Nora Demak, Grade 9, Staff Writer
With Covid-19 spreading worldwide and social distancing guidelines in place, many people have been forced to alter their holiday plans. Some are turning to virtual platforms to celebrate the holidays from the comfort of their homes, while others are adjusting their plans to allow for social distancing. No matter what people decide, the holiday season will be like none before.
Some people are trying to make their holidays feel as normal as possible in these crazy times. Adjustments to Halloween plans included mask-wearing, physical distancing, and outdoor events. “Last year for Halloween, I went trick-or-treating in my friend’s building,” said High School of American Studies freshman Sabrina Silbert. “But this year my friends and I had to stay outside and hang out wearing masks.” Families with young children played candy hide-and-seek or visited the giant pumpkins in the New York Botanical Garden. Typical plans were exchanged for outdoor gatherings with masks, costumes, and creativity.
Other people chose to celebrate their holidays virtually this year. Under normal conditions, many travel to see friends and family. But given quarantine rules and travel restrictions, and the risk of visiting the immunocompromised or elderly, some gathered to celebrate electronically. “It was weird to see all of my family on the computer screen,” said Danielle Kanter, a freshman at HSAS, who celebrated Passover last spring over Zoom. “Half of the family didn’t even know how to use Zoom, which made it chaotic . . . I’m still glad we did it though because it was better than nothing.”
As Thanksgiving approached, how to spend the holiday dominated family conversations. With social distancing restrictions and cold weather, hosting a large number of people was complicated. Many felt uncomfortable sharing food and decided to bring their own dishes to enjoy in small outdoor gatherings. “Normally my whole extended family on my dad’s side goes to my grandparents’ house and we all eat pie and food together,” Silbert said. This year, Silbert’s family, like many others, limited their contact to immediate family, ate outdoors at a physical distance, and brought their own food.
Additionally, many people travel for the holidays. Some people live close enough to drive or walk to visit family. Others live farther away and do not feel comfortable taking trains or airplanes. “My family and I are bummed because we often fly to England for winter break, to see more relatives, but this year we can’t fly internationally,” Kanter said. “We are probably going to end up staying home.” While airlines are taking extra precautions due to COVID-19, flying still poses a risk for exposure. Traveling may also entail a two-week quarantine, meaning people would have to take more time off and leave earlier than they would in previous years.
During these unprecedented times, all people can do is prepare. It is not clear how long this will last, and people will likely remain cautious even after a vaccine has been distributed. Figuring out how to celebrate holidays in a safe and familiar way is challenging but has led to good conversations and creative solutions. As people adjust their plans, there is no doubt that the holidays in 2020 will continue to be like no other.