connected by Skype.

“We call it Skypanukkah,” Elliot said of the family’s second year of using the service’s video chat. “Being able to use Skype on a holiday allows me to basically build a memory with my family that I couldn’t have otherwise.””

And then for Christmas rituals:

“In the weeks leading up to Christmas last year, Jessica Hunt, 37, who lives in Eugene, Ore., grew increasingly sad that she and her two children were unable to spend the holiday at her parents’ home in Durand, Wis.

“I felt like such a baby,” said Ms. Hunt, who had separated from her husband several months earlier. “I’m almost 40, and this was the first Christmas I hadn’t been home.”

So they opened presents by Skype instead, and Ms. Hunt said she and her children fell into an easy rhythm.

When her brother and his family unwrapped a large gift from his parents — what turned out to be a new set of luggage to be used for a coming vacation with Ms. Hunt — her spirits lifted.

“It sounds super-cheesy, but it reminded me they were coming and it wasn’t far away,” she said. “And it was all O.K.”

She also noticed another advantage of sharing the holidays over the computer.

“It was the first Christmas where I didn’t feel rushed,” she said. “I didn’t have to travel or worry about packing up the kids. It relieved a lot of stress.””

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