As the holidays are upon us, all is quiet like never before. No overpriced trips in decorated hotels, no frosted Disneyland for some Christmas cheer, no drunk relatives from out of state, no scheduled arguments about family affairs, and no overcrowded malls blasting “Jingle Bells.” For the first time in our lives, everything about this holiday season is as irregular as can be. Of course, the first stop can be frustration and disappointment: there is nothing to do, nowhere to go; some of our older relatives may have to spend their holidays alone, and most likely, there will be no mass congregations in temples and churches.
But perhaps we can find meaning in the quiet — or should I say, regain the meaning of quiet — this year. When we cheered for 2020, I told myself this was the year of focus, 20/20 vision; this was the year when things would come into clarity and gain direction. Yet what ensued was global chaos and confusion, crowned by unprecedented elections, and as the days of 2020 are dwindling, its claustrophobic grip on our day-to-day lives has culminated in a second shutdown. It only makes sense that a year of so much turmoil should end with some quiet.
Over the years, our holidays have become so commercialized that we have lost the sight of what it truly is all about. We talk about it every year and find ourselves falling prey to the same pressures and traps as the year before. We ignore the reasons why we take a break and why we come together, and when it’s all said and done, we return back to our daily grind — exhausted, broke, and happy it’s over. We are the Grinch that steels Christmas from ourselves on an annual basis, thinking this is what it means to grow up. We overwork all year to meet the pressures of the holiday season, be it financial or familial. Some of us have had to work overtime to meet the demands of the frenzied calendar. In the year of the great pandemic, however, we get to reclaim our stolen holidays and find gratitude in this unusual circumstance.
If nothing else, the trials and tribulations of this year have revealed to us who and what really matters in our lives. We have been gifted forced rest and a reassessment of how we function. This is a holiday season when you just get to stay home and relax. It’s a season when you don’t have to rack up credit card debt you’ll be repaying for the first half of the coming new year. We can take this opportunity to finally put our money where our mouth is and support local businesses and our local community. Since no one wants to stand in wraparound lines at commercial shopping malls, you can buy the jams your neighbor next door made for the winter or masks your girlfriend sews. You can finally pick the fruits from your lemon tree instead of letting them go to waste and share your curd with friends who are stuck at home just like you. 2020 is the year your kids use the Amazon boxes to build sets for a living room production instead of begging you for more money to go on fun fair rides and have another round of cotton candy.
This year, whoever loves and misses you gets to just join your Zoom call and not guilt you for not being there. It’s a year you unearth your old Monopoly set and share recipes with friends instead of worrying about ordering a turkey big enough to feed a battalion of judgmental savages that devour your kitchen and leave you with an overflowing sink full of china that has to be handwashed.
Last but not least, this year, introverts and lonely people are not the only ones left alone with their thoughts. And so, let’s take this time to notice our thoughts. Let’s pay attention not to the size of our Christmas decorations but the size of our hearts. Let’s take time to reflect. What have we learned? What have we conquered? Who have we helped? Who/what came closer and who/what became distant? What gifts can be shared that aren’t bought and wrapped in disposable paper? When coronavirus came to steel Christmas, it gifted us a chance to see clearly again into our future. This is the first year in our lives we collectively get to take time and make note of what it’s like to be us with no distractions. These are the gifts of this moment, and they make 2020 a year to remember. spt