Hard Talk About the Holidays

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With snow on the ground this week, Hubby’s and my thoughts have turned to the upcoming holidays. We have decided to play it safe this holiday season, be cautious, and stay home. Just the two of us. Yeah, it will be hard. But I’m not going to dramatize my situation. Or even call it a sacrifice. I’ll go so far as to say that it’s simply Hubby and me being sensible. It wasn’t even much of a decision. Just seemed to be the obvious choice, one that will benefit us down the road, and hopefully those with whom we might otherwise have come into contact. The hardest part for me is keeping my big mouth shut when I see others making different, and what I consider risky, choices. But their plans for the holidays are for them to decide. I do know that.

snow in the ground and in the fields makes us think of the holidays
With snow on the ground our thoughts turn to the upcoming holidays.

Hubby and I will attend no big holiday parties this year. Or any holiday parties. Of any size. In fact I very much doubt that any of our friends will be having holiday get togethers. We’ll miss seeing our friends. Of course we will. We haven’t seen most of them since this time last year because there were no summer dinners or parties.

I will miss our big “hockey party” in particular. I call it the hockey party because the hosts and most of the guests are our friends because of hockey. The guys played hockey with Hubby at one time or another over the many, many years that hockey was a big part of his life. This was always the highlight of the party season for me. Held in our friends’ beautiful log home with the whole hockey gang. These people have been our friends for so many years they’ve become like family. The food is always wonderful and plentiful, the wine flows, and there is carol singing, and just general conviviality. I’d have had my outfit planned for that event already.

But, you know, there will be other hockey parties, I’m sure. Other dinner parties. And summer potluck events at someone’s cottage. And think how great it will be to see everyone after such a long time. I’m sure I will be hoarse the next day because I’ve talked and laughed and never shut up all evening.

I won’t be meeting my girlfriends and former colleagues for our dress-up dinner party this year. One year, when we were bemoaning the lack of a staff Christmas party, which our husbands never really wanted to attend anyway, we invented the girls-only dress-up event. Which we’ve had every year since. But not this year. And that’s okay. I saw these girls a few times over the summer for physically distanced drinks and nibbles. The last time we sat on my deck laughing and watching the moon rise over the river. And we’ll do that again, I know, in the future.

This holiday season, we will not be sharing my homemade tourtière with my sister and her family at our house on Christmas Eve. Or enjoying a big turkey dinner with her family and friends at hers on Christmas Day. And this is definitely not the year to head home for the holidays. So we won’t be attempting the long drive down east to spend Christmas with my mum and visit other family, none of whom I’ve seen since last November. In fact there have been two new babies born in the past year, one into Hubby’s family and one into mine, that we’ve never seen. One little girl named Rachel born in New Brunswick is Mum’s great-great-granddaughter. Making me a great-great aunt.

This part of our decision is a bit harder, I’ll admit. My sister’s husband has Alzheimer’s disease, so Christmas will be lonely for her. And my mum, well, I’ve talked about that situation before. My mum, back home in New Brunswick, waits and waits for us, any of us girls, to be able to visit safely. But with all of us in Ontario where covid-19 cases are rising alarmingly, and my sister Connie in Toronto which is back in lock-down again, that won’t be happening soon. Every once in a while I have a little melt down and worry that she won’t be around when we are able to visit. But that doesn’t help anyone. She tells me on the phone that Christmas is only one day, one meal, that she is content, and except for her arthritis is healthy. But I know she’s very frail. And, well, I worry. And send books. Ha.

But we’ll hang tough. Make hard choices. And hope for good news in 2021. We really don’t mind too much. We’ll wear our masks, and cut out non-essential travel, and try to limit our contacts even more than we already do. We are trying to shop less, or at non-busy times, and even with masks on to avoid crowded places. We won’t be meeting friends or family for Christmas, or for any other holiday celebration. Not inside, and not outside without physically distancing and masks. Not unless we live with that person. Which of course, means that all of our dinners and celebrations will be for two. Just Hubby and me. And we’re lucky to have each other, I know.

We’re not alone in doing what we’re doing. All of the measures we’re taking have been asked of all of us. At least here in Ontario. I can’t speak for where you live. And I don’t see it as being too big a price to pay for curbing the spread of Covid-19. Not too high a price for the health of someone we love. And not to get dramatic about it because I said I wouldn’t… but… I don’t think staying at home during the holidays is too high a price to pay for the life of someone else. Maybe someone we love. Maybe someone we’ve never even met.

Yesterday on Facebook I read a health advisory about the current state of the pandemic issued by the government, and then stupidly stumbled into the comment section. The spouting of misinformation in the comments was astounding. But the comment of one person who quoted some ridiculously low number as the percentage of covid cases which resulted in a fatality, and said, in a cavalier tone, that travel or seeing family was “worth taking a risk with those odds,” shocked me. And it was really hard to click away and to not lash out in a comment of my own.

It was hard to keep my mouth shut and not try to reason with this person. Hard to not refer to crowded hospitals, and ICU units filled to capacity in many places. Hospitals that have had to delay other important treatment for people who don’t have covid to be able to treat the covid patients. Okay… I’m ranting, and I didn’t want to do that. Besides all this information is out there. Lots and lots of information from reputable sources. And it’s so easy to find, if people want to find it.

I know that we all live in different places in different situations. That it’s none of my business what you or anyone else does. Except, except… if it has an impact on my ninety-three year old mum. My friends, or their children, who have diabetes. Or the friend who is currently in cancer treatment. Or, well, you get the picture.

Okay, I’m done. It’s sunny outside, and there’s snow on the ground, and I’m going to go for a walk in my new winter boots. The sunshine and fresh, really fresh, air will be good for me. I will listen to a lovely podcast from Slightly Foxed. And breath deeply. Then I’ll come in and call my mum and we can talk books.

That won’t be hard to do at all.

Let's talk about our decision to stay home for the holidays.
A brisk walk in the sunshine is just what I need.

As usual, it’s your turn, my friends. Your thoughts and ideas are always welcome here.

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78 thoughts on “Hard Talk About the Holidays”

      1. Jackie Somerville

        Well said Sue … it certainly is a difficult choice to make for all of us , but it has to be this way this year … I look forward to an even bigger , better celebration next year with friends and family !!

  1. I’m really sorry you can’t get to see your mom. But, of course, you don’t need me to tell you you’re making the right choice.
    It’s the same on my side of the country (the edge of it! 😉 My “baby sister,” who always hosts the big family Christmas Eve gathering (three generations of our huge family), had actually booked party tents for her big yard, but cancelled them a few weeks when it became obvious that was no longer advisable, nor even appealing. For the last three weeks and probably at least the next three or four, we’re not allowed to socialize beyond our immediate household, not even outside unless we’re walking.
    In the place of that socializing, I’m taking Christmas cards more seriously again. Going to make a Christmas pudding for the first time ever (even if just the two of us will be eating it!), and currently contemplating how many lights and baubles it will take to make this place Festive to the Max! . . . I’ll stack the books higher, put some carols on Spotify, light all the candles, and put some mulled wine on the stove to heat. . .
    And I’m going to try not to read the Comments section on Facebook — aargh!

  2. I’m with you. We’re only gathering via Zoom this year. And yes, it’s frustrating just how much misinformation is circulating out there, and the concurrent pandemic of willful ignorance. But we can only do what we can do, and hope things turn around in 2021.

    1. Something just occurred to me, on reading your heartfelt post, with which I agree, and the comments here. We are all immigrants in our own countries right now. Think of the people coming to the West who celebrate the rites of Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Christian Orthodoxy, and even China, where the Spring Festival usually send an entire population home to their parents. They move here and cannot celebrate their holidays, fully. They cope, for the sake of their futures. Surely we can do the same. Thank you.

  3. We are staying home for our Thanksgiving and Christmas. It will be just the two of us. We will be Zooming with family – so thankful for that. We think it is for our safety and others. We listen to science and it is the only logical answer. I try not to get upset about other people making other choices, but it is hard. I am also thankful that our family all seem to feel as we do. Thank you, Sue, for your thoughtful post. ❤️

  4. Yes, yes, yes to everything you said. It certainly is hard, terribly hard when your circle or “pod” is a very tiny household or simply a household of one, but I couldn’t agree more that doing what is safe for those we know and don’t know feels like a very reasonable choice, a choice that means we may be able to gather again sometime in 2021. And the possibility of saving a life? Of saving many lives? And of protecting the physical and mental health of the doctors, nurses, respiratory therapist, and all the other parts of the support system keeping Covid patients alive? How is it possible not to be willing to do that? At the very least by wearing a mask and social distancing, and better still at this time of year, by not traveling.

    I have watched a number of interviews of Thanksgiving holiday travelers on TV in the past day or two – the Thanksgiving holiday is this week in the US — and primarily younger people are being interviewed, wearing masks, but dragging their luggage through a line at the airport. You can hear the emotion in their voices as they talk about how long it has been since they have seen parents or siblings and how desperately they just need to see family. They just need a hug. Many of these young people are, most likely, college or graduate students or others in their 20s who, as it is, may only see family once or twice a year.

    And I get it. My only real family consists of my two sons in their 20s. Neither lives anywhere near me. And I haven’t seen either one since Christmas day last year. But I absolutely cannot imagine putting them or others they might encounter at risk. Nor do I want them inadvertently putting me at risk. They both have other people in their “pods” – both have flatmates – and I think they will be fine at the holidays. I know they will do what they can texting or calling or waving hello through some sort of little screen, and yes it will be hard. But it is the sensible and right thing to do. At least, that’s what I believe with all my heart.

    I’m sure you and your sister both will find ways to make your mother feel loved and missed. That will be so important, which of course you know. We mothers always put up a brave face around our children; I do when I communicate with mine. And keeping your distance for the holidays from your 93-year-old mom is, without question, an act of love that she will certainly understand.

    xo
    D.A.

  5. Yes, it is hard for so many people including my husband’s 80+ year old aunt. We are lucky, though. Both our children live alone and work from home, so they will be visiting for Thanksgiving and Christmas since their status allows them to visit in our state. We are retired and only leave the house for essentials. Whenever I run into folks who complain about wearing a mask in public, I tell them that my grandmother had two toddlers and an infant during the Spanish Flu and my grandfather was a pharmacist who kept his store open six days a week, so I think I can handle a mask for a little while…No one has ever responded to me after that. Carol in VT

    1. It’s interesting that you should say that. My grandmother was also a young mother during the 1918-1920 epidemic – two toddlers at home, not quite a year apart. Apparently there was a stream of hearses going past their house and she went into a deep depression. I have thought of her often this year. It reminds me that we need to love our neighbors by doing everything we can to protect them – and ourselves – from the virus.

    1. Good point. The mean and nasty insults made on social media aimed at politicians are often way over the top. I saw Bonnie Henry from B.C. last night on television, and both Stu and I commented that she looked exhausted.

  6. There is not much I could possibly add to you insightful post. I get so infuriated when people flaunt their belief that they are not at risk so therefore there is no need to infringe on their rights. I want to explode or perhaps strangle the idiot. There is one person in my extended family that believes all the ‘crap’ out there just because it is on the internet and feels this is just the flu. I cannot bear to speak to him anymore. It is just two of us this year as well, and I am planning to double up on the decorations and watch all the shows I can. Good for you, and thank you. Stay well. It is not such a hardship for a bit longer.

  7. Well said. Once again our thoughts are in synch. We also will be alone this Christmas, and I will be so missing my lovely gang of rambunctious grandchildren, and all the happy celebrations with neighbors and friends and family. I will be sad, but know in my heart that it is the only thoughtful course of action. Perhaps this is the Christmas when we really have time to reflect on the reason for the season.

  8. Hmmm…..maybe send your Mom an “Advent Calendar”…..but not the usual sort. Pack up and number small packages that have one thing in them for each day until Christmas…..things like her favourite soap, jar/pkg of olives, favourite candy, etc. This will give you something to talk about each day after she opens her treat.
    JUST SO DAMN HARD this year and missing so many people and events “sigh”

  9. Yes, it is very hard. It will be just my husband and me this year for both Thanksgiving (US) and Christmas. No kids and grandkids, No extended family. But I tell myself that it’s just one year. We do it so we can celebrate for many years to come. I am grateful we live in an area where we have beautiful places to walk and a cozy house that we love. We are retired and financially secure. We just need to hang in there until we have a vaccine. But it’s not easy! I plan to read some good books, decorate simply for Christmas and enjoy a London Fog by the fire.

  10. it is so difficult to not see family and friends but it will hopefully be worth it. we are very lucky here in australia now – although in victoria we had several months in total lockdown – we now have officially no cases at all here and hardly any in australia as a whole. hang in there – it will end..

  11. That’s so tough. Our government made some very hard decisions, and we were in lockdown for 112 days. Only allowed out for an hour a day, masks, not allowed to see anyone , cafes, bars, all non essential shops shut. It was really tough, but we stuck the course. There were no personal decisions to be made, which made it easier. Stay strong.

  12. Your post & the comments have made me feel quite emotional . Here in a ‘tourist city’ we have felt very threatened by selfish visitors during total lockdown . People who can’t cope with their boredom & travel from areas with high COVID numbers to wander around our small city where we have managed to keep the numbers low . We had the very first two cases in the UK , foreign visitors via the local university , but the cases were handled well & it didn’t take off . I think we residents learnt from that & have done our very best to be sensible . Not so the visitors , so we stay home .
    Latest instructions nationally are that we are allowed to mix freely with with two other households over the five day Xmas period . I guess there will be more info on who can or cannot travel at all until we are all once again thoroughly confused & some just do their own thing . The scientists are not happy . We always spend 25th & 26th with my two sisters & their families at one of our homes . At the end of her life mum asked us to try do this as she was worried the family might drift apart . There’s been nearly seventy Christmas get togethers now but she’d tell us to stay home this year & we will . I feel sorry for those totally alone or missing family members but we can see an end to this now . It isn’t worth the risk to everyone .
    So our inside decs will be going up early as a special treat & the front of the house will be draped with twinkly white lights to cheer passers by . Max was recovering from an op last Xmas so ladders were banned & we didn’t twinkle ( that’s an improvement then ) I’ve got some new veggie recipes to try for Christmas lunch , the dog will get his usual walk & there will be Zoom . We are thinking of a ‘ post vaccine party ‘ next year to include new friends from our family & friend Zoom quizzes . Stay safe everyone .

    1. I’ve heard about the confusing rules over there. Same here too. We’ve changed to colour levels, and then they changed the meaning of the colour levels. So it’s hard to keep up with. We’ve just gone back to what we were doing in April. We had lightened up a bit over the summer, but then I worried that we were getting a bit slack. I love the idea of a “post vaccine” party. Not sure that some of my friends will be able to recognize me now that I’m all white haired. Oh… forgot that they will know that if they read my blog. Ha.

  13. The joy of watching our President-Elect and Vice-President-Elect already hard at work during the Transition period (finally ascertained!) makes up for some loss of Family/Friend interaction during the upcoming holidays.
    I, too, have an independent ninety-three year old mother who will be isolating for our Thanksgiving. It will just be hubby, me, and an 11 lb. turkey, acutely aware that we are blessed even as we isolate…well, maybe not the turkey.

  14. I’m with you on that all! What a thoughtful post….
    I’m wearing masks from March,staying at home…..It is sad to be separated and stay at home all the time,but I don’t see it as sacrifice,there is nothing so valuable as lives and health,for our nearest and dearest as well as for unknown or medicine stuff.
    Your mother is a great lady!
    Dottoressa

  15. Thanks for your post, Sue! I feel for you, but you’re doing the right thing for everyone concerned. So hard not seeing your mum. 2021 will be easier by all accounts with a vaccine.
    Living in Brisbane, Australia, we are so lucky COVID-19 wise. The unlucky ones are those trying to get back to Australia from overseas. Not enough flights at an affordable price.
    Enjoy your holiday time. I loved Lauren’s idea of the Advent Calendar for your mum.
    Keep writing your blog. It’s terrific.

    1. Don’t feel bad for me. We’re fine. I just have the odd wobble. Must be hard to be from Australia and not be able to get back home where it’s much safer than other places.

  16. I feel the same way. With permission now granted in England for families to get together over a five day period – imagine the traffic and travelling nightmares – I was on the point of telling my children not to come home because, frankly, too risky. But they had already rung home to say: we’re staying put, not worth it. So Zoom it will be for the two of us and I caught Mr Green asking Susan if she wanted a Christmas hat this year. Poor cat. Pray for me…

  17. Thank you so much for your blog. As usual, your post reassures me that there are many out there who think as I do. It has been so helpful, during this extended isolation, to be able to read your blog, and not feel so alone. When my husband and I eat our Thanksgiving dinner, your blog will be one of the things I am thankful for. I hope we all have wonderful holidays, and that our internet connections work when we need them to!

  18. I enjoyed reading your thoughts this morning.I am missing my mom as well. She is quarantined in Nebraska and I am in Florida. My brother can only see her once a week. We talk often but it is so hard, especially now. I also fight the feelings of loss this time of year, having lost one of my sons six years ago. The holidays have never been the same. My husband and I manage to get through together and have grown stronger and closer to our other son. Life is always throwing curveballs at us and we just have to decide how we are going to take them.❤️

    1. I can imagine after the loss of your son that holidays changed forever. A good friend of mine lost her 14 year old son four years ago about this time. I’ve been thinking of her a lot this week.

  19. I agree with every thing you have said, Sue. And, I celebrate and am thankful that I still live in a free society, where we get to think for ourselves and make our own choices. It is no small luxury. Wishing you and Hubby a safe and healthy holiday!

  20. I also agree. Luckily most of my friends and family and I agree, but in talking to younger people they do not seem to have the same support of friends. I feel sorry for them because they are still working, or not working and struggling and do not have the support group of fiends that I have.

    1. I just read an article about the “underground party scene” in New York and wish I hadn’t. It’s hard for young people to adhere to the rules when their friends are all breaking them.

  21. Thank you for your blog. My husband and I are alone together also. Seems like a small price to pay for our continued health. As a retired nurse, I get very frustrated with the selfishness that is exhibited. Hope you both have a good holiday and thanks for stating the situation so succinctly- Mary Lou

  22. I was feeling terrible that one of my sons would be all alone tomorrow – reading this helped, as did his unprompted comment that he was so relieved that his father and I were taking this whole thing so seriously and that unlike many of his friends he at least doesn’t have to worry about us doing something stupid.

    So this post is quite timely for me. We’ll be by ourselves tomorrow but at least we won’t feel like terrible parents!

    ceci

  23. We live in Toronto and are doing the same. Yes, I will miss seeing others but not too much.
    My husband and I enjoy each other’s company and I love to cook so we will have all the trimmings and leftovers and be very happy not to have to go out.

  24. Thank you for every single word you’ve written – this is is such a great post . I’m doing exactly the same and we’re not seeing family, our children and two grandchildren, one a new baby, or friends over Christmas. Of course, this is not the advice from our government. Our great leader (Boris Johnson) is saying that up to 3 households can mix and visit for 5 days over Christmas. I think this is disgraceful as the virus doesn’t know it’s Christmas and the numbers of cases and deaths in the UK are still high. Just as we have some good news and a vaccine is nearly with us, we are being encouraged to visit each other indoors where it is so risky. It will be so very sad not to see our family but in possibly only a few months we will be able to meet and hug each other – let’s wait and be safe. Thanks again – it’s been so good to see your views on this.

    1. Thanks, Penny. I hear you. So unwise to open the flood gates, even a little, just now. I’d not risk it either. You might have seen that two other readers from your side of the pond agree with you.

  25. It’ll be just the two of us this year … no family visits. We’ll eat and drink festively over the two days and spend a great deal of time on the phone speaking to all and sundry. We’re both knocking on and I do feel aggrieved that we are losing some of the remaining time we have together, but hey things could be so much worse!

    I love the idea of the advent presents. I’m sure your mum would love them! Take good care of yourselves!

  26. Living in Tennessee with the high COVID infection/death rate in our city/state and hospitals at capacity, plus being 67, I agree completely with you! Our generation and our parent’s generation grasp the concept of sacrifice for greater good. There is also a benefit to staying home alone this Thanksgiving/Christmas: avoiding the dining table political minefield so soon after the presidential election!

  27. We’ve made the same hard choices as you have. In 44 years of marriage, this will be the first time that hubby and I are home alone together for Christmas! It seems the only sensible thing to do. Out here in Alberta our Covid numbers are skyrocketing. The Premier declared a state of public health emergency yesterday and absolutely no social gatherings are allowed for at least three weeks. I fully expect that it will go on longer than that. Like you, I am so frustrated (angered) by the naysayers and spreaders of false information. Whatever happened to calamity drawing people together? It certainly hasn’t happened here. 🙁

  28. I only recently discovered your wonderful blog and am glad to join a community of like-minded people. In a forum like this, we can all hang in there together safely. Thank you.

  29. This made me tear up as nothing else has. Which is odd when you present such a clear-headed, non-self-pitying case. Let’s hope that next year is better. One thing I’ve learned is that there isn’t “always next year.”

    There’s an Instagram account called “Chic in Acedmia.” The woman is an epidemiologist, and early on was able to present facts. I’ve seen only a few fashion pictures, mostly throwback! Anyway, I think it was she who posted a series of “when you say” “what I hear is” (in regards to the pandemic). I used that when you were talking about FB comments. It doesn’t defuse the anger, but it does help me to see more clearly.

  30. Came to this post late. You are 100% correct. But still it’s hard. We are restricting ourselves even more than you do, as the only places we go into are doctors’ offices. Everything else is delivered. I cheered up a little yesterday when I realized I could buy Christmas wreaths online. My husband thinks we should not get a Christmas tree, as I’d have to go inside briefly to pay for it. I’m still trying to decide if it’s worth the tiny risk, or if it’s best just to make do without one. Looking forward to the day when we can get the vaccine and hoping that will allow us to feel comfortable around other people.

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