We have rounded the corner to the holiday season, saying goodbye to 2020 and (warily) welcoming a fresh beginning with the advent of the New Year. Many of us are pondering all that we have been through over the past 10 months and trying to make sense of a year that no one ever could have predicted. We might even ask whether “celebrating” the holiday season is appropriate, when tens of millions of people world-side have suffered, lost loved ones and experienced job loss and economic hardship. Very few people will escape 2020 untouched by loss.
To put the year of the global pandemic in perspective, the U.S. entered 2020 with a healthy economy, a booming stock market, low unemployment and robust corporate profits. Yet, we leave the year with an economy that is propped up by government spending — a drip-feed of economic Novocain. The only silver lining in this thundercloud is that a vaccine is now on its way to us, with government approval. It comes none too soon: on December 10, the U.S. reported the day’s death toll at 3,080, greater than the number of deaths from Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor, or the terrorist attacks on 9/11, 2001.
To be sure, despite the hardship, we have learned from the experience. We have developed an appreciation for safety, hygiene and social distancing. Many of us adapted to working from home, to self-isolation and connecting with family and friends through video conferencing. Our home life and work life have been changed forever because of COVID-19, and much of this adaptation has been positive.
Now we’re in the midst of the holiday season, typically a time of prayer, song, gratitude, family gatherings and the bearing of gifts. But 2020 was a year like no other in our lifetime, so perhaps, instead of following tradition, we should take this opportunity to “adapt” the way we celebrate; to hit the reset button on this, too, and rid ourselves of the overly commercial aspect of this time of year. Instead, we can have a more meaningful holiday: start traditions that have meaning beyond shopping and gift exchanges. Try Christmas or Hanukkah movie nights with the family or significant others. Use newfound Zoom skills to reach out to long-lost family or friends. Read Dickens’ A Christmas Carroll or The Oxford Book of Christmas Poems.
With the adversity we all have encountered, we can give a little bit of ourselves to bring warmth to others — even strangers. We can, for example, take inspiration from the following post I read recently on a Facebook page for my hometown. In essence, it captures the concept of “do unto others.”
To the sweet gentleman ahead of me in the black Range Rover at Starbucks yesterday morning who paid for my coffee and who also went out of his way to special order, surprise and treat my little one sitting in the back seat to a big hot cocoa and multiple Snowman cookies…thank you so much for your thoughtfulness!!! You warmed my heart and most importantly made a four year old little girl so very happy! We appreciate you and your kind soul and wanted to show our gratitude to you. We hope this message reaches you.
I can imagine the gentleman’s smile as he drove away. No thank-you expected; just the pleasure of knowing he made a mom and her little girl happy with a small, simple gesture, even though they were complete strangers.
Let’s prove that 2020 was not all for naught. Let’s put our learning to good use and make a significant upgrade to our holiday season. Let’s restore the true meaning of this time of year. Let’s reinvent the holidays.