No doubt about it – this is shaping up to be a very different holiday season. The masks, the limit on how many people can be in a store at the same time, the plastic partitions between restaurant tables – it is all creating a holiday experience that is real but surreal at the same time. Sort of like if the famous actor Bing Crosby did a remake of the holiday movie “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” hosted by Rod Taylor of the Twilight Zone. I know, surreal.
The question is, how can we take some of the surreal out of what we are experiencing today? “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” actually offers some advice in this area. Ted Geisel, AKA Dr. Seuss, author of the classic holiday story is well known for liberally sprinkling his writings with advice and life lessons. It is almost a requirement for every college graduate to read “Oh, The Places You’ll Go.”
In “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” the main character, the Grinch, when we meet him, is a loathsome, grumpy, solitary character who attempts to steal Christmas from the nearby town of Whoville. The reason is he does not want others to be happy and if he steals all the presents and decorations, even the Christmas ham, then the Whos of Whoville will be as miserable as he is and that will make the Grinch happy.
So, let’s assume the Grinch represents everything we dislike about this pandemic and what the pandemic is doing to us. There’s a passage early on in the story that reads, “4:00, wallow in self-pity. 4:30, stare into the abyss, 5:00, solve world hunger and tell no one, 5:30, jazzercize; 6:30, dinner with me. I can’t cancel that again. 7:00, wrestle with my self-loathing. I’m booked. Of course, if I bump the loathing to 9, I could still be done in time to lay in bed, stare at the ceiling, and slip slowly into madness.”
Pretty grim, but we are certain we have all been there at some point during this pandemic and we also are just as certain we have not stayed there.
Just like the Whos in Whoville we cannot let the Grinch (AKA COVID) steal our Christmas. It will try hard. We will not gather as we would traditionally. We will have to register for Church or may only be able to watch via Zoom. We may not see our elderly relatives in person. It will be different.
Even though it will be different, regardless of whether we are celebrating Hanukah or Christmas, the meaning of the holidays does not change. Yes, we may need to work a little harder at it but maintaining some semblance of our religious traditions is vital. If we don’t, then the Grinch is beginning to win.
So, Greenwich is Whoville and Whoville is Greenwich. While the original story may have been about the commercialization of the holidays, “maybe Christmas [he thought] doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more.” We are changing the narrative to make it about community.
While this holiday season we are faced with a pandemic, other generations have faced far greater challenges. World War II lasted six years. It altered the world forever – however, people still found ways to be a community. And certainly, after it ended old traditions returned while new ones were created.
This holiday season do not let the Grinch win. Draw those you can close. Keep the traditions you can and create new ones along the way. And in the words of Cindy Lou Who, the young child from Whoville; “No matter how different a Who may appear, he will always be welcomed with holiday cheer.”