This Christmas is one that nobody in the world ever expected to experience. With the COVID-19 crisis still in full swing, it seems all but impossible to enjoy the holidays. For the first time, many people are having to break away from old family traditions: gone are the annual get-togethers with far-flung family, the shared laughter and smiles around the Christmas tree.

The Philippines is ranked 22nd among nations with the most coronavirus cases worldwide as of December 2020—and that number can be expected to grow, especially as people grow weary of the lockdown and eager to reunite with loved ones.

The urge to rekindle family ties is strong, especially during the holidays—and more so this year, with all the pent-up anxiety and necessary isolation brought on by the pandemic: “We’ve asked the most vulnerable in our culture to shelter, and now they are the most isolated and most in need of seeing people at this time,” noted epidemiologist Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo.

It’s difficult to admit, but we have to face the fact that all of us are still grieving for how things changed over the past year and took us all for a loop. The 2020 holidays, like the rest of this year, have been unprecedented. The unusual circumstances of the crisis had begotten unusual measures—face masks and social distancing are now the norm worldwide—and such unusual situations would naturally make anyone uneasy.

But it’s also natural to want to meet up with family and friends, now more than ever. It’s natural to want to return to a sense of “normalcy” by coming back to well-worn and well-loved family traditions. 

The best gift we can give to our loved ones this holiday season is to take care of their health by being mindful and careful of our own. If you absolutely have to leave the home, always practice physical distancing and always wear a mask. Always try to limit exposure to others even if they’re people you know and love, because none of us know exactly if and when we’ve been exposed and compromised until it’s too late. 

Inevitably, there will be the temptation to either ask people over or to say “yes” to a warm invitation—How could one say no to even just a quick 15-minute meet-up? But alas, at least for now, we have to keep to ourselves. Resist the urge to jump at the chance for a get-together, and try to instead find safe alternative ways to see each other. While a Zoom meeting will never replace the warmth and welcome of an actual Christmas party, the safety and assurance it brings in the midst of the pandemic far outweigh its downsides.

Because even while there’s a lot we still have to accept about our current collective situation, we can take comfort in remembering that this is all just temporary—and that the sacrifices we make, in terms of self-isolation and distancing, are precious acts of concern and love for those around us.

And that’s something you just can’t put a price on.

Ms. O

Please Mask Up!