It’s a dreadful December dilemma we all face: what to do about Christmas during a pandemic. Scaling back Thanksgiving, or skipping it entirely, was hard enough. But how do we celebrate the most wonderful time of the year when we really shouldn’t shop in stores or watch a parade or go to a party (not that anyone I know is having parties) or even attend a worship service in person without fear of spreading or contracting Covid-19?
I believe the cavalry is coming and that they’ll be here soon. They’re bearing a vaccine that I’ll roll up my sleeve to take the minute I’m offered it. In the meantime, I’m reconciled to staying home and experiencing a Christmas like no other in my lifetime.
I skipped the tree this year, though it involves nothing more than hauling a five-foot tall pre-lit fake pine up from the basement and hanging a few ornaments on it. Somehow, I couldn’t muster the enthusiasm even for that. But I did hang a wreath on the door. I wrapped fat multi-colored honky-tonk lights, as my grandmother was fond of calling them, around my porch railing. I set a red candle surrounded by a ring of holly in the middle of the dining table. I put a carved wooden Santa on the windowsill above the kitchen sink. In the bathroom, I replaced my regular bottle of liquid soap with one that has snowmen on it.
Gifts were easy. I renewed subscriptions for “Highlights for Children” for all of my grandkids. In honor of my adult children, I donated money for folks who might not have Christmas otherwise. For my new dog, Kamala, I bought a squeaky Rudolph toy that she adores but that’s unlikely to survive intact until the big day.
Pandemic or not, I’ve never had a problem amusing myself. I like to read and write and play word games. I like to piddle around in the yard, snipping back overgrown shrubs and filling bird feeders and gathering twigs and branches to burn in the fire ring. And I like good television. A couple of months back, I cancelled my cable and signed on with a couple of streaming services. Once I figured out which remote does what, I’ve been wowed by the hundreds—perhaps thousands!–of shows available to me.
December is, of course, the month for Christmas movies and I’m enjoying the same ones I watch every year. The old “Miracle on 34th Street,” starring cute little Natalie Wood. “Christmas Vacation.” “The Santa Clause.” “The Town Christmas Forgot.” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” in black-and-white, of course. “An American Christmas Carol.” And my favorite Christmas movie of all, one I’ll save until just before bedtime on Christmas Eve—“Prancer,” starring Sam Elliot.
I re-read my three favorite Christmas books—Lee Smith’s wonderful novella “The Christmas Letters” and two hardback-bound short stories I’ll never tire of—“Home for Christmas” by Howard Bahr and “A Christmas Memory” by Truman Capote.
As for all the things First United Methodist Church typically does during the Christmas season—The Hanging of the Greens, A Service of Lesson and Carols, and Holy Communion and the singing of “Silent Night” by candlelight on Christmas Eve, I’m there in spirit but not in person. Thank goodness for YouTube. I’m participating in a church-wide study of the Gospel of Luke, reading and pondering one chapter each day beginning on December 1 and culminating on Christmas Eve. It’s been moving and meaningful.
I won’t be seeing my family in person this holiday season. I won’t be seeing my friends. But as anyone who’s ever read “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” knows, Christmas will come just the same.
Peace, love and goodwill to all.
(December 19, 2020)