The Modern American Christmas season isn’t the same this year.
Usually as winter approaches the streets are lite with millions of twinkling lights, stores are stacked with billions of dollars worth of stock, and Christmas songs blare out of every speaker. Everywhere you look people are hustling and bustling from work to school, and store to store. Post office lines are packed chest to back, and highways are jammed from exit to exit. This year, the Christmas bustle is more of a stroll. While people are still shopping, music is still playing, and lights are still twinkling, it’s all at a much smaller level.
The holidays feel hollow this year.
With more and more people falling ill and dying (especially in the United States), and so many people out of work, it’s hard to see any light in this time of darkness. Many of us are tired of the isolation, tired of doom scrolling through social media, and tired of the constant onslaught of bad news. Many of us lost loved ones, or simply will not be able to visit them this holiday season. Many of us have reduced or non-existent incomes. I will not pretend that this is not the harsh reality that many of us are facing. It’s hard to feel merry and bright when everything seems so dark and dull. Many of the things we look forward to most at this time of year seem to be a mere shadow of what they were in the past. However, there may be a way to reframe the picture.
What If this is our wake-up call?
There have been dozen of Christmas movies, shows, and stories denouncing the commercialization of the holiday. While these movies are entertaining (if not a little preachy) the message of reduced consumerism is largely drowned out by the bombardment of ads that punctuate these tales. After all the chaos of 2020, however, people seem to be re-evaluating what matters.
2020 has forced most of us to slow down.
Lock down has given many of us time to think. Without all the distractions of the office, bars, parties, school, concerts, and trips– many of us have been forced to sit with our own thoughts for the first time. Limited socialization has made several of value genuine relationships more. Financial insecurity had made us re-think our spending habits, and the abundance of free time combined with fear of illness and death has caused many people to ponder how they want to use the time they have left. Being forcibly removed from the world we lived in before many of us are looking at that life through a more objective lens and deciding which parts were worth investment, and which parts we can leave behind as we move forward. Nothing exemplifies these changes more than the holiday season.
We are celebrating differently this year.
Many of us are having a more subdued holiday. Instead of expensive gifts, more people are crafting. Instead of pricey getaways, we are settling for movie nights. Stressful family visits are substituted with Zoom calls or smaller in-home gatherings, and office parties and networking events are replaced with short, but more honest emails wishing us all to stay home and relax. More of us are baking Christmas cookies instead of buying them, and decorating ourselves instead of hiring services to make things look perfect. Instead of focusing on how things “should” be or “ought to” look, we are contenting ourselves with making the best we can with what we have. Some traditions are cherished more than ever, some have been adapted for current times and some that should have been dropped long ago are finally gasping their last breath. Overall, we are doing what humans have always done: adjusting to new times.
I won’t pretend the challenges aren’t real.
The holidays are a difficult season for many of us, and winter is a particularly rough season with the cold, gray weather, and shorter days. Coming on the heels of a bad year full of stress, death, and loneliness, it would be foolish and naive to pretend that depression, despair, and desperation are not valid feelings to have during this time. Knowing that the world marches on, seasons will continue to come and go, and we can (and likely always will) continue to take what we love and need, and adapt it hard times can be helpful during this time. Christmas (or whatever holidays you celebrate) may look different this year, but that doesn’t have to be a terrible thing. We can take what we’ve loved about Christmas past and re-shape it to fit Christmas Present. Maybe, this means we can start dreaming of even better and brighter Christmas Futures, where we remember what mattered most to us this year in 2020.