As COVID cases spike, hopes of Christmas gatherings fade

Treena Mielke

Christmas lights twinkle, barely visible through a blanket of falling snow.

Christmas specials light up television screens in living rooms everywhere and the message of hope, good cheer and good will seems to be running rampant.

Joe Public is encouraged to shop local, ignore Amazon and do its best to keep these small businesses alive. Meanwhile, the rules of wearing masks, social distancing and hand sanitizing are like invisible shields that every man, woman, and child is cognizant of.

And, in the wings, still waiting, still hovering on the doorstep of the future is the one holiday much of the world is waiting for.

Christmas.

So, what about Christmas? Will families be able to get together? Will we need a 25-pound turkey or not even bother cooking? Should we even worry about finding the good china, struggling to make the best melt-in-your mouth shortbread ever and what about the mistletoe?

And so, we wait. Families wait. Moms and dads and grandpas and grandmas and aunts and uncles and cousins and neighbours and friends wait.

But as the numbers of COVID cases continue to spike, visions of a houseful of Christmas guests seated around a table groaning with food are slowly fading.

With Christmas mere weeks away, Albertans are being told to, “just say no.”

No. No. No. Say no to gatherings other than members of your own household. Lock your doors. Do not let others in.

But Christmas is coming, we plead. It is a time to get together. A time to put all differences aside and drink rum and eggnog and sing and laugh and be merry.

Well, apparently that might not happen this year although I, for one, remain ever hopeful.

Because, really, just like the rest of the world, I feel like I need a little Christmas.

But before I start to feel too sorry for myself as the pandemic turns into a grinch that has the potential to steal Christmas, thoughts of the 1918 Spanish flu come to mind.

According to information on the internet the Spanish flu killed at least 50 million people and was the most lethal infection since the Black Death of the 14th century.

More than 4,000 Albertans died from the Spanish Flu.

And, untimely as it was, when the second wave of the deadly virus hit, the First World War had just ended.

It was a time for celebration.

But public gatherings were not safe, and the public was urged to isolate.

But they did not listen.

Armistice Day proved to be especially deadly and even as the celebrations drew huge crowds, the pandemic took a deadly toll. And, sadly enough, the celebrations that marked the end of the war ended in tragedy for many.

And as I read about the Spanish Flu and how it coincided with Armistice Day so long ago, I realize that a pandemic does not stop its lethal procession for anyone or anything.

Not the end of a war and certainly not Christmas.

I only hope and pray that the number of COVID cases in Alberta do go down and we can all enjoy a traditional Christmas safely. But, if that should not happen, may each of us have the strength, courage, and tenacity to discover our own personal treasure chest of creativity, gratitude, and joy.

Treena Mielke is a central Alberta writer. She lives in Sylvan Lake with her family.