The holidays look a little different this year amid a public health emergency
By Cassie Weiss, Features Editor
It’s really hard for me to imagine a Christmas without my family. We’ve always had our challenges, but somehow, every holiday we always find ourselves back together, eating turkey and mashed potatoes amongst a sea of ripped wrapping paper and curled ribbon.
I think back to that time only a short year ago, before COVID-19 swept the country and created an isolation that shows no signs of ending anytime soon. It seems like a faint memory — a ghost of the holiday’s past, where hugs were welcome and we easily shared beverages and snacks off each other’s plates.
The holidays were a time for us to gather, but this year we are being urged to do the exact opposite. According to the newest health regulations set out by the Alberta government, indoor gatherings are not permitted and can be subject to a $1000 fine.
Although these regulations are meant to only last three weeks, it’s possible that those late night holiday parties we were all so fond of will now be links to a Zoom channel where your closest friends stare at you from worlds away. Work holiday parties will likely now be emails and words of encouragement coming from a computer screen while Grey’s Anatomy plays in the background and the kids cry for your attention.
I think about this new form of the holidays — one where we stay home away from our loved ones — and it makes me sad. How many of us look forward to this joy-filled holiday each year, and how many of us now just pray for an end to the madness that is the pandemic we are currently experiencing? Too bad this is not something Santa has the ability to deliver.
But as I sit and wallow in the idea of not going home, I think of something else — a strange type of freedom that comes in the form of comfort.
How many of you have to travel for the holidays? I think we would be surprised by the small amount of people who don’t spend at least one or two of their days off traveling to different cities.
Now, how stressful is that traveling? Making the gate on time, stopping to use the washroom, needing coffee and snacks and time to stretch your legs or give your eyes a rest — it all adds up and pushes into the time you have for yourself. This time is precious and key to getting the much needed break we all deserve after a full year of work, school, deadlines and study sessions.
But, what if you didn’t have to travel? What if you could stay home instead, bundled up in blankets, drinking homemade hot chocolate bombs and watching your favourite holiday show while a blizzard rages outside? Would the holidays be more relaxing?
We’re about to find out.
Maybe this is the year that you start a new tradition instead of letting the sadness of not being with family take over. Maybe this year, you can obtain a valid tree-cutting permit, head to the mountains and hand-pick a Christmas tree. Maybe this year, you can bring the tree home and decorate it with lights and tinsel and sit in the dark, wintery evening as red and green lights dance around your warm living room, instead of waiting until you travel back home to embrace the holiday spirit.
I’ve spent the last few years without decorations, never being home enough over the holidays to enjoy them, and the thought of a treeless house this year was enough to make me cry. If I was going to be home, I might as well make the absolute most of it — Christmas stockings and all. Besides, there is nothing quite like sawing down your very own original Kananaskis Christmas tree.
This mentality saved me a lot of grief. As COVID-19 cases rise rapidly across the province, settling into a contactless holiday seems like an inevitable situation we are all going to have to accept sooner or later.
We could spend the next month miserable, wishing for human contact and upset because we don’t get to taste grandma’s famous pumpkin pie, or we could ask grandma to send us the recipe and we could just try and make it for ourselves.
Being isolated this holiday doesn’t have to be a bad thing, and the sooner we can admit to ourselves that 2020 is going to be different, no matter how you look at it, the sooner we can all get back to spreading holiday cheer.
COVID-19 has taken a lot from us, but this pandemic doesn’t get to take the holidays away. The holidays are what you make of them, so make them yours — video chat with your family, build a snowman with your roommate, have a socially distant s’more-making contest with your partner. Whatever you decide to do, if you do it with love and joy… Well, isn’t that what holiday spirit is all about?