Pandemic forces modifications to Christmas traditions

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Maya Brazil

An isolated Hillsdale Mall displays their annual Christmas tree. “I have been to many places that were crowded last Christmas, now they are deserted,” Bols said, “Hillsdale Mall has been much less crowded this Christmas season.”

As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb, people are contemplating how they will spend their Christmas season and how closely they will adhere to safety guidelines.

With the upcoming holiday season, many people are anticipating the spread of COVID-19. Hailey North, a sophomore, explained why she is expecting the spread.

“I think all holidays, especially Christmas, are a threat to COVID-19 safety because people tend to gather together for holidays,” North said.

Christmas is an annual holiday filled with many festivities. According to Pew Research, 90% of Americans celebrate Christmas, making it one of the most celebrated holidays in the country.

Within the large portion of people that celebrate Christmas, there is a variety of traditions. North described her typical Christmas season during past years. 

“I always celebrate Christmas! Christmas day I spend with my family, but the week before, I spend time with friends and extended family doing a variety of activities such as ice skating, making Christmas cookies, and looking at the beautiful Christmas lights on homes,” North said.

At the beginning of 2020, sophomore Noel Lim planned on celebrating Christmas with her family, typical to any other year. 

“I usually spend Christmas at my house or one of my cousin’s houses. My immediate family, my cousins, and my grandparents on my mom’s side come to celebrate together,” Lim said. “Typically, there are at least 16 people there, sometimes more. We usually eat lots of food and exchange Christmas presents.” 

 Now, Lim is among the many people whose holiday traditions must be modified to accommodate the pandemic. 

“This is the first year where I don’t think my family will be celebrating Christmas together. We canceled our plans because of the pandemic,” Lim said. “COVID-19 is something I am really worried about because some of my family members have health issues and complications, so it could be really severe if they got COVID-19.” 

North explained how her Christmas season would differ from previous years.

“COVID-19 has impacted everything. Many of my family’s Christmas traditions won’t be able to happen … because of social distancing, precautions in sharing homemade food, and other recommendations to stop the spread of COVID-19,” North said.

 Zoe Starace, a freshman, explained how safety precautions would influence her Christmas. 

“I think the only way that COVID-19 will impact my Christmas is by not being able to see family during the holidays. It will also make Christmas shopping difficult,” Starace said.

Despite the many people whose Christmas traditions are affected by the pandemic, some see no difference between this year’s holiday season and any other year. Sophomore Savannah Bols explained why this Christmas would not be abnormal for her family. 

“I usually don’t see many people around Christmas time because most of my family lives in different places around the world. I usually just see my parents and my grandma, so it won’t be any different this year. Basically, COVID-19 will not impact my Christmas, for the most part,” Bols said. “I will just be seeing my parents and my grandma like I do every year.”

Another aspect of Christmas and overall life that has been modified are shopping procedures. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises people to wear masks in public settings, maintain six feet of social distance from each other, and clean their hands frequently. Bols defined her Christmas shopping strategy for the upcoming season.

“I am doing all my Christmas shopping online this year because of COVID-19. Usually, I go in-person shopping because shopping online for gifts is much harder since you’re not exactly sure what you are getting, but shopping online is the safer option,” Bols said.

Bols also voiced her opinions of large gatherings and parties, which pose an increased risk of spreading COVID-19.

“I am definitely worried about COVID-19 spreading because there are going to be people who visit their families and friends during Christmas and the holiday season. We just had a huge surge in cases from Thanksgiving, so another surge may happen after Christmas, but maybe even bigger,” Bols said, “It is imperative that we take precautions this holiday season. Especially in San Mateo County, where we just entered the COVID-19 purple tier.”

Starace expressed her concern for the spread of COVID-19 to older relatives during the holidays.

“I am worried about COVID-19 spreading during the holidays because I know many people see friends and family, and that will definitely spread COVID-19. Since many people have grandparents over to celebrate the holidays, I am worried that they will get COVID-19 because they are in a high-risk category due to their age,” Starace said.

Lim described the difference between COVID-19 precautions in indoor versus outdoor settings.

“People are taking precautions in outdoor and public spaces because they feel pressured, but it is really hard to monitor what people are doing indoors. For personal and family events, I don’t think people are necessarily prioritizing their own safety and the safety of others, and it’s pretty hard to stop people from celebrating if they have parties in their house,” Lim said. ”I am worried that some people may have Christmas parties despite the pandemic … Overall, I definitely think that Christmas could be a threat to COVID-19.”

Neal Chopra, a freshman at Sacred Heart High School, compared the increase in COVID-19 cases around Thanksgiving to the possible increase during the Christmas season.

“I am worried about rising cases. According to a statistic, 56 million people traveled during Thanksgiving in 2019, and in the week of Thanksgiving in 2020, 50 million people traveled. This shows how some people do not really care about other people’s health, nor do they care about the pandemic. Therefore, no one really knows what will happen during Christmas,” Chopra said.

Chopra addressed his modified Christmas travel plans.

“COVID-19 will heavily affect our Christmas travel because we were planning on going somewhere in Europe for the holidays, but since planes and traveling overseas aren’t safe, we canceled our trip. However, we are lucky enough to be able to go on a road trip to Tahoe,” Chopra said.

 Sophomore Swaraali Save commented on the travel aspect of the Christmas season.

“People generally meet up with family or travel during the holidays. Most years, my family goes on vacation during winter break too,” Save said. “I definitely think Christmas will be different because of COVID-19; family and gathering is a big part of it, and lots of people won’t be able to meet their families this year due to safety concerns and travel restrictions.” 

Bols examined the risk that neglecting health and safety guidelines during the holiday season could bring. 

“Overall, Christmas could cause a huge surge in COVID-19 cases if people are not cautious. Even though there are a lot of restrictions being put in place, many people do not abide by them, so only time will tell how the Christmas season will interact with COVID-19,” Bols said.

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