A Christmas Like No Other
December 1, 2020
A Christmas Like No Other
Our first pandemic Christmas is approaching and it promises to be an odd one. Our local Santa in his little house will no doubt be absent. The kids won't necessarily miss that as much as the grown-ups for whom that picture of the child on Santa's knee is a virtual rite of passage. The kids, though, may well miss those trips through the stores where they point out all those things Santa must absolutely bring them.
As for the gatherings, well, I think that's going to be a rite of courage; i.e., the courage not to have them. Thanksgiving has come and gone and we're still waiting to see if all those travelers and gatherings did give the virus a tasty treat. Christmas parties – whether in our houses or places of employment – wax and wane over the years but they still go on. It's hard to imagine any employer this year, however, willing to take on the liability of hosting a gathering at all, let alone one where a bit of booze loosens people up and makes them forget our onerous pandemic precautions.
There's a little different pressure concerning the house party; you know, the one that Grandma has been hosting for thirty-six years and she's not about to give it up this year. Or the one where it's a neighborhood tradition that everyone gathers at John and Susan's for egg nog and caroling and for Chrissakes it's going to be outside so where's the risk? Tough decision.
Christmas Day, too, is something we're going to have to reinvent this year. Traditionally, our family gathers either at our house, up in Rockford at my son's, or in Madison at my daughter's home. It's not a large group but, since none of our houses are exactly huge, social distancing is kind of dicey, and since we're nearly all big talkers it's hard to keep the masks on. Fortunately (how odd is this), our decision this year is moot since Gayle's recent surgery (she's doing fine) precludes any travel and certainly any high-risk gatherings.
It's hard to know what the Christian churches will do since Christmas is such a profound event on the Christian calendar. I think various internet, drive-in, and restricted-seating services have worked with moderate success during less eventful times this past year, but not to have a full house for the Christmas service will be just wretched for the faithful, kind of like playing the Super Bowl in an empty stadium (and, of course, that might happen, too).
As for the economy, well, instead of economists wondering wither this "season" will be good, bad, or indifferent, I think most are simply hoping that there is a season; i.e., some level of increased shopping. As evidence, I notice that it seems that every day is Black Friday now, although Black Friday itself turned out to be quite different. First, there were a number of areas where stores were simply closed due to bad pan stats. Secondly, there weren't many stores that wanted to encourage people to gather in groups at four a.m. waiting for the early opening. Still, it was kind of sad not seeing those nutty video clips on the news of panting/salivating shoppers storming into the Wal-Marts and Best Buys.
Even the Salvation Army is predicting a fifty percent drop in their bell ringer collections (at a time when those monies are desperately needed) simply because a) a lot of people are afraid to go shopping – endless Black Fridays or not – in those stores outside of which the bell ringers are posted; and b) unemployment is still huge with so many people barely able to afford Christmas things or to give something to charity. I suspect the same thing will be true for all of those charitable organizations from whom we regularly get requests for Christmas donations.
Christmas, of course, is always a sad time for those who have lost loved ones during the year, but this will be the first Christmas for hundreds of thousands of families in the U.S., and millions of families throughout the world, without the presence of a very special someone taken by the virus.
A Christmas, indeed, like no other.
G.K. Wuori ©2020
Photoillustration by the author