The Possibility of a Merry Covid Christmas
All the bummers coming up this holiday season, and a modest proposal for a silver lining
No matter one’s faith or lack thereof, the holidays come for us all, and this year they will come with a vengeance. It’s impossible to know exactly how the Covid-19 pandemic will play out over the next four months, but barring an unexpectedly rapid release of a widely adopted vaccine, the 2020 holiday season is likely to look very different from what we’re used to. Prepare for modified or canceled Thanksgiving travel plans, Hanukkah dinners on Zoom, outdoor Christmas services, and more Santa-themed PPE than any of us can bear.
Time passes in strange ways during a pandemic — the holiday season seems far away now, but it will be here before we know it. Stephen Higgins, president of the Maine Christmas Tree Association, is already shearing and tagging trees to cut down this winter, and he’s not worried that people will quit buying them this year. “From the few people I’ve talked to so far, there’s a sense that people are going to want to come out and get a Christmas tree,” he says. “They need a light at the end of the tunnel.”
But the act of shopping for a Christmas tree will surely be different. The National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA) has circulated guidelines to its members for how best to prevent the spread of Covid-19 among customers and workers — some familiar to retailers who’ve already instituted sanitization and foot-traffic protocols, but some specific to the Tannenbaum trade. At cut-your-own locations, which often offer Santa visits as well, the NCTA suggests that Santas appear “either on closed circuit TV or live at a distance,” rather than having children sit on St. Nick’s lap. Similar Santa restrictions are likely to be in place at other venues like shopping malls and town greens; there’s no way to social distance while sitting on someone’s lap.
Good luck to parents who have to explain to their children how Santa can safely deliver presents to millions of households without becoming the ultimate superspreader.