A picture is, as the saying goes, worth 1,000 words.
But not only can photographs inspire or reflect thoughts and ideas, they can also provoke emotions. Sometimes, these emotions contradict each other.
That’s the way I felt, and possibly you did, too, while looking at the front page photograph of this Christmas Eve edition of the Peace Arch News.
The image depicts a smiling Santa Claus, sitting behind a Plexiglas window at Semiahmoo Shopping Centre, with his hand pressed against the glass to greet a young boy.
Trapped behind that see-through barrier with Santa, is a solemn reminder that Christmas this year will be unlike any most of us have experienced before. But, at the same time, the photo projects a certain spirit of happiness.
It’s a contagious spirit that, despite our current circumstances, we will collectively go to great lengths to preserve.
That same spirit can be found in otherwise upsetting circumstances. Spending Christmas alone – or with only members of your immediate household – can be one.
I’ve celebrated nearly every Christmas without my family since 2009, the year I moved out of my childhood home in Ontario.
I had planned to fly home this year, but ultimately decided against it. Years of holiday isolation has prepared me for this set of provincial health regulations, which order us to not celebrate in person with anyone, including family members, outside of our home.
But for some of you, perhaps many of you, this will be the first Christmas you spend alone. It’ll be the first time you won’t be surrounded by the warmth of your family, their laughs, cheers, hugs.
But like the photograph on the front page, there are still ways to bring joy into the season. I suspect you’ll have your own plan, whether it’s a virtual get-together, a Christmas Day walk, a home-cooked meal, a favourite Christmas movie, or opening gifts on the morning of.
Keeping the tradition alive is what most will do. And, under the circumstances, it might be the best we can do.
But when we return from our walk or close our laptop, we will, once again, be alone.
From high to low, a tide of sadness may set in, as it has for me, many times over. It will hit unlike any before. Not due to the severity of the emotion, but rather because of where it originates.
To feel down at that moment is inevitable, but it’s also blessing. It’s an indication, for me at least, that while I cannot be with my family, I am surrounded by love.
But more than that, it means that I have people to miss. That is a luxury not afforded to everyone.
So if you’re feeling blue this holiday season, remember that this sacrifice is actually the greatest Christmas gift we can all give one another.
With a vaccine quickly being distributed, we might be out of this mess sooner rather than later. With any luck, our most vulnerable loved ones, and their caretakers, will have received a vaccination long before Christmas next year.
Staying within our immediate households this holiday season is the most effective thing we can do, collectively, to save the lives of our loved ones.
And it will give us an opportunity next year, to celebrate Christmas the way it’s meant to be celebrated: Together.
I’ve already booked my ticket home.
Aaron Hinks is a reporter with the Peace Arch News.