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December 14, 2020

by Mary Joy Saludo

Nine months have passed since the COVID-19 quarantine began, and many have been stuck in their houses unable to physically meet with friends and family. Many celebrations like Halloween or Debut parties have been postponed as parties such as these are not allowed while the virus continues to spread around the world. Instead, some hold small parties in their homes with their family or roommates.

Many of us were indeed hoping that the lockdown would at least end by the end of the year. Students who have just finished classes for the year and workers who can begin to enjoy their holiday vacation were especially looking forward to a more normal Christmas day again. Unfortunately, instead, there hints the possibility of another lockdown in the Philippines by 2021 according to President Duterte because of the recent risk of spread of the new strain of the coronavirus disease that is 56%-70% more contagious. However, another lockdown is yet to be fully decided as he states that it will depend on the “severity on the number” of cases of the new variant of the SARS-COV-2.

Lots of people are unsure of how they will be able to celebrate their Christmas during this new normal, and many are also unsure if it would even be worth it to be celebrating at all during these difficult times where it does not feel like Christmas anymore and where so many have lost their jobs, businesses and their lives. Maybe the Christmas feeling just won’t be here for some people, but we should at least be able to celebrate the holidays and grieve however we choose or can. But of course, we have to do with the proper safety precautions.

We are all advised to stay home and celebrate with our family. We may be unable to meet physically but technology can connect us despite the social distancing. Family and friends can host parties and dinners through Zoom or other group video calling applications. We may not be together physically but rather we can be together in spirit. Some traditions can also be continued this year, such as Simbang Gabi, as there is an option for attending online mass at home through the church’s live streams or pre-recorded videos. Attending Simbang Gabi physically is allowed as well, as long as they follow the Department of Health’s released health guidelines to the public, such as face masks, physical distancing, limited people within the venue, etc. According to the DOH, in order to prevent overwhelming the health system capacity, the government has prepared a post-holiday surge.

One of the traditions of Christmas is to give and receive. Due to the pandemic, many parents can’t afford to buy their kids gifts for Christmas, and kids will continue to create their letters to Santa. One of the trending topics on Tiktok previously was the ability to “adopt kids’ Santa letters” and it’s called Operation Santa. This is a way for hundreds of “Santa” to help and reach as many families and children as possible, public relations for San Antonio with the USPS, Christina Moreno says. Due to the pandemic, they’ve decided to make Operation Santa and the children’s letters available digitally on the website Basically, the kids will write their letters to go to 123 Elf Road, North Pole 88888 which is “Santa’s address”, and millions of people can choose which kid they’ll be Santa for and also order their gift for delivery online. It’s one of the perfect ways to give this holiday season.

Several countries are doing their best to celebrate the holidays and maintain some traditions such as providing for the needy. For instance, in the United States, Massachusetts, sisters hosted a gathering for an international Christmas holiday dinner through Zoom with a dozen other sisters from Zambia, Italy, Romania, and Korea, and if not for the pandemic, it would include their different foods and dancing. In Ghana, the St. Louise Community of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul would normally gather 120 children in street situations to celebrate Christmas with them, but for this year, instead of gathering them, they decided that from December 20 to 22, they would cook food and share it with about 500 children and people on the main streets of Kumasi. Christmas traditions like these can still be done but must be adapted for this pandemic.

For some, like Jenn DeLeon, they believe it may also be better to be more low-key about the holiday season for the meantime anyway, especially when society puts more emphasis on the external aspects of Christmas such as the parties and the gifts rather than the internal aspects such as the family bonding, sharing, and traditions. We don’t need big parties, a huge guest list, or a giant feast in order to celebrate this season. Rather, we should make the best of what we have right now. Happiness expert Gretchen Rubin, author of Happier at home, says we need to think about the essence of the holiday for us and preserve it how we can. According to him, even if we’re not doing anything we’re used to, we just have to do what’s important to us even if it’s just setting up the holiday decorations or making special foods. Plus, this could be their chance to have a quieter or peaceful Christmas. Most importantly, for now, staying at home and be safe this holiday will not only ensure the safety of our families but also the safety of other families who are celebrating and gives respect towards our front liners and other victims of the virus.