23 gifts for loved ones far away

There are many non-physical ways to send a hug.
Published December 9, 2020 4:35 p.m. EST
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The holidays are typically a time for friends and family to gather and celebrate the year. Of course, there is nothing typical about this year. In 2020, we have been forced to reevaluate what is most important to us and for many, what’s important is their relationships with other people. Being with those we love is still the best gift of all, but since that isn’t possible this year, we need something that can actually be gift wrapped.

From custom gifts that help pass the time, to tech items that connect us in seconds, we’ve put together a list of the perfect gifts to give a loved one who is far away.

1. A phone holder perfect for video chats

This holiday season will likely include more video chats than ever before as friends and family celebrate the holidays apart. Save your wrists and keep your phone at the perfect angle with the Adjustable Smart Phone Mount. Sure, it may look a little bit silly, but it also means you can keep your hands free for eggnog and cookies.

.Adjustable Smart Phone Mount, $7.99 at Marshalls.

2. A comforting stuffy for kids

This year has come with a lot of change and that can be difficult for kids to process. Heck, it’s been difficult for adults. Magic Bag has created a stuffy for kids when they are sick or dealing with their latest boo-boo, but we think this is also a great item to use when kids need extra comfort. The company has a new line of hot and cold compresses for kids that come in the form of cute and cuddly stuffed animals. The stuffies can be warmed for 45 seconds in the microwave or placed in the freezer for three hours to help with the chills, tummy aches, inflammation, bumps, bruises, and overall feelings of unease. Sometimes we just need a warm hug.

Magic Bag Warmy Alix The Lamb, $21.99 at Magic Bag.

3. A tea subscription for two

When you can't have a cuppa with your grandma, favourite aunt or cousin in person, why not treat them to a tea tasting subscription? We love this one by DavidsTea, which comes with four boxes a year (each at $35 including shipping). With a full variety of seasonal newness (not just tea, you guys) and exclusive teas, each box features up to eight blends -- that's over 50 cups to enjoy, with no tea ever repeated. Buy one for yourself and your BFF, get that video-conferencing set up and enjoy your weekly tea sesh. We know, nothing's quite the same as an in-person hang, but drinking the same delicious tea together will have to do for now.

Tea Tasting Club, $140 at DavidsTea.

4. Matching customized phone cases

We're all addicted to our phones and probably even moreso during the pandemic (hey can you blame us?), so why not make the case it's housed in a little more stylish? Actually, why not step it up a few notches and get your whole crew matching cases? We love these ones from The Dairy because they make the design process a breeze. Use the very stylish presets or if you're extra creative, upload your own original design. Your mirror selfie just got an upgrade.

Custom Phone Case, from $49 at The Dairy.

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5. A sweater to remind them of home

For Canadian ex-pats who are unable to safely travel to their home and native land this holiday season, a sweater that lets them show off their Canadian pride is the next best thing to a ticket home. Give your loved one a hug in the form of cozy crewneck sweatshirt from Peace Collective, which has pieces that rep home provinces and sports teams.

Home Is Canada Crescent Crewneck, $52 at Peace Collective.

6. Luggage for when it is safe to travel again

It’s likely been months since you last stepped on a train, plane or ship, but eventually we will be able to safely travel and visit friends and family. For the traveler in your life who has been grounded throughout the pandemic, remind them that their passport will once again be used by gifting them a new piece of luggage. We love the durable polycarbonate high-shine hard shell cases from Away, which are built with smart travel features (360° spinner wheels, a TSA approved lock, interior compression system and hidden laundry bag) and make running through airports a breeze.

The Bigger Carry-On, $395 from Away.

7. A fancy facemask

Let's face it, masks aren’t going away anytime soon. So, we might as well have some fun. Many of us have our ‘daily’ masks that we wear when running essential errands, but what about when you want to feel a little bit dressier? Gift your loved one a mask that not only has a fierce fashion element but also helps others. Freed & Freed have partnered with Destiny Seymour of Indigo Arrows to create a beautiful new line of masks. All the proceeds from the sales of the mask will go to The Butterfly Club, a program designed to engage, motivate, and support Indigenous girls and Two-Spirit youth, 9-13 years of age, in cultural, social, and leadership development activities.

Indigo Arrows x aMASK by FREED, $22-$25 at Freed & Freed.

8. A photo frame you can update from anywhere

Just because you won’t get to take new holiday photos with your loved ones this year doesn’t mean you can’t keep them up to date on what’s going on in your life. The Nixplay is a smart photo frame that allows you to send photos and videos directly to the frame, which will automatically update without your loved one having to do anything (rejoice, non-techies!). A great gift for parents and grandparents, each frame gets a private network that can be shared with members of a group so that everyone can update the frame.

Nixplay Smart Photo Frame, $229.99 at Nixplay.

9. A subscription to game together

Friends and family may not be able to gather together to play games in person this holiday season, but if you and your loved one have a Nintendo Switch ($399 at Best Buy), Nintendo is making it easy to game together online. Under the Nintendo Family Account, up to eight users can play together. We can’t guarantee that there won’t be any arguing, but at least people will be in different rooms.

Nintendo Switch Family Membership, $44.99 at Nintendo.

10. A delicious batch of cookies

You know who doesn’t like receiving cookies in the mail? No, really, we’re asking. You may not be able to do your typical cookie exchange with friends this year, but you can still gift them a sweet treat thanks to Mary’s Brigadeiro and their set of six festive cookies. We recommend sending yourself some as well.

Holiday Exclusive Set of 6 Cookies, $18 at Mary’s Brigadeiro.

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11. A cozy blanket

The holidays are typically a great time to veg out with loved ones and enjoy some time on the couch together. Give those who aren’t physically close to you something cozy to keep them warm. We like the Horizons blanket from Mini Tipi, a Canadian women-owned company that draws on their Indigenous heritage to create long-lasting, stylish designs. The beautiful blanket can act as a reminder that you and your loved one will soon be connected again in person.

Horizons Blanket, $125 at Mini Tipi.

12. A gift that keeps on giving

We don’t want to be a Debbie Downer, but there’s a good chance many of us won’t be seeing our loved ones even after the holiday season is over. That’s why we like a gift that keeps on giving, or at least one that keeps showing up every few months. Raven Reads offer subscription boxes for kids and adults and fill them with beautiful and inspiring pieces, including books, handmade crafts and art pieces, trinkets and more all from Indigenous artists and writers.

Adult Gift Box, $341.36 for annual subscription at Raven Reads.

13. A friendship bracelet

The last time we wore a friendship bracelet, waiting to see our friend at recess felt like an eternity. With traveling to see loved ones not possible this holiday season, let your bestie know you are still excited to hang out with them by gifting them a friendship bracelet. We like this delicate silk bracelet from Canadian designer Mai Lin Jewelry, which will remind you and your bestie of each other every time you look at it.

Friendship Bracelet, $23 at Mai Lin Jewelry.

14. A timely holiday card

Regular cards calling for best wishes and happy holidays are not appropriate in 2020. What is appropriate is naming the dumpster fire that is this year and sending a card that properly acknowledges whatever it is that we just lived through.

12 days of Christmas card, $5 from I’ll Know It When I See It.

15. A reliable phone with crystal-clear video

Being apart from loved ones is always difficult, especially around the holidays. Thankfully, there are phones like the Google Pixel 4a with 5G that allows you to send superfast signals that ensure you never miss a call from grandma. You’ll see every new piece of Lego your nephew got this year thanks to crystal-clear HD for video chats. With Duo Screen Share you can share your screen while video chatting, allowing you to read articles, watch live sports and more as if you’re in the same room as your loved one. An ultra-wide lens, HDR+ auto colour enhancer, and features like Night Sight, which can capture lowlight portraits, also mean the Pixel takes amazing photos and videos that you can send to anyone you are missing this holiday season.

Google Pixel 4a with 5G, $499 at Google.

16. A look into your shared lineage

You may know everything about the family members you typically spend the holidays with, but what about the family you’ve never met? Give your loved one the gift of your family history with AncestryDNA and find out once and for all whether you’re related to royalty (fingers crossed!).

AncestryDNA Activation Kit, $89 from Amazon.

17. A watch to keep people connected

The Apple watch has been connecting people for years thanks to features like voice text, Walkie Talkie, and workout sharing. Now Apple has made it possible for family members who don’t have iPhones to stay connected using their Apple Watch. Using the Family Setup function, members who don’t own an iPhone can still do things like make phone calls, send text messages and share their location all through their Apple Watch. Even if you can’t be with your favourite aunt at Christmas, you can at least check your watch to make sure she made it home safe after walking the dog.

Apple Watch SE, $369 at Apple.

18. A box filled with goodies

This year, Canada Post is making it easier than ever for people to send gifts through the mail. Customers can choose from three sizes and pack as many goodies as they can with a max weight of 5 kg. The flat rate, prepaid boxes can be bought at the post office or ordered online and dropped off at a post office or street letterbox (small size only). Send grandma and grandpa your kids’ best artwork from school this year, send your best friend the mittens you learned how to knit during quarantine, and pack your box with whatever item you think will make your loved ones’ holiday a little bit brighter.

Flat Rate Box, $17.99 to $29.99 at Canada Post.

19. A custom puzzle

Puzzles are the only thing that did better in 2020 than they did in 2019. If your loved one has built every city landscape, re-created all the famous paintings and found every cat in the library, it’s time to give them a new puzzle with a custom picture. Pick an image of the two of you together or anything that will make them smile. Photobook Canada offers several sizes and designs to make your custom puzzle even more special.

Blank 300 Piece Photo Puzzle, $36.99 at Photobook Canada.

20. Matching pajamas

Just because you’re not physically in the same space as your family and friends doesn’t mean you can’t uphold your yearly tradition of wearing matching pajamas. Several companies offer cute and cozy matching sets that fit everyone from baby to grandpa, including Vancouver-based Bambi and Birdie. Their super soft henley style pajamas are designed and manufactured in Canada and are certified itch free and fuss free, meaning they’ll make even the Grinch-iest of family members happy.

Mens Henley Romper in Gingerbread, $106 at Bambi and Birdie.

21. A piece of art to mark the distance

Loved ones are never far from our thoughts, so give the gift of a piece of art that will make someone smile every time they see it. Canadian artists Sadie & June use vintage maps of Canada to create custom heart art that connects people who are separated. Customize your art to perfectly match the distance from you and those you wish you were with this holiday season.

Connecting Hearts Canada Map, $49.99 to $79.99 at Sadie & June.

22. A game you can play together

For loved ones who aren’t comfortable with online gaming, there are still ways to enjoy playing games together even when physically apart. Thanks to The Queens Gambit, we know that each spot on the chessboard has a name. You can learn a lot from TV. Gift the boardgame lover in your life a chess set and purchase one for yourself. Tell each other your moves and practice your Sicilian Defense.

Pavilion Classic Games Wooden Folding Chess, $14.99 at Toys R Us.

23. A letter to let them know you care

When you can’t be with the ones you love, a text, phone call or video chat is a great way to let them know you are thinking of them. We also like to kick it old school with letters. The Read Me When series makes it easy to write thoughtful and personal letters that will be cherished. The fill in the blank letters provide helpful prompts and cues to get your letter writing skills working and create a gift that is definitely going to bring out some tears.

Read Me When Thoughtful Dad, $21.95 at Indigo.

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