You’re Going to Have a Not So Great Christmas, and That’s Ok.

Hi again! The holidays are upon us what was unthinkable in March is still here. Covid-19 is raging across our country. We’re losing well over 2,000 Americans a day. It’s scary, but what scares me the most is how many people care so little right now. I get it (not really) the holidays are here and you want to spend time with your loved ones, you want to do all the traditional crowded, non-pandemic safe things you’re used to doing. I often have not one, but two 20+ people gatherings involving hugs, eating, and not maintaining social distance. I see a Christmasy play every single year. The vast majority of my holiday will have to be different. It’s going to be a weird Christmas (or whatever you celebrate) and as someone who is an expert in weird and/or bad Christmases, let me tell you it’s going to be ok.

For the vast majority of these weird Christmases everything is fine. You’ll still fell like it’s Christmas, you’ll still get that warm fuzzy feeling of peace on Earth, good will to men, and not thinking Tiny Tim’s life is expendable because he has a pre-existing condition (see what I did there). In some respects they’re even more memorable. So baby’s first Christmas, first Christmas married, or first Christmas in the new house (maybe all 3, I don’t know your life) will be weird but it will be memorable. You’ll appreciate what’s really important even more and the next, presumably normal Christmas will feel even more special.

Now you’re probably asking yourself, why should I trust you Katie? How are you an expert in weird and/or bad Christmases? How dare you imply that Christmas will be ok, if I don’t insert high risk Covid activity? While this Christmas will definitely crack my top 3 weirdest Christmases, maybe the top 2, I’ve been there, I’ve done that and I know it will be ok. Here are my weirdest Christmases as more proof.

Honorable Mention: The Christmas Grandma Dislocated her Shoulder. Grandma slipped in the bathroom on Christmas Eve (which is when we celebrate with that side of the family) and my mom and my aunt had to take her to the ER. In order to try and keep the food going they had everyone else do some more intensive cooking prep. Pro tip: if your aunt puts a bunch of potatoes in front of you and says peel the potatoes, she doesn’t actually want you to peel all the potatoes. She will be mad when you do it, but will never be able to tell you approximately what percentage of the potatoes peeled will be appropriate. Grandma made it home safely, we still ate all the foods, and potato-gate led to many a potato pancake eaten between Christmas and New Years.

Third Weirdest Christmas: The Christmas Grandma was in Orthopedic Rehab Leg Surgery. First of all, don’t worry different Grandma than the last Christmas Injury Grandma. Second of all worry because the woman has so much metal in her legs she cannot float and her bones have been described as “Styrofoam” by a medical professional. I digress, Grandma had one of her many leg surgeries around Christmas and was still in rehab for the holiday. We gathered in the hallway of the rehab center. They gave us a conference room to put our food in. I don’t know if you’ve ever made your Christmas plate near a larger office printer but it is something else. We had to keep quiet due to the other patients. We couldn’t really mingle. My aunt tried to hook my sister and I up with a nice nurse to the extent that he finally had to mention his wife. But again, it was fine.

Second Weirdest Christmas: The Christmas Where I Finished Radiation. So back in the day, I spent from about right before Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve (so basically the whole holiday season) getting radiation. The particular type of radiation I got was not available in Chicago at the time, so my mom and I traveled out of state to get it. I was mostly away from my dad and my sister, let alone extended family, throughout the holiday season (sound familiar). I got my last treatment on Christmas Eve and my family drove the 6+ hours to Chicago through the snow. I can tell you two equally true stories about that holiday season. I can tell you one where we made it despite the snow, my energy held up throughout Christmas, total strangers helped our family, my Grandma independently cooked what may have been her last Christmas dish before she passed the baton on to make sure I had something soft enough to eat, and I got so much stuff for Christmas (people give you whatever you want when you might be dying). I can tell you another story about how I was so exhausted I basically just napped for weeks. My esophagus was so messed up from the radiation that I basically couldn’t eat any leftovers and lived on ensure for 6 weeks. I was under the constant fear that I was going to die. I know what it’s like to be Sick (big S) for Christmas. I do not recommend it. I’ll always love and cherish that year, but I do not wish it upon anyone. You want to do all you can to avoid this happening to you or anyone else.

Weirdest Christmas: The Christmas Where Grandpa Died. So, 5 years later, my Grandpa died on Christmas. I had been greatly looking forward to that Christmas as in the cancer survivor community, 5 years is more or less an all clear. But life had other plans. Grandpa had been sick, but really took a turn. I went to the hospital to visit him on Christmas Eve and then went to visit the other side of the family as we usually do. He passed a little after midnight on Christmas Day. It was awful. It did ruin Christmas that year. There were no warm fuzzy feelings. It kicked off what I can only describe as the Winter of the Dead Grandfathers (that is plural) and which reached its climax at the Weekend of the Grandfathers’ Funerals (again, that is plural). Losing two loved ones close together, as often happens with Covid, is terrible. I would not wish that upon anyone. You want to do what you can to avoid it.

So the good news is, while I had all these awful Christmases. I still love Christmas. It’s still my favorite holiday by far. One or five weird holidays isn’t going to mess it up forever. It’s just going to mess up this year. And to be quite honest, as long as you’re not dying, you can make the most of it. It’s harsh, but it’s true. Focus on what you have this year and try new traditions. Christmas has always been a marathon in my family, and I’m looking forward to having a relaxing time as opposed to the usual running around.

But you need to do the things. You need to wear a mask every time you’re within 6 feet of someone not in your bubble, even if it’s Christmas. You need to not gather indoors with people who aren’t in your bubble, even if it’s Christmas. The whole point of the holidays are to care about our fellow humans, so actually do it.

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