COVID-19 Holidays

January of 2020, the Liechty extended family began making plans to have a Christmas Holiday extravaganza, of sorts, for the upcoming December.  We had time to plan; the grandparents were in their 90s, but healthy.  This was THE time to get everyone who could possibly make the trip “Back Home in(to) Indiana”!  All of our children were going to try to get here, whatever the barriers!  A family photo would be taken!  We could fill rows at the church as we attended a service with the grandparents!

Best made plans, right?  Covid-19 and illness have intervened.  Many of us still have our reservations at the hotel we planned to occupy.  We’re reluctant to give up all hope until the last possible cancellation date, even though we recognize it’s not going to happen. Discussions are presently ongoing as we try to re-imagine the holiday. 

No doubt this is true for many families.  Some will get together with no precautions in defiance of the virus that has taken so much already.  Others will test, keep distance or maybe do some zooming.  Since our family presently has Covid-19 in one sibling branch, and Grandma is now dealing with a significant medical issue, we can’t avoid the obvious risks.  What are our options?

We’ve discussed a “game day” online.  Apparently, this is possible; my sister plays Mahjong with a group every week.  Maybe we could have a meal together (though apart) and share our food creations?  Could we do a family photo from a zoom call?  Or could we create a family pic by sharing each person or family pod from a specific day?  Should we be masked as a memory of the year, or not be masked in that picture?  Can we still have “whiskey night” and share our favorite new discoveries through verbal description?  Hmmm.  There are many questions.

Nothing is the same as being together, giving hugs, sharing impromptu stories and memories, food, and getting to know the newest “littles” in the mix.  We will come up with some hybrid.  For us, there is no choice. 

What are you doing to acknowledge traditions and plans for the holidays this year?  How are you reimagining the plans you had made? Perhaps we could share some creative thoughts.  I asked several people what they had considered, and most said they hadn’t thought about it yet.  Others were prompted to start thinking things through.  The FMC Faith Formation page has encouraged people to write some ideas as well. 

Deb and Robin Helmuth adjusted their Thanksgiving Day plans when the pandemic worsened. A rearranged morning schedule included taking and sharing an eat-in-the-garage breakfast for a single friend with no local family, and switching to separate, virtual modes for the annual Drumstick Dash race. Their area family decided not to eat all together indoors, though they would see each other briefly—wearing masks– and share food. As Deb explained, “It really boils down to the fact that these holidays are calling all of us to share our love and care for others in the safest ways we can. We don’t want to have regrets.”

Pastors Bob and Mag Smith are entertaining some in-person time with a small portion of the family only after testing and several isolation days.  This is one way a recent “All Things Considered” piece offered as a means to reduce risk. Suggestions in that segment also included:

  1. Driving to your destination and taking your own food in the car.  Flying is fairly safe, but airports are not.  Try to put in isolation time at an Airbnb for a week after your arrival.  If your trip is very short, it might not be worth it. 
  2. If you have a college student coming home, check the dashboard for that school and find out what kind of infection rates exist. Ask if the school will be doing exit testing, and if they don’t, have the student test anyway and consider some isolation time after a student returns as well as a coronavirus re-test.

But the best suggestions were some my SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice) group has talked about as we try to finish up our in-person SURJ work this year:  BUY A GREAT PARKA!  Learn to be Scandinavian.  Deal with the cold and stay outside as much as you can.  Make a fire or get an outdoor heater. 

There ARE ways to mitigate risk.  There is no perfect way.  Decisions will have to be made.  Remember Deb Helmuth’s mantra:  No Regrets!

P.S.  We’re all tired of Covid-19.  If you need motivation to consider precautions, look up some of the recent stories in the NYTimes or the Washington Post of families who loosened up because “It was just family”.  Or check out the CNN response to the President’s recent criticism of their Covid-19 coverage.  It’s powerful.  

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About the author

Mary Liechty

Mary has spent COVID time in an unsuccessful effort to lose weight, talking many walks, researching potential new hobbies (but not doing them), getting to know neighbors better and attempting with some success to be more accountable to and aware of Black run groups and businesses.