My wife tested positive for COVID-19 this November. Two hours later, she started putting up our Christmas tree.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
I don’t mean that my wife wasn’t supposed to put up the tree. That’s her responsibility, per the Christmas Treaty of 2007. To wit, she puts up all the decorations, and I don’t get to complain about how many decorations there are.
For what it’s worth, my wife’s feeling better already, and she still managed to cover every square centimeter of our home in holiday bric-a-brac.
What I mean is we were supposed to be finished with COVID by now.
Last year, many of us gave up big family gatherings to prevent Grandma or Grandpa (or ourselves) from getting sick. We sacrificed traditions we’d followed our entire lives – traditions that were Christmas for us – in hopes that things would be back to normal this year.
Spoiler: Things aren’t back to normal.
But this is our second year celebrating Christmas with COVID, which makes us veterans. So I’ve culled the most practical advice I could find to help you have a Merry COVID-mas.
1. Manage Expectations by Promising Nothing
Your kid wants a Magic Mixies Cauldron or a Mega Fossil Dig Kit?
Don’t even tell them “maybe.”
Instead, spend 45 minutes explaining a supply chain to them. If necessary, you can provide a visual aid by linking together several LEGO blocks and crushing them with a sledgehammer.
Your Mom wants to know if you’re coming over for Christmas dinner? Tell her that you’ll RSVP by the afternoon of December 24… maybe.
Let’s be realistic. You don’t know what’s going to happen between now and Christmas, and there’s only so much that you can control. So you can either create a labyrinth of contingency plans for every possible outcome or just ride the chaos.
I say, grab a saddle.
2. Make Peace with What You Get
Can I be honest with you? Last year was my favorite Christmas ever.
My typical Christmas obligations involve dragging two kids to three houses across two states. Also, while I love my family in concept, being in the same room with them forces the issue.
(If you happen to be a relative of mine, I’m not talking about you. I love you and really missed you last Christmas. Unless you’re Josh. Then you know what you did.)
But last year… it was peaceful. My family woke up in the same place that we would go to sleep. We opened presents, built snowmen, and video-chatted with grandparents.
It was relaxing, which is not an adjective that I often get to attach to my holidays.
Don’t get me wrong. I want this all to be over, too. But for now – whatever the holidays bring – I want to find the joy in it. If I get to gather with all my family, I hope to bask in their company and make up for missed time. If someone else in my nuclear family pops a positive test, and we have to stay home again this year, I hope I enjoy the peace of quarantining with some of my favorite people.
3. This Won’t Last Forever
My family celebrates Christmas, but that’s just one of the holidays that lands near the winter solstice – the longest day of the calendar year.
You also have Christmas, Hanukkah, Soyal, Saturnalia, Boxing Day, Kwanzaa, Dongzhi, The Feast of the Unconquerable Sun, and Yalda. While each holiday has its own history and separate cultural associations, they also each allude to the same idea.
The days keep getting darker and darker, earlier and longer. And just when you think the night will last forever, it starts to get brighter.
It feels like a long night, y’all. And I’m not going to promise you that things will be back to normal next year. In fact, this has been going on so long that my kids think this is normal.
But, I do promise that night can’t last forever. So let’s hope that this is our solstice – regardless of which holidays you and your family celebrate – and that our future is bright.