Tuesday, November 24, 2020

A Holiday Season Unlike Any Other

 Here we are, at the beginning of America’s unofficial six-week long Holiday Season. Thanksgiving Day is Thursday of this week, and on Sunday the liturgical season of Advent begins. Then at the end of December the two big holidays of Christmas and New Year’s occur. However, this is 2020, the year when nothing is normal. And our traditional holiday festivities are going to be quite different compared to anything we’ve experienced in recent times.

I remember when the Coronavirus appeared back in March. One so-called expert on TV said this virus, like most flu viruses, would just fizzle out when the warm weather of summer arrived. Well, that never happened. Another expert predicted the virus would not be under control until an effective vaccine was developed, which might take 12 to 18 months. Unfortunately, it seems like this is the way things are panning out.
Anyway, the pandemic surely has altered our way of life in unprecedented ways. This holiday season will be a prime example. Health officials advise that people should not gather in large groups for Thanksgiving dinner this year. Only members of the same household should dine together. So, for the first time since the horse knew the way to carry the sleigh to grandmother’s house over the river and through the woods, large extended family gatherings will not be taking place. There will not be houses full of people feasting on turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie, and football games on big-screen TVs. (Back in colonial times, when folks traveled by sleigh to grandmother’s house, obviously they did not watch football games on big-screen TVs. Instead, they streamed the games on their iPads.)

This means the recommended Thanksgiving feast this year will be with two or four or maybe five people at most. Or in a lot of cases, one person. Don’t forget: there are plenty of Americans, especially among the elderly, who live alone these days.

The same goes for other cherished holiday traditions, such as Christmas shopping, workplace holiday parties, Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Eve celebrations. With the cancellation of office parties and New Year’s Eve parties, at least there should be a reduction in DUI arrests and liver damage. However, a different kind of damage is being inflicted by this COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s only going to get worse during the holidays. I’m referring to emotional damage, as the social isolation we’ve endured the past eight months will be magnified during the Christmas season.
For many people, the time period from Thanksgiving through New Year’s is the only opportunity they have to see their loved ones face-to-face. It’s a fact that a lot of people now live and work far from their original hometown.

Because this is 2020 — the year when nothing is normal — the holiday season also will be anything but normal. A lot of folks are just starting to realize that they will not see many of their loved ones in person this year, and this realization is increasing the emotional damage already inflicted by the pandemic.

As Catholic Christians, it is our duty to comfort those in distress. This year, some of the distressed people in our society very well may be our own relatives. Since it is risky to see them in person, we have to do the next best thing: pick up the phone and give them a call.
In his letter to the Ephesians in the Bible, St. Paul wrote, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called” (Eph. 4:4).

St. Paul used the word “called” twice, and I think it’s pretty obvious he was referring to telephone calls. Because there is one Spirit and because all believers make up one body, it is imperative that we call our lonely relatives during this holiday season. See? That’s irrefutable proof right from the Bible.
And don’t forget, if you take the time to phone relatives and cheer them up, God will reward you. In Romans, it says, “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Rom. 11:29). But keep this in mind: if God does call you, don’t let it go to voicemail.

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