Here’s a fun fact about me: I absolutely hated taking holiday card pictures as a kid. These usually required me to be posing at various scenic spots around my hometown or spending an entire day in some makeshift studio set my dad built in our living room just to get whatever perfect scene my mom was looking for that year. These photo shoots lasted HOURS. They would inevitably end with me crying or arguing with my parents until they promised, “Just one more!” (It was never one more, BTW.)
And that’s pretty much the reason why I’ve been completely against sending out a holiday card as an adult. Which is ironic because I am actually very into the holidays. My girlfriend is too. We are absolutely the people who start listening to holiday music on Nov. 1. To us, spending time with our loved ones during the holidays means way more than a generic card that’ll just end up in the trash.
But this year, for reasons out of our control, we won’t be able to make it home for the holidays. So we decided that if we were going to send out a holiday card, it would have to be special. It would have to fly like Santa’s sleigh high above what people normally consider a holiday card. It would have to be the holiday card to end all holiday cards.
Our solution was simple: We’d throw a holiday party...in November. We’d invite other orphaned elves (i.e., friends who also couldn’t make it home) to this party, so this wouldn’t just be our holiday card but theirs too. We’d capture as much as we could from the party with the intention of sending it to our far-away friends and family as if to say, “Wish you were here — wish we were there.”
To really bring this party to life and to enable people we’d be sharing it with to experience what we did, we thought that capturing everything in 360 images would be the thing that would make our holiday card unforgettable. We decided to use a Samsung Gear 360 because it seemed easy to use. Setting it up would be as simple as syncing it to our phones through the Gear 360 Manager App. And we also wanted something that wouldn’t be too bulky or distracting. We hoped that the Gear 360's portability meant that we’d be able to tuck the tiny device away in places like our dining room table centerpiece and underneath the piles of fake snow on our coffee table, to turn every moment of our holiday party into a digitally interactive snow-globe image.
Okay, full disclosure: Throwing parties gives me a lot of anxiety. I stress out about every single detail. I put way too much pressure on myself to make everything absolutely perfect, and I usually can’t even enjoy myself because of it. Chances are, you’d find me huddled in the corner, worrying about whether everyone is having a good enough time and frantically refilling the chip bowl. Now tack on the added stress of making this party photogenic enough for everyone to send out as a holiday card and we’ve got a potential recipe for disaster.
Luckily, the Gear 360 made things go a lot more smoothly than I anticipated. For our particular holiday card setup, we decided to set the camera down on our stove to catch us preparing everything before our guests arrived. What we ended up getting was much less about the food itself or how it looked. Instead, the moment we captured was one that shows two people admiring each other and all the work they did to make the holidays happen. It reminds me of the family I’d be sending this holiday card to and how we’d gather at my parents' house every Christmas, crammed into their tiny kitchen to each prepare our own specialty holiday dish. I just wouldn’t get that same feeling if it was in 2D.
I was also concerned that our 360 photos wouldn’t look holiday enough for any holiday card, let alone our extremely extra one. We spent a lot of time fussing over decorations. We adopted the philosophy “there’s no such thing as too many string lights.” We put bows on everything. Empty walls that could still use some art? Bows. A fridge covered in takeout menus? Bows. But in the 360 photos we took as the party went on, it seemed to matter less what the decorations looked like and how they were set up. They didn’t need to look perfect to feel like the holidays. Instead, what you see in the pictures is people gathering in sweaters and Santa hats, having a good time. Because the Gear 360 was at the center of the action, seeing everything with 360 vision, the moment captured wasn’t about the decorations but the people who were there. And to whomever we’d be sending this “holiday card” to, that would be the most important thing.
After having this party, I have way more empathy for my parents. I hate to admit it, but my worrying about setting up and throwing this party scarily resembled my mom making me pose over and over again to create the perfect holiday card. This elaborate party shoot even harkened back to the sets my dad would make for me to pose in. But now l understand what they must’ve felt when they saw the finished product: pride. Because looking at the pictures we took — our little 360 party snow globes — there were so many moments that stood out. Like when everyone raised their glass and thought of the people they wouldn’t be seeing this holiday season or during dinner when some of us pulled out our phones to take pictures for our loved ones or even video-chat them. These moments are what we initially wanted to share with everyone who’d get this holiday card so that they could experience the sense of togetherness we felt at the party. And really, isn’t togetherness what defines the holidays, regardless of which month the calendar reads?