Christmas started breaking out on the radio a couple of weeks ago, just before Remembrance Day. I tuned into a Seattle radio station that boasted it would be playing Christmas music, 24-7. And, of course, the first song I heard was It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.
Well, it didn’t look anything like Christmas. Not everywhere I went. But, bit by bit, it started to break out cautiously, with an air of embarrassment.
There in Canadian Tire were shelves of Christmas lights and other baubles and bangles. The Toys-R-Us catalogue turned up in our mailbox, filled with Christmas delights such as a Harry Potter Lego castle. One or two houses in our Central Saanich neighbourhood put up their Christmas lights, almost in defiance. Nobody was going to tell them they couldn’t celebrate Christmas in November. And in the supermarkets, the Advent calendars and boxes of Christmas cookies were suddenly front and centre.
It was all somewhat reassuring. But the fact is, Christmas is not going to look a lot like Christmas this year. COVID is hanging over the celebrations like an ugly grinch, ready to zap us once we let down our guard over a convivial egg nog.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rightly said last week that a normal Christmas is “quite frankly out of the question.”
Certainly, he said, it was right to give people hope we may gather at Christmas, but a lot depends on what we do now.
In other words, it depends on how naughty and nice we are.
No politician, anywhere, wants to be the grinch who stole – or cancelled – Christmas. But the cost of letting down our guard, even for a few days, could be catastrophic. Thanksgiving showed us that large gatherings can result in spiralling numbers of infections.
The United Kingdom announced this week that it would give everyone a break over Christmas and it would allow up to three households to gather.
All four leaders – of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – signed up to the deal because they saw the alternative as a free for all.
Interestingly, the public, rather than giving thanks for the gift, was appalled. Commentators, quite rightly, have rounded on the relaxed rules. Good Morning Britain, on the ITV network, did a poll on Wednesday morning and 80 per cent felt the five-day hiatus would be catastrophic and result in major surges in infections and deaths and total lockdowns in January. Short term gain for longer-term pain.
Piers Morgan, the loudmouth anchor of the show, said he has a big family – if three households came together they could have as many as 30 people in the house. He said his family had already decided not to gather. That’s smart.
And many responsible people will do the right thing, in the UK and here in Canada. They will adjust to the conditions. There will be more virtual gatherings, more meeting up for walks outside, more careful Christmas shopping, socially-distancing in stores or ordering online rather than jostling with the crowds in the malls.
The biggest gift we can all give one another is to stay safe. Santa will still come, It’s A Wonderful Life will still be on TV, the lights will twinkle in the neighbourhoods, maybe a little more brightly this year.
The fact is, we all need a little Christmas this year. A little more joy.
But we will keep the Christmas spirit by keeping apart.
That way, Christmas 2021 is going to be one big party.