Just like this entire year, Christmas will be different.
It already has been. The holiday is traditionally a mad sprint between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. The decorations come out of the attic, the lights go up after several trips to the hardware store. There are parties to fill the evenings and weekends; concerts and plays and performances.
By the time Christmas Eve rolls into view, the celebration begins in earnest because the end is in sight.
There is the traditional dinner that evening, and then the chaos of the next day unfurls. It is usually capped off with our favorite tradition — a last glass of wine with friends, when we swap ridiculous stories about our insane and infuriating families.
This year, the tree went up, but there were no trips to the hardware store. There was no shopping outside the house. There were no parties, no concerts. There will be no dinners, no lunches and no catching up with friends when it is all said and done.
It is perfectly in keeping with 2020.
What was going to be a two-week pause turned into months of sitting at home and wondering when things would get back to normal. We cleared the shelves of the grocery store and girded for the end of the world as we knew it.
It never came. We didn’t eat the 10 cans of beans or the two sacks of rice. We didn’t run out of toilet paper.
This year, COVID-19 wiped our son’s senior year out, including prom and graduation. He started college sitting on a computer in a dorm five states away where he knew not a soul.
Whatever trips we had planned were canceled, felled by the global pandemic.
Our daughter contracted the virus, but she seemed OK. We know others who were not so lucky. We know people who died. We know people who got really sick. We stuck to our self-enforced isolation more for the health and wellness of the people around us than anything.
The simple view is to see Christmas as the beginning of the end of 2020, a year which I will be glad to see in the rearview mirror, though I don’t expect life to change much in the coming months. The vaccine gives me some hope.
This Christmas, however, is a gift in and of itself. I have often discussed taking Christmas off, but am such a stickler for traditions I haven’t had the will.
This year, the will was not mine, but the result will be the same.
We will still have a Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas lunch, but it will just be our children and us. The wrapping paper will litter the floor, and piles of gifts will find a spot under the tree.
But instead of parties and pageants, we will watch movies and play games and spent time with one another.
We are grateful Christmas came at all. We are thankful to be here, thankful for family and friends, who are just a click away, and we are thankful for the opportunity for once to really slow down and reflect on the meaning of this time of year — goodwill toward all.