It’s Hanukkah week, which means once more in 2020, the Jews are doing the holidays first. And that means that if you know Jewish folks, you can get early reports on how things are going. And lucky for you, here I am, reporting for duty.
So here is my holiday report: As the dark winter of COVID deepens around us, the winter holidays are like nothing I’ve ever experienced. They feel more like holidays in wartime than anything else.
I’ve managed to get decorations up (and even make decorations). I’ve done crafts with the kids. And we’ve taken the opportunity to try to deep clean our house. And in our family, getting the house ready feels important, because it’s a way to mark time, and a way to give the kids some small joys. But in many ways decorating and crafting feels like checking boxes this year. I got greenery garlands up, check. I got Hanukkah banners up, check. We dried oranges for decorations, check. I came up with a list, and I’m checking off the boxes. But unlike most years where those actions are backed up with spirit and joy—right now they’re backed by a cold sense of dread.
In fact, we ran to the craft store, heavily masked, three days before California went back into lockdown. And if there is one place that aggressively mainlines Christmas (not holiday, just Christmas) cheer, it’s craft stores. In normal times the aisles are positively draped with red and green, Christmas carols are blasting on the speakers, every employee is wearing some sort of Santa hat, and the crowds are cheerfully bustling. But this year it felt like Christmas had been mixed with a funeral, and everyone was rushing through the store with barely contained fear.
And that’s how that season feels here. Fear mixed up with some celebration. And I’m not trying to push too hard against reality (because that will just create more stress). This winter is dark. And to the extent we can bring small amounts of joy, we will. But we’re not going to force ourselves to pretend the world is something it’s not.
TL;DR: there are places where I’m winning this holiday season (decor). There are places where I’m kinda phoning it in (family presents). And then there are places where I haven’t yet lifted a finger (holiday cards, extended family and friend presents). And that’s ok. Like everyone else we have SO much on our plate. We have SO much we’re trying to hold together. We have SO many people we’re trying to care for. And the goal of this winter is simple: survival. Our own, and the survival of others. If we get a bunch of gift wrapped, great. But the real gift will just be making it through.
How are your holidays going? What’s the vibe? What have you gotten done, and what are you not even bothering with? Lay it on us.