There’s no escaping the fact that certain aspects of modern life as we know it have changed for the time being — and that includes how we celebrate. Thanksgiving and Christmas (and Hanukah and Kwanzaa) are coming up fast, and they are occasions traditionally dedicated to intimate gatherings with loved ones, including relatives and old comrades that we don’t see very often. Then there’s the generally excessive revelry of New Year’s Eve — an annual occasion that has heretofore leant itself to serious inebriation at close quarters during private gatherings or when packed together with the seething masses at public events as the clock winds down to midnight. Any of it sounds like a recipe for an outbreak. Are we looking at the most un-festive holiday season ever? Signs point to “Yes.”
For all intents and purposes, Halloween 2020 was cancelled or, at very least, recalibrated by sensible people to reduce social interaction so that trick-or-treat didn’t turn into sick-or-treat. Kiddies going door-to-door for sweets? A non-starter. Who knows where that Snickers bar has been — or who might have breathed on it? Halloween parties presented another set of challenges, starting with the unsanitary nature of apple-bobbing contests or sharing a carving knife when fashioning jack o’ lanterns. And that Cossack hat and goblin mask you wanted to wear as part of your topical Russian troll costume weren’t going to protect you as well as a trusty N95 surgical covering — especially not on a crowded dance floor.
I do know of at least one remote party that happened on October 31 via Zoom, giving attendees a chance to marvel at each other’s creative costuming and catch up on the latest gossip. But as far as I’m concerned, the only real benefit of a virtual Halloween is more limited distribution of the most horrible thing associated with this spookiest of nights: candy corn. The fewer of those insidious, artificially-flavored-but-somehow-tasteless triangles of congealed and hardened syrup, the better off all of us are.
With November here, many will have to deal with the urge to head home for a post-harvest congregation of gratitude and overeating, an impulse presumably encoded in the American psyche from an early age by the Butterball turkey company and those fiends who make and sell Ocean Spray cranberry sauce. The drive to consume copious amounts of the Great American Bird (white and dark meat), stuffing, and pie will have to somehow be quelled within our own (unroasted) breasts lest we potentially endanger ourselves and others at the big Thanksgiving feast. I know I don’t want to get infected just because I crave a side of my cousin’s garlic-sautéed Brussels sprouts. And I’d have a hard time enjoying next year’s repast if I thought I’d brought down my dear old aunt with a cough in her direction — or a belch.
YULE NEED TO BE CAREFUL
When it comes to Christmas and the rest of the December get-togethers, the usual gift-shopping expeditions amid frantic folks trying to get that perfect last-minute purchase have to be off the table. The risks are obvious — to the continued satisfaction of online retailers. And don’t get me started about the fa-la-la-la folly of taking the little ones to see a department-store Santa and sitting them down on the old guy’s lap. Those bearded, cherubic, relentlessly jolly bowls-full-of-jelly are either potential disease vectors breathing directly on an innocent child or imminent victims of tiny, snot-nosed carriers. Either way, it makes sense to avoid Santa’s Workshop this year. I mean, have those elves washed their tiny hands?
I suppose we can social-distance around the Yule log on Christmas Eve, but that depends on how good the ventilation is in your chosen hearth and home. Singing carols might be as much of a germ-spreader as sneezing, and honestly, I’m not comfortable with just anyone bringing me my figgy pudding. I’m not saying Christmas is cancelled. There will be mail-order presents delivered and Skype calls to those we care about as we continue to weather this strange situation. As for the question asked by the classic tune “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?,” the answer is that I’ll probably be sitting in the house by myself, watching a CGI simulation of the ball dropping in Times Square and pounding back a winter ale from some microbrewery as I nibble at a piece of leftover pecan pie from the Christmas dinner that was delivered a few days back by DoorDash. A chance encounter with a beautiful stranger at a New Year’s Eve party won’t be happening this December 31.
The virus that haunts us like some persistent, diseased ghost isn’t going to magically disappear so we can enjoy gluttony on Thanksgiving, exchange presents and quaff eggnog on Christmas, and share a kiss with an old or new acquaintance as we greet 2021. My advice is to hunker down, survive the end of the year as best as we can, and prepare for what’s ahead. We have a bit of a journey before we reach anything resembling normalcy. Hopefully, our next holiday season will be a little easier to navigate, and we’ll be able to celebrate together, in person, unrestricted.
Michael Snyder is a print and broadcast journalist who covers pop culture on “Michael Snyder’s Culture Blast,” via GABNet.net, Roku, Spotify, and YouTube, and “The Mark Thompson Show” on KGO radio. You can follow Michael on Twitter: @cultureblaster