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Christmas 2020

December 17, 2020

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Yuletide is supposed to be a time of joy, peace, and goodwill. Christmas 2020, however, will be a Christmas like none we’ve seen in more than a century.  Medical experts warn that we are facing a frigid, dark, brutal winter as the Coronavirus expands its frightful death march across the country.

More than 300,000 American families are mourning the deaths of their loved ones from Covid-19.  Millions of Americans have lost their jobs and their livelihoods as the pandemic hurtles into its tenth month. Millions more are hungry and have been forced into miles-long queues at food banks. Many can’t pay their rent and are joining the ranks of the homeless.

 Christmas choral events and religious ceremonies are mostly happening on Zoom. Yule parties – except those at the White House and State Department — have been cancelled.  No one is flying to New York to see Macy’s windows gussied up for the holidays or to watch the Rockettes perform their impossibly high kicks.  Family get-togethers to exchange gifts and eat heartily will be, or should be, few and far-between this December.   

 If people continue to ignore the pleadings of Dr. Anthony Fauci and other health experts to wear a mask, social distance, and wash hands, this holiday season will presage yet another major surge of sickness and death in January and February, before vaccines become widely available.

The Grinch is no match for this lethal virus

As this accursed year of 2020 draws to a close, I write a lot, read a lot, bake a lot, shop a little (mostly online), walk most every morning with my walking buddy of 20 years, chat with friends by phone or Zoom, see my children and grandchildren from time to time on our screened back porch, and search for good streaming shows to watch on TV with my husband.

Plus, there’s one more thing:  I find myself escaping to the sappy Christmas movies that I used to laugh at in the before-times. What better way to remember Christmas Past, I tell myself, than to watch the parade of Yule films on Lifetime or Hallmark or Netflix that seem to be available 24/7 during the holidays?

I mostly watch these films on Lifetime, the cable channel that is partly owned by Disney and aimed at female viewers. All these Christmas movies have a similar theme: handsome boy (usually white and straight) meets pretty girl (ditto).  Girl eventually convinces boy (or, less often, boy convinces girl) that the magic of Christmas actually exists and that one need only fully embrace it to be happy.  Difficulties inevitably ensue, but love triumphs in the end as boy and girl end up kissing under the mistletoe or perhaps taking a romantic sleigh ride in the snow. (Most of these films seem to be made in New England.)  And here is the best part: If I have to go into another room to do a chore during the film, I know that I’ll catch the happy ending if I haul myself back to the TV screen for the last seven minutes.

Viewers get to see cheery people ice-skating and sledding and making snow angels and drinking eggnog, all unmasked and greatly enjoying themselves. Moreover, one can view dazzling decorations, twinkly lights, satiny wrapped presents, Yule stockings hung by the fire, holiday merry-making, jolly Santas, and excited children.  One also can hear soothing Christmas music playing in the background.  What’s not to like? In these dark days of face coverings and fear, I’ll happily immerse myself for a while in films that remind me what life used to be like, and what, I hope, life will be like once again when we celebrate Christmas 2021.

Jan Collins 2021-circle-crop

Jan Collins is a Columbia-based journalist, editor, and author. A former Nieman Fellow at Harvard and former Congressional Fellow in Washington, D. C., she is the coauthor of Next Steps: A Practical Guide to Planning for the Best Half of Your Life (Quill Driver Books, 2009).