For many people, the holiday season means gathering together with the people you love. But maybe you, like a lot of queer people, have built a found family of your own. And maybe you, like a lot of queer people, found your community online and don’t live near your friends. Or maybe you and your gaggle of gays met while you were living nearby but you’ve all scattered over time. Whatever the reason you and yours are far apart this year, this list is full of ideas for holiday gifts for your long-distance friends. (Technically these gifts could also apply to your long-distance partner, a thing lesbians seem to be fond of, but if you use them for that don’t tell me. I’m on Team Love is a Lie, and this is for platonic love only!!)
While I have some beloved local friends, thanks to being addicted to Twitter and a complete fandom nerd, a good chunk of my closest friends live in different states. For example, I have one core group of ten friends who live in five states between us (and it was seven when we first met), so we don’t tend to see each other around the holidays as a big group. (Though funnily enough, I end up closer to some of them when I go to my parents’ for Christmas.) Instead, a few times a year, we travel to other places together to spend time with each other. If I’m being honest, I don’t have any kind of formal gift exchanges with any of my friend groups, HOWEVER, we do tend to get someone in the group a gift for special occasions (or when someone is really going through it.) If you and your long-distance friends love exchanging gifts, I have some ideas for you.
When your friends live far away, you probably have to travel to see each other. Sometimes that means visiting a city none of you live in, maybe it means piling into your friends’ dad’s basement for a massive grown-up sleepover, but probably you all have to travel some distances to get there. This can open up a wealth of opportunities for gift-giving, ranging from more expensive items like travel vouchers or gas cards to absolutely free presents like a road trip playlist of all your favorite songs. You can get them coffee that will be inevitably missing from the Airbnb, a notebook to document your adventures together, self-care items for post-travel decompression, matching neck pillows or sleep masks, anything that will make the road toward one another a little smoother.
Join the Candle Cult
Now, I know candles have a bad reputation of being the thing you keep in your closet to regift when you need something last-minute for someone you don’t really care about, but hear me out! If you get the right candle, it can feel like a very personal and practical gift. The case can make them laugh or smile while the candle can provide comfort and joy. For example, once a friend gifted me a candle that says, “My last fuck. Oh look, it’s on fire.” And I haven’t even been able to bring myself to light it yet I love it so much, it just sits on my dresser as a daily reminder that the world might be going to hell but at least I’m going down with my friends. There are also so many directions you can take this — did you and your friends meet through D&D? There’s a Cantrip Candle for that! Did you meet through a fandom? Pick a scent that reminds you of the property that brought you together. Like one that smells like a whiskey and/or vanilla dipped donuts for Wynonna Earp, or one that spells like apples for Warehouse 13. Candles can be generic, sure, but they can also be really creative and personal if you put your heart in it.
Similarly, if a fandom brought you together, get something unique that proudly displays your shared love for the TV show or movie or game or comic. Sites like Teepublic and Redbubble have really unique and creative options. You could even commission a queer artist for something one-of-a-kind that weaves together things from the canon and fandom/inside jokes. Another fun option that definitely depends on the fandom you’re in is getting the group a Cameo! I’ve gotten some really cool Cameos from friends before and it really is something special to see an actor from a show you’ve bonded over say all your names and smile about your friendship.
Goodies for Game Night
The greatest gift you can give your long-distance friends is time together. And one way to do that in a way that’s relatively easy, even if people are traveling for the holidays, is a virtual game night! Only one person (you!) needs to buy the game and be the host, then all everyone else needs is an internet connection, a laptop (or desktop??), and their cell phone.
You can get a single game for under $10, a pack of games for under $30, or you can splurge and get a whole bundle, and then you have these virtual party games forever. Now, what I’ve learned is that different groups of friends will vibe with different games, so try a few out to figure out which one works best for your specific sense of humor and temperament, and then let the laughs roll. I have one group of friends who prefers Blather Round, in which we find the most absurd ways to describe randomly assigned topics or pieces of media because we have a lot of the same reference points, and I have another group with whom a round of Quiplash always, ALWAYS ends in tears of laughter because of our plethora of inside jokes and our unique ability to know how to make each other laugh. I still have screenshots from both games that I hold onto for when I need a good giggle. Maybe your gift to them is just subscribing to Zoom Pro so you have unlimited time for your video chats, anything to keep the fun going.
Make Some Movie Magic
If games aren’t your jam, a virtual movie night is another option! Put together a cute little snack pack of popcorn and wine or candy and whiskey or Girl Scout cookies and oat milk, whatever your friends’ favorite snacks and/or drinks are, and plan a night for you to all hit ‘play’ at the same time. Hell, you could even skip the snacks and just gift them all a $5 amazon gift card to buy the movie if that’s more doable! Whether it’s a mutual favorite movie, one you’ve all been excited to watch, or a holiday-themed movie that either looks really good or really bad, you can’t go wrong when you’re doing something together.
Take a Picture, It’ll Last Longer
For something a little pricier but more long-lasting, there are a million ways to turn your photos — the memories of the times you actually got to be together, OR photos of you all individually that you PUT together to mirror that hopeful time you all connect IRL — into keepsakes. Like a camera roll keychain so you’re always in each other’s pockets. There are truly a billion different ways you can personalize your photos in a way that will be special to you and your friends. You can personalize frames, or turn your favorite group photo into magnets, ornaments, or you could even go full 90s-mall-father’s-day and get it put on a t-shirt or mug.