Whether it’s by putting on your favorite Christmas pajamas and baking Christmas cookies with your best friend or driving around in your car and seeing the beauty of all the decorative lights, it’s easy to say that most everyone finds hope and happiness during the Christmas season.
The holidays have always served as a time of joyous gathering and cheer amongst families worldwide, whether they be big or small. However, the holidays appear to be a little different this year. With ongoing guidance from governors and restrictive measures encouraged by Department of Health officials for our safety, large gatherings have been highly discouraged and many families have opted to refrain from gathering with their loved ones.
This is no easy feat for anyone, especially with consideration to the amount of hardship we have endured thus far and the support that comes from sharing these emotions with our loved ones. I mean, what better need for the Christmas spirit than now?
One comforting notion, and I mean that in the loosest sense possible, is that we are not alone. A little over a century ago, in the year 1918, our ancestors experienced a similar devastation pertaining to the Spanish flu. The influenza took health officials by surprise, claiming the lives of roughly 50 million individuals worldwide. Further, there was an ongoing war at the time in Europe, claiming the lives of several others.
As a way to combat the disease, government officials isolated the population, shutting down schools, playhouses, churches and many other places of gathering (…sound familiar?). Families worldwide fell into a deep sadness as the Christmas season approached, unable to share their pain with their loved ones or participate in religious ceremonies at the churches. Recognizing this, health officials sat down on Dec. 20, 1918 to look at the list of those who had died due to the influenza. Seeing the amount had decreased, they made the decision of reopening the churches as a heartful attempt of lifting the population’s spirits. And that it did! The people gathered and Christmas music ringed throughout all of the churches, serving as a saving grace for many.
Although Christmas is still a few weeks away, the Christmas spirit can already be seen and felt. Personally, Christmas is one of the holidays I most anticipate, for more reasons than one! My cousin always flies back from Seattle, Wash., where he lives, to share in the joy of our big Christmas gathering on my dad’s side.
On my mom’s side, my grandparents never fail to cook our favorite Polish foods (like galumpki and pierogies!). This year for Christmas, my cousin can’t fly down to join us and the large gathering is planned to be exceedingly sized down and distanced. On my mom’s side, we may still be going over my grandparents’ house, as it’s just the four of us, and my mom sees them on a regular basis to help around the house. So much is still unknown involving the holidays and, although it may appear much different than previous years, I’m not going to let it dull the holiday spirit!
This year, whilst the same gatherings we’re all used to may not take place, it’s important to remember that the sense of community still shines through in the little things. It’s essential to keep in mind that although Christmas is generally associated with notions of family gatherings and feasts, it’s much more than that; Christmas is showing love for one another, Christmas is giving to others and Christmas is community.
So, next time you take a drive, take the time to appreciate the Christmas lights that you see, perhaps on your neighbor’s house, and let it serve as a reminder that the Christmas “gathering” has already begun. Take the time to donate to those less fortunate through a local food or gift drive (I know many of those have gone virtual!). Take the time to call your loved ones and celebrate with those you can, keeping the Christmas spirit alive and remembering all the love that can be shared, regardless of physical contact! Don’t let COVID-19 take anything else from you; Christmas is all around us!