What the Holidays Season Means in a Pandemic

Meredith Backman ‘22

The holiday season is a time to gather with loved ones, to feel and spread the spirit of giving and love. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the world has been plagued with for almost 9 months now, all sense of normalcy and “business as usual” has been thrown out the window. Our routines and ideas of what we hold important have changed, which has become even more apparent this holiday season. 

The holiday season and all of the “rituals” myself and my family participate in won’t see much of a change because of the pandemic. It’s usually just me and my mom and sometimes my sister who lives out of state on holidays, so there isn’t a huge “production” or gathering that we need to rethink due to the pandemic. I feel lucky in that I am able to feel virtually complete normalcy on the holidays. I do sense this season to be more of a point of stress for people, not only from a visiting and gathering standpoint, but from gift-giving and feeling a sense of unity with others. People are trying to keep the holiday spirit alive, but it is hard to shake the elephant in the room. Many cannot go visit their families and friends, which can be even more isolating and depressing than the pandemic has been thus far because this is a time marketed and engrained in ideology for spending time with those you love. Holiday shopping loses some of its sparkle when you can’t roam around a bustling mall with lights and trees everywhere and a huge line of children waiting for their picture with Santa. I feel like crowds are synonymous with the holidays, whether it be crowds for shopping, parades, get-togethers, etc. Losing that aspect does diminish some of the typical holiday cheer and pandemonium, which can be relieving if you want to get in and out of Starbucks without having to throw some elbows. 

I asked Kayla Foster, a junior at Boston University, if her plans for the holidays have changed because of the current climate and if she thinks there is any holiday spirit to be felt. She comes from a large family which entails big get-togethers for Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas festivities. They usually gather with about 30 family members, but this year they have to limit it to only immediate family because of COVID-19. She feels lucky that her immediate family all live very close to one another and see one another frequently, so she still feels a sense of normalcy. She feels that “there’s less holiday cheer”, in that people don’t seem as excited as they do in normal conditions because of the gift that keeps on giving, Covid. Her mother owns a business, Harvest Café & Bakery in Simsbury, Connecticut. Owning a business is stressful to begin with, but even more so in the pandemic, as the holidays have historically been peak time for sales. The strain of Covid has been felt by people either not wanting to go out in general or not wanting to go out and spend money. Kayla tells me that people have been super supportive of her mom’s business (which they should, the food is incredible), but isn’t the expected result of the holidays, which is a reality all businesses share. With her courses running up to the week before Christmas due to changed remote-learning schedules, Kayla feels stressed because she won’t be able to relax and unwind as much, adding to the hectic nature of December. In regard to the holiday season in a pandemic, she puts it bluntly in that, “it kind of sucks”. She says she’s not as excited and emphasizes how outlandish this is because she “LOVES Christmas”. Defeated, she reiterates that “this is the new normal”. 

This holiday season is one like we’ve never seen before. The feeling of gathering with friends and family for a holiday meal is one difficult to replicate or produce when it is through a computer screen. There are still small comforts, such as baking cookies, buying a tree, or watching classic films that can put you into the holiday spirit, even if it’s momentarily. But, with the reality that our country has been a raging dumpster fire, I think I can safely say that everyone is putting a vaccine on the top of their wish list. 

*Valley Girl does not own the image used in this article.

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