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New traditions or holiday detours?

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Holiday celebrations

A NEW WORLD Holiday celebrations might look different this year, but the celebrating will still happen. Thank goodness for Zoom! (Illustration: behance.net/runamokstudios)

What are y’all doing for the holidays? In a normal year, this is the time of year when everyone is asking that question. And in a normal year, most of us have a quick response about tradition and maybe travel.

But this is 2020, and this is not a normal year.

What do we do when our holiday traditions involve family and friends sharing spaces – maybe even sleeping under the same roof? Do we wear masks and get together anyway? Or do we ditch the usual and make altogether different plans? Are we starting new traditions, or is this just an off year?

For Jewish families celebrating Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur this fall, traditions have already had to be bunked. No big Rosh Hashana dinners or luncheons, with everyone taking apple slices from the same tray and dipping them in a pretty pot of honey (apples and honey being the traditional food to wish each other a sweet year).

Our usual dinner for 15 (or so) got replaced by a small dinner for five by the pool. Everyone had their own apples and honey, and their own lidded container of dinner – brisket, green beans, challah. We put a pumpkin in the middle of the table and tied raffia around paper napkins and plastic utensils, and the weather was beautiful. My mom didn’t even mind that we didn’t use “real plates.”

Barbara Burgower Hordern’s family made the most of the casual twist. “We did a live-stream Rosh Hashana with Central Synagogue in New York,” she says. “The music was extraordinary. And because it was in New York, we started at 5 and were finished by 6:30. Then we feasted on take-out seafood, kindly delivered by my Catholic husband.”

Barbara, her sister and her nephew watched the New York service via Facebook Watch on Barbara’s 50-inch television. She says the bonus was that “no one shushed us when we had sidebar conversations, and no one stared when we got up to use the bathroom. It didn’t make up for the missing congregation, but we did get to be together.”

People are also getting creative for the upcoming holidays. “We decided to book a trip to a somewhat remote location,” Leslie Wade says of her family of five. They plan to go to Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.

“I realized that in the winter, the parks have a fraction of the visitors, and the only way in is by snow coach, snowmobile or on snowshoes or cross-country skis. We are staying in a log cabin on a ranch near the West Entrance of Yellowstone.” They hope to go snowmobiling, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and dog-sledding. “A lot of bucket-list items with social distancing built in,” Leslie says. 

“I’m not sure if this trip will happen, but just planning it and the joy of anticipation has been a nice change of pace from virtual school!”

Another family with four boys at home is taking the year off. “Our immediate family is together because everyone is virtual schooling and working,” the mom says. “I have decided to get a medical procedure I have been putting off for years, and the boys can hunt, watch football and relax – and take care of their momma.” Thanksgiving dinner will be from Central Market or Whole Foods.

A busy community volunteer and mother of three says, “I’m looking forward to using Covid as an excuse to not spend time with all the extended family and boring company parties.” (Obviously, she asked to be anonymous.) “Holidays have become so crazy in past years, with too many things to do and no time to enjoy your close friends. I, for one, am glad to re-evaluate my holiday blessing and traditions, and stay home, bake cookies, play hide-and-seek at the tree farm and decorate the tree with homemade needlepoint.”

Others are hanging on to tradition. Susan Zeller, who has three married children and eight grandchildren, says, “We are totally cheating and taking some chances going to San Antonio” to see the children and grandchildren. “I know we are doing some things that perhaps are a gamble, but I need my family. In total contradiction to this, I am the one who has not gone out to a restaurant. Go figure.”

Back to the question: Are we starting new traditions or just navigating a strange year? I guess we’ll have to see how much we miss the usual festivities. And how much we just might enjoy the detour.

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