As we face the Christmas season here in the midst of a pandemic, we do so having learned through Thanksgiving about human nature and the willingness to alter traditions for the greater good. And what we learned is that people are bullheaded and beyond resistant to change no matter how dire the need to do so. People took to the road and the air to spend the holiday with family despite warnings from the CDC, from virtually every doctor in the world, and from civic leaders.
Now we approach another holiday with the numbers suffering and dying from COVID reaching new records daily. The warnings against travel and gathering are already being issued from the same sources. Yet the White House continues to host holiday parties. A group in New Orleans hosted a grand orgy. And all around there are some people are not heeding the warnings for a various reasons. Some claim that all these people dying is somehow a hoax. Others try to justify gathering because they trust the people they are with – although they don’t really know where the others have been or who they have been near. Still others say, “But it might be the last time I see…” That one’s really dicey since you may be hastening that possibility by exposing them.
Knowing how we hang on to our traditions and our American sense of independence tells me that things could get a whole lot worse. People are just as likely to ignore the warnings about Christmas as they were Thanksgiving. So I have a suggestion that involves keeping within our social bubbles we have been maintaining throughout. Let’s really follow tradition. Tradition from generations and generations back. A return to quaint and charming Christmases of old seems to be in order for this year.
We can’t do the Christmas concerts or shows that some attend yearly as part of recent traditions. Theaters are dark from school concerts to local productions to touring concerts and all the way to Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas spectacular. We can take the modern twist on this and hit the internet. Many singers are hosting online concerts. Those are nice but, while many offered shows early on in the shutdowns for free, they have found ways to charge for the shows now.
The old time tradition to replace our live shows or streaming shows would be to have a good old-fashioned sing along. Sit down at the piano if you have one and join together in song. No piano, no problem. Go acapella. Not that brave? Just play your Christmas music in any way you can and join in the singing. In my case, singing along with Amy Grant, Bing Crosby, or even the divine voice of Andrea Bocelli makes my voice better because I can pump up their volume and blend in. As a family you can take this event on the road. Going through the neighborhood caroling will spread your cheer and provide merry sounds for your neighbors while maintaining social distancing. One of the things I will be doing with my family is going to see a drive-through live nativity at a local church, and I’m sure there will be caroling involved.
We can’t go to the theater, but the television has more than compensated for the lack of live performances. Sure it isn’t the same intimate experience as watching actors performing live, but what they lack in atmosphere they make up for in sheer quantity. Dig out your DVDs of Christmas movies (Or if you are really old school, dust off the VCR and go for it). There are many specials, old movies, and cartoons we’ve loved for years being shown on the networks. Netflix and other streaming services have an abundance of offerings for the holiday. And if you still feel like you need more, the Hallmark channels are all Christmas all day! It isn’t really Christmas for me and many others until we’ve seen some of our all-time favorites – White Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life, Home Alone, A Christmas Story, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, The Preacher’s Wife, How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
Take time as a a family to do the long-standing Christmas preparations together and turn it into a party. Deck the halls and the trees. Bake cookies. Make ornaments. String popcorn. Make and send cards to those far and near. Make hot chocolate, settle in around the fireplace together and reminisce about holidays from long ago.
Finally, take the time to sit in the evening and share some of the wonderful stories of the season. Naturally I have been collecting Christmas books just as I collect other books all year. It will be fun to revisit these books as it is every year, but this year I am going to concentrate on some of the old stories and the stories of simpler, slower paced times. At the end of this post I’ll share a few of the lovely stories I’m revisiting this year – some very old and others more modern, but all loved for years.
Make this year a simpler, quieter, and more heart-felt holiday filled with the love and warmth of your immediate family and those few others who have been within your bubble. Remember that Christmas isn’t about busyness and over-scheduling. It isn’t about shopping and going to parties. It isn’t about special events. It isn’t even about most of the activities I mentioned above. Remember that the season is about that babe born in Bethlehem so long ago. It is about the love God showed for all of us. It is about our sharing that love with others by maintaining a distance to keep them safe, by sending good wishes and telling them how important they are to us, by keeping in contact by phone and other ways, and by sending out the spirit of peace on earth and goodwill to all.
SOME STORIES FOR THE SEASON:
FIRST: Everyone should take time this season to read the Christmas story in the Gospel of Luke. It’s the most familiar one. But maybe take it beyond that by reading the accounts in the other New Testament gospels and by seeking out the Old Testament passages that foretold the story
- Pearl S. Buck – Christmas Day in the Morning – We don’t often think of children’s books from Nobel laureate Pearl Buck, but this is one for children and everyone else.
- Valentine Davies – Miracle on 34th Street– I have a lovely version of this one illustrated by the late Tomie dePaola that’s worth looking for.
- Wende & Harry Devlin – Cranberry Christmas – The Cranberry stories for children are a wonderful addition to any child’s library that the whole family will enjoy (look for the Cranberry Thanksgiving and other Cranberry holiday books too).
- Kate DiCamillo – Great Joy – Fans of Mercy Watson, Despereaux, and Winn Dixie already know the beguiling characters and stories from this author who is the favorite of many children. Don’t miss this touching story.
- Charles Dickens – A Christmas Carol – Read it this year instead of just watching the Muppets version or one of the various others…then go watch some because they’re fun too.
- Earl Hamner, Jr. – The Homecoming – This is the novel upon which the Waltons TV show and an old Henry Fonda movie, Spencer’s Mountain, was based.
- Tom Hegg – A Cup of Christmas Tea – This story has a lesson for every season and never fails to move me.
- O. Henry – The Gift of the Magi – There are many, many charming editions of this story, but you don’t need them. Clink the link for a nicely presented version you can read online or print out (only 6 pages). Click to access 1-the_gift_of_the_magi_0.pdf
- Clement C. Moore – The Night Before Christmas – What could be more classic! You can probably recite most or all of this and keep children mesmerized, but a book with pictures is fun too.
- Patricia Polacco – Gifts of the Heart and Christmas Tapestry – If you are unfamiliar with this writer, take this opportunity to meet her. Her engaging illustrations will lure you in, but her stories will enthrall your family.
- Barbara Robinson – The Best Christmas Pageant Ever – Even if you don’t have kids around, this one is good for some really good laughs.
- Cynthia Rylant – Silver Packages: An Appalachian Christmas Story – I love Rylant’s stories set in rural and backwoods areas, and this one of Christmases past won’t disappoint.
- Chris Van Allsburg – The Polar Express – Do you still hear the bells of Christmas?
- Susan Wojciechowski – The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey – Rich, almost sepia toned illustrations make me linger over each page of this book as I enjoy the story again and again.