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Half of Brits will celebrate Christmas virtually this year, according to a study.

Researchers found more than five million people will open presents over Facetime or Skype because they can’t be with loved ones on the big day.

And three million will also have their Christmas dinner in front of a screen for the same reason.

The findings emerged as a third of those polled revealed they live ‘too far away’ from their nearest and dearest to spend the festive period with them.

Further to this, 16 per cent admitted they struggle to find the funds to visit family at this time of year.

The research was commissioned by Thorntons, as part of its Pass The Love On campaign, where they reunited three families who couldn’t be together over Christmas.


Victoria Bruton, 28, from Sydney, Australia, surprised her sister, Ellie Bruton, 17, when she returned home to Gloucester.

Ellie wasn’t expecting to see Victoria in time for her 18th birthday – distance and work commitments have meant Victoria has missed a number of Christmases and birthdays.

Hidden cameras caught the magical moment they reunited as Victoria posed as a waitress before surprising Ellie and the rest of her family at her birthday meal.

Victoria Bruton said: “Before I knew I’d won this competition I was so disappointed that I wasn’t going to be able to be with Ellie while she celebrated her 18th birthday on Christmas Day.

“Thanks to Thorntons, I’ve been able to travel over 10,000 miles from Sydney, Australia and surprise my sister at such an important time in her life.

“As expected, the family reunion was so emotional and something I’ll never forget – I thought my Dad might shed a tear!”

Colin Hanrahan, 46, from Auckland, New Zealand and his sister Claire Stilwell, 43, from Bushey Heath, decided to repay their parents for their love and support growing-up.

Their father spent long periods away during their formative years because he served in the navy.

Despite this, they managed to remain a close-knit family thanks to the dedication of their mum and dad.

Colin Hanrahan said: “We had been planning to come over to the UK this year for some time but, due to a house move, we just couldn’t make it happen after all.

“I was speechless when Thorntons told me I’d be able to come over for Christmas and spend some quality time with my parents in the run up to Christmas.

“As a military family, we’re used to being separated but that doesn’t make it any easier – especially when you don’t know the next time you’ll be seeing each other.

“We really cannot thank Thorntons enough for this special gift, it’s truly priceless.”

The final story saw Diana Hardman de Gonzalez, 63, travel from her home in Mexico to surprise her son and grandchildren.

Diana Hardman de Gonzalez said: “Living in Mexico has meant I’ve never been able to spend a Christmas with my son, my daughter-in-law and my grandchildren as a family, so this Christmas is going to be very special for me.

“With help from Thorntons, I’ve travelled back to the UK to surprise them all and the moment I saw all their faces will stay with me forever – it’s a truly magical Christmas gift.”

The research found 22 per cent will say ‘Merry Christmas’ to family and friends over the web, while 16 per cent will say ‘I miss you’ to them.

Those able to travel to meet friends and family over the festive period will cover 92 miles on average and spend a whopping 15 hours on the road in the process.

And those aged 55+ will do the most amount of driving over the coming weeks – clocking up an average of 103 miles to be with friends and family.

The Thorntons research also found 39 per cent of everyone polled ‘loves’ travelling over Christmas – because they get to spend time with family during the journey.

Ian Tweedale, marketing director of Thorntons, said: “We’re so pleased to have been able to help families ‘Pass The Love On’ through our Continental Journeys Competition, and make some Christmas wishes come true this year.

“We’re also proud to be passing the love on to the charity SSAFA, which supports our servicemen and women, veterans and their families.”

The research of 2,000 adults was carried out by OnePoll in October 2018.

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