Keeping Holiday Traditions in an Ever-changing World
With the holiday season in full swing, I've been doing a lot of reflecting on the idea of traditions. Like everything else in 2020, the pandemic has drastically altered everyone's plans during the holiday season, regardless of what they celebrate or what their yearly customs are. We've been forced into a position where we have no choice but to adapt to the circumstances.
As a kid I looked forward to Christmas Eve just as much as Christmas. Some of my earliest memories around the holidays revolved around going to my great great aunt June's house and doing a gift exchange in a building that's been in the family for over 100 years that once served as a hotel. It was one of the few times in the year I got to see her, so it was a very special day with the family.
Immediately after, we would go to my grandma's house on my dad's side to catch the tail-end of their party. The Spitz side of my family is massive, with my dad alone having ten brothers and sisters. They're a tight-knit group, and the Spitz's would pack like sardines into a 1,000 square foot house on Christmas Eve. It's the same house my brother Joel and I live in now, and the space doesn't feel like enough for even just us. How that many people filled the house year in and year out is beyond my comprehension.
My Aunt June passed away when I was in 7th grade, and both of my grandparents on that side of the family passed while I was in High School. After their passing, that Christmas Eve tradition faded away soon after.
However, new traditions formed as a result. My brother and I started hosting an annual ugly sweater party in that same 1,000 square foot house (granted we haven't filled it with as many people as they did). My family and I started going to an evening night service at our church on Christmas Eve, and participating in the bell choir performance. We even formed a habit out of having a beer after the service at the Crystal Bar shortly before they do last call. A few years ago, another tradition formed of sharing a beer with one of my former High School teachers who I've remained close with over the years. It's like the idea that matter is never created or destroyed. Traditions never really die, they just evolve into something different.
2020 has simply been another year of an evolution. The annual ugly sweater party was held over Zoom, which worked out much better than I could have anticipated given my lack of tech skills (don't let the blog fool you, the layout was done by a college student in South Dakota). That Christmas Eve church service will be streaming on YouTube. As for the Crystal Bar... the family will just have to drink at home instead (a skill we've grown very used to this year). If there's any year where adapting is essential, it's 2020.
Back in April, one of my favorite directors David Lynch said that he thinks a more kind and spiritual world will emerge after the pandemic subsides, and I truly believe that. Staying at home has caused people to look inward more, and to occupy their time with activities they may have put on the back burner over the years. Some may have discovered new hobbies entirely. In the three weeks after The Queen's Gambit premiered, unit sales for chess sets grew 87% in the US. I'll admit, after finishing the series, it made me want to study chess openings as well.
I realize that everyone likely won't be as lenient as I am when it comes to yearly traditions for the holidays. Regardless of what your traditions are or what you celebrate, I hope everyone out there continues to be safe and mindful during this season. The holidays bring mixed emotions to a lot of people, and during a worldwide pandemic, those feelings can further escalate.
The virus will eventually be under control across the world, and when it is, I remain optimistic that people will have a deeper understanding for themselves, and will be more empathetic to the people around them.