COVID-19 Can’t Stop the Magic of the Holiday Season
PUBLISHED: Monday, November 9, 2020

COVID-19 Can’t Stop the Magic of the Holiday Season

COVID-19 has fundamentally altered many of the social and cultural aspects of our lives over the last year, and it looks like the winter holiday season is going to follow that trend. Almost all our traditions will be impacted; some will change to suit the needs of the time and others will have to be postponed until next year. We’ll probably be experiencing more of our cherished moments through screens and speakerphones this year. But whatever form they might take this year, we’ll still have our celebrations and get to enjoy the company of loved ones. That part will be the same as it always has.

Travel, without a doubt, will be the biggest difference between this holiday season and those past. Many Americans typically visit loved ones or go on vacations during the holiday months (or sometimes combine the two and take large family trips), but this year looks to be a marked change. On one hand, experts are broadly warning that massive amounts of travel—especially by communal methods like airplane, train, and bus—is likely to increase spread of the virus. On the other hand, many of those same experts are advising us, especially high-risk individuals like the elderly and the immune-compromised, to avoid congregating with friends and family. The effect is a double-whammy. Going to visit Grandma is dangerous for all of us and having dinner with the extended family is dangerous for her (and Grandpa, Uncle Auggie, Aunt Verna, and so on).

It goes without saying, then, that very large, non-familial gatherings are almost entirely out of the question. Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, for example, is being reimagined as a scaled-down, broadcast-only affair—no live audience, balloon handlers, or large marching bands. New York City’s famed New Year’s Eve celebration will also be held virtually. Times Square won’t be packed shoulder-to-shoulder with its iconic crowds as 2020 rolls over into 2021. Numerous other beloved holiday traditions across the country have suffered the same fate and been retooled or rescheduled entirely. While it’s unquestionably the right series of decisions to make from a public health perspective, it’s still unfortunate because it further robs so many of us of a taste or normalcy.

Ultimately, though, the fact that we’re willing to change so much about our habits to keep what we can of our traditions speaks volumes about the resilience of our holiday spirit. For most of us, it would be far easier to give up on seeing Grandpa on Christmas than to walk him through the process of joining a video call. It would undoubtedly be easier for Macy’s to cancel its 95th Thanksgiving Day Parade than to deploy a fleet of robots to help wrangle giant balloons, but they’re going with the robots anyway. The holiday season might look different his year, sure. But that magic, electric feeling that makes the world feel a little bit nicer will be in full effect.