White Rock’s waterfront is alight this holiday season after the province gave the go-ahead for a walk-through display. (Aaron Hinks photo)

White Rock’s waterfront is alight this holiday season after the province gave the go-ahead for a walk-through display. (Aaron Hinks photo)

COLUMN: You’ll be home for Christmas

Chances are this holiday season looks a little different than what you’re used to

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

But regardless of whether you’re reading this in mid-December, or the night before Christmas, chances are this holiday season has looked a little different than what you’re used to.

Store lineups, now socially distanced, have been even longer than usual.

Your office Christmas party was probably cancelled – or should have been, if it wasn’t – and festive face masks are probably a billion-dollar industry on Etsy by now.

Santa’s reindeer have been separated into cohort groups, too, just to be safe.

Yeah, things got weird this year.

To paraphrase Charlie Brown in the ubiquitous Christmas special, maybe when it comes to the holidays, you just don’t feel the way you’re supposed to feel.

And even if Christmas in 2020 is going to be different, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be worse.

While I’ve never been accused of being a glass-half-full type of guy – quite the opposite, in fact – I am confident that a COVID Christmas can, nay WILL, be amazing.

Let me list the reasons. (Check it twice if you’re not convinced).

For starters, if you’re participating in a pandemic-safe Christmas and following all the protocols set out by the health experts, it means you’re celebrating the season with fewer people.

Good for you.

On the surface, of course, these protocols are a bummer because for many of us, the holidays are the only time we see some members of our extended families.

But let’s dig a little deeper. Really give this one some thought, and ask yourself this: do you really need to see these people?

Now, I’m not saying you freeze out your immediate family, or tell your grandmother to take a hike. But allow COVID to be your guide to a quiet, serene holiday season, one where you steer clear of painful small talk with old acquaintances and distant relatives that you only see out of seasonal obligation.

Now, I realize going cold-turkey might be tough, but there is a solution: Zoom.

By now, most of us are familiar with the video-conferencing website, as we near the end of a year in which these calls were a pretty regular item on everyone’s to-do list, depending on your line of work.

I know you’ve grown to hate them. I know they’re impersonal. And I understand if you want to slam your laptop shut and hide under your desk at the mere mention of them.

But consider this: unlike Zoom, real life doesn’t come with a mute button for that moment when your uncle starts going off on some unhinged rant about the government after his fourth glass of rum-and-eggnog, so let’s try to look on the bright side here.

Pants are optional on Zoom calls, too, provided you have the camera aimed correctly.

And if you don’t want to wade into digital waters, just go the complete opposite direction and have a very analog holiday instead.

Watch some classic Christmas specials on TV. Even make a phone call – yes, an actual phone call – to someone you miss.

Get back to basics.

Now, while virtual Christmases are still preferred for safety’s sake, I’m not naive. Try as she might, Dr. Bonnie Henry is never going to convince all the Whos down in Whoville to keep their bubbles small and their gatherings properly distanced.

Call me a Grinch, but I just don’t see it happening. Yes, Virginia, there is going to be a super-spreader event somewhere. And at least once, against your better judgment, you are going to get roped into going somewhere and being near real, live people.

I know, I know, I don’t like it any more than you do.

But the solution – again – is a simple one: Just fake a cough.

This year, that’ll clear the room.

That’s when you can take advantage. Make a break for the door. Grab a handful of sugar cookies on the way out. Come back for your coat in the spring – there’s no time!

Just go.

Now that you’re outside, look around. You may notice, again, that things are not as they would normally be – there’s not a lot of Christmas past out there (but hopefully for all our sakes, not a lot Christmas future, either).

So, yes, things are strange, even stressful.

But you know what can serve as great stress relief? Exercise.

Have you thought of going for a nice, long walk in the snow and just never coming back?

Admit it, you have. It’s OK. There are some great scenic routes. Contact your local tourism bureau for more information.

But if you’d prefer to stay within the city limits you’ve still got options.

May I suggest a leisurely stroll down to the White Rock waterfront? The city’s Festival of Lights along Marine Drive is one of the few holiday traditions to have survived the pandemic this year, and the businesses down that way would certainly appreciate your patronage – it’s been a tough year for them, too – and the pier always always looks very festive at Christmastime.

If you wait until dusk, it should be lit up nicely.

If you’re lucky, you’ll capture those lights in an Instagram-worthy photo. Maybe they’ll be blinking incessantly, or who knows, maybe they’ll be dancing in unison to Christmas carols or switched off altogether by then, depending on who complains to the city that week.

Oh, by the way, be careful where you step – dogs are allowed on the promenade until the spring. That’s not a lump of coal under your boot.

Either way, just be thankful that the pier is there at all – a couple Decembers ago, it very nearly wasn’t, thanks to that outrageous windstorm that did damage as though it was auditioning for a 2020 release date.

Now, if none of this has managed to put you in the holiday spirit, I have one more idea: stay home, stay warm and just relax.

After the year we’ve all endured, just doing nothing and taking some time for yourself is OK, too.

In fact, considering all that has gone haywire in the world this year, staying in, drawing the blinds and waiting for the ball to drop on 2021 doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.

Nick Greenizan is a reporter and occasional curmudgeon with the Peace Arch News.

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