Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

A family lights an Advent wreath at their Maryland home in 2019. (CNS photo/Tom McCarthy Jr., Catholic Review)

Holidays bring hope, even in a pandemic

By SAMANTHA SMITH, Staff Writer | Published November 10, 2020

I stopped in a Michael’s Store recently, and noticed that the Christmas decorations were already stacking the shelves in front of the store. At first I was excited–wow, Christmas is coming soon! But quickly worry set in, because this Christmas will be like never before. 

This year has been a challenge for all of us and filled with unexpected change, more than I’m sure any of us wanted. As we continue to navigate the coronavirus, we’ve been kept away from friends and family, juggled work and school classes from home and dealt with ongoing pandemic and election news. We’ve had birthdays, graduations, baby showers and weddings–none looking or feeling as we thought or planned.

We are now able to attend Mass, but it looks and feels different. Some Masses are in churches with limited seating, while others are outdoors, factoring in the weather. Either way, we must distance ourselves from one another, which includes not holding hands during the Our Father and no hugs during the Sign of Peace. Some haven’t received communion since March, in fear of catching the virus and to protect others.

Many have lost jobs and are struggling to make ends meet each month. Many have buried loved ones without being able to hug or see family and friends in their time of grief. And some are limited to a window as they wave at a loved one in a nursing home. 

And as this difficult year continues, we now approach the holiday season–what we have known to be a time of fellowship, family, traditions, gatherings, love and community. And again, we will be asked to reimagine holidays many hold so dear to their hearts. We will adapt and change as we have throughout this year, making the best of what we can. 

It has warmed my heart and kept me hopeful to see the many creative celebrations throughout the year. Birthdays, baby showers and retirement parties have become drive-by celebrations, where family and friends decorate their cars and drop off gifts. Parties and hangouts with friends have moved online to video chat programs, such as Zoom and Google Hangouts. Outdoor and livestream Masses bring us closer together to God and our spiritual community. 

With all this resilience and creativity, I am reminded that we will find a way to navigate this holiday season as well. 

A few holiday parties may move online, but can still include fun and easy games. Your house at Thanksgiving may be filled with less people, but provides more time for your family to share what they are thankful for this year. An Advent wreath and calendar can become new or renewed traditions in your home. 

One of the best things we can do this holiday season is bring joy to others. The Christmas lights in your front yard can bring joy to a child in your neighborhood who is having a tough time in school. Donating food or a meal for Thanksgiving could bring a family in need closer together, bringing relief from the worry and stress of finding food. Giving a new toy or clothes to a child whose parents are struggling financially is not only a gift for the child, but also a reminder of what it means to give to our brothers and sisters in Christ. 

This year, we have all been stretched in one way or another. We may have lost a trip we were looking forward to, time spent with friends or even just being able to gather and share in one another’s company. 

But there is always hope. 

Hope for a vaccine, so we no longer have the threat of the coronavirus. Seeing loved ones in person for the first time in months. Celebrating milestones in large gatherings, such as weddings and new babies. Attending concerts and festivals together. Even holding each other’s hand during the Our Father and sharing a hug at the Sign of Peace during Mass. 

The holidays are a reminder of our creativity and hopefulness as people of faith. We may lose some of our traditions this year, but we are also making space to create new ones. As we navigate this upcoming season, my hope is that we have a renewed sense of joy and hope–not just into the new year, but for many years to come. 

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