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PREST: This COVID Christmas comes with some silver linings

Sadly there's no carolling this year, but on the plus side now we don't have to go carolling
Christmas parking lot mayhem
Christmas shoppers cram a West Vancouver parking lot during the 2018 holiday season. The COVID crisis offers the perfect excuse to avoid those crowded situations altogether this year. photo Paul McGrath, North Shore News

This is setting up to be the weirdest Christmas season of most people’s lifetimes, as many of the festive holiday activities we take part in every year are now off-limits due to our still-raging pandemic.

It’s like the Christmas Carol but in reverse. We’re all being haunted by the ghosts of COVID past, present and future telling us to be more like Scrooge.

“You want to visit Tiny Tim? Now!? Don’t you know how immunocompromised that kid is?! And don’t even look at the butcher’s prized goose, you monster.”

This is no doubt a bummer, as those annual holiday traditions for many people help anchor our internal calendars and provide much-needed merriment in the coldest, darkest part of the year.

But it’s not all bad. There are some holiday traditions that I’m betting we just won’t miss this year; I’m sure there are more than a few people silently celebrating that they won’t have to butcher “Good King Wenceslas” this year.

Here are some other annual holiday habits we won’t be missing in 2020.

The School Christmas Concert

This annual tradition always starts off great. You get to the school, send your kid away to find their teacher and take your seat in the school gym on a little folding plastic chair. Your cool parent friends pop by to chat – Charmaine brought a flask! teehee – and you enjoy a few kid-free moments silently judging all the other parents.

Then your kid comes in with their class, all lined up and smiling. And they’re dressed as snowflakes or trees or horses or whatever. Adorable!

As they walk in the kids are all scanning the crowd, trying to pick out their parents, and when yours finds you, you get the thrill of the show: the I-found-you wave! Your heart melts.

Then the real show begins. And by real show, I mean the incredible feats of shushing performed by the dozen or so teachers on duty over the next 90 minutes.

Hundreds of kids, jacked up on stage fright and gym time and candy, get crammed together on the floor on those little blue mats. What could go wro—“shhhhhh!!!”

“Timothy. Timothy!! Get that tinsel out of your nose!”

Then the teacher does that amazing squat waddle thing that only teachers and backcatchers can do, wading into the melee to break up their fourth fight of the night.

Finally the show starts and it dawns on you that you’re going to have to watch 12 classes that do not contain your child perform confused variations of “Jingle Bell Rock” or some weird thing on kazoos just to see your angel on stage for five and a half minutes.

And of course as soon as your kid hits the stage, three parents in front of you jump up and start filming – right beside the camera set up by the school to avoid such actions – so you don’t actually get to see the show so much as watch it on Charmaine’s iPhone.

“Sit down, please! And more schnapps!”

After the show you have the joy of using a tiny toilet, before entering that no-man’s land of confusion where everyone mills about in the school foyer eating shortbread and drinking cider while trying to figure out if it’s the teachers or the parents who are supposed to be in charge of the kids at that moment. Of course the answer is no one is in charge of them, so there’s about 20 minutes of Lord of the Flies, then it’s off to bed after a quick trip to the emergency room.

Not this year, though. No concerts in 2020, and we’re all – wink wink – broken up about it.

Christmas carolling

OK, now don’t get me wrong – I enjoy a good group singing session as much as the next bloke. But are we really going to miss the spectacle of tone-deaf Aunt Erma belting out “round yon virgin!” while all the kids (and dads) gloomily mumble along, wishing they could go back to playing video games?

Traditional door-to-door carolling isn’t really a thing anymore, but it’s really out of the question in 2020. Showing up unannounced with a dozen friends to loudly sing at a stranger’s doorstep this year would basically be like opening up someone’s front door and giving them a live grizzly bear. Hey, not everyone who gets a grizzly bear dies!

Anyway, no carolling this year. Sorry Erma, but for me that’s a win.

Christmas turkey

For those lucky cooks who prepare big Christmas turkeys for friends and family each year, experiencing a nagging holiday worry that you potentially could make one of your loved ones violently ill is nothing new. It happens every year with that big, secretly-not-that-delicious bird. I still vividly recall the fear of feeding a slightly-too-pink turkey to all my in-laws one year on Christmas Eve. I couldn’t really relax until the next morning when I was certain I hadn’t stuffed any of their stockings with salmonella.

I could go on listing COVID Christmas silver linings. No Christmas shopping? That’s great! The pressure is off to get that perfect gift – there’s no way you’d catch me lined up in a big box store with all the mouth breathers. Just stay off the Amazon, OK? Shop local!

And no random Christmas parties this year? Boohoo! It’s so sad you can’t go to some awkward get-together where you get trapped in a 45-minute conversation about making your own kombucha.

“You see, your symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, your SCOBY we call it in the ’buch game, has to be fresh. Wait, I’ve got one growing in the back seat of my car. You can borrow it!”

That’s not happening this year. Nothing’s really happening. And I guess after all that talk about silver linings, I have to admit I’m lying a bit – I will miss almost all those things this year.

This stay-in-your-bubble Christmas will lack many of the special things that make the holidays great, but it’s for a reason. It’s to give our elders, the vulnerable, our friends and family the greatest gift there is: a SCOBY.

Just kidding. It’s to give everyone a chance to see 2021. And right now, I can think of no better gift for anyone in the world to receive than the gift of it not being 2020 anymore. 

Happy holidays at home, everyone!

Andy Prest is the sports editor of the North Shore News. His humour column runs biweekly.