There will only be just the two of us this Christmas, my husband and myself. There will be no children, no grandchildren, no friends over, no big dinners, no cocktail parties. And hopefully, because of these sacrifices, no visiting coronaviruses either.
Giving up much of the socializing of the season does not mean that we will not be celebrating the joys of Christmas. We have already put up our tree and decorated it lavishly with the ornaments that we have accumulated over the years, bringing back happy memories of Christmases' past. The traditional Belen is settled prominently nearby and, though there will be no midnight Mass for us this year, we still cherish the meaning of Christmas in our hearts.
Almost eleven months into the pandemic, many of us may find it hard to look forward to Christmas. Some may have lost jobs, others have Covid-19 fatigue - worried about getting the infection and, at the same time, fed up with the restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Will it ever go away? When will it go away? Will things ever be the same? Thankfully, THE vaccine has been tested rigorously and found beneficial, and will gradually be available, hopefully to all of us soon.
But for now, limited or no restaurant dining, no shopping, no live theatre or concerts - that is a hardship especially at this normally busy time of the year. We see that as an opportunity to enjoy the quiet of home, to read for hours, to watch television all evening, or do nothing at all. As it happens, there may not be enough time for self-indulgence – there are doorknobs and surfaces to be sanitized, masks and clothes and grocery bags to be laundered, more healthy cooking from scratch to counteract the usually over-salted take-out convenience meals. There are emails and phone calls to make up for the absence of person to person contact. And then there are Zoom family gatherings, cocktail parties, yoga, book club meetings etc. This could lead to some kind of ennui. Don’t let this get in your way. Getting ready for Christmas could be just the right antidote.
Celebrate! Go out early and buy a real tree. Its fragrance will bring in the fresh outdoors to your home, energizing and putting everyone in the right mood for trimming the tree. When you bring out the decorations, memories come back and children especially delight in reminiscing as they hang ornaments on the branches. Put out some snacks and wine, or coffee and cookies, and make a party of it.
Children especially need some diversions especially if they are schooling online. When my children were little and needed something more exciting than Advent calendars while waiting for Christmas, I started a daily treasure hunt for them (the week just before the big day will do). I hid little notes all over the house with cryptic instructions that would lead them to different locations until they finally found the chocolates or little toys.
If you normally recreate the lavish media noche, the lechon, the caroling, the reunion with relatives and friends, you may need to modify this tradition. Your guest list will probably be very limited. In many parts of Canada, gatherings are not encouraged, and are often limited to one household per residence. Or you may be part of a “bubble” and can have another couple or a small family join you. Of course, you must remember to keep a certain distance from each other. Which can be difficult with small children! But celebrating Christmas with only your family can be wonderful - you will be paying full attention to each other instead of to your guests. You will be truly listening and having conversations.
There will most likely be no Midnight Mass. But you could say a rosary together. And, in the morning, you could all go for a refreshing walk, masks on of course.
As I said earlier, Peter and I will be celebrating Christmas by ourselves. Our children and grandchildren live in Hong Kong, Stockholm and Vancouver (we live in Toronto). In normal times, we would be gathered in one of these home cities, but the coronavirus will not put a stop to that. We are getting together via ZOOM and, as usual, Peter will put on his Santa Claus costume for the occasion (it will be a surprise).
Have a Merry Christmas. Don’t let the pandemic get to you. Celebrate!!