The 2020 Holidays. Total bust, or refreshing new opportunity? Passover, Easter, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve. And these are only the Jewish and Christian holidays I know from memory. I know I’m not covering the main holidays of other religions but the point applies to all holidays this year, and how we aren’t gathering as normal.  So, were they a bust, or did you pivot and make new special memories? It all depends on how you choose to look at things.

In our home, virtual Passover was one of the best ever. For as many years as I can remember, my sister and I  gathered at my childhood friend’s apartment in the city. As the years went on, the matriarch would continue to cook, until she hung up her apron, and her daughter took over. Our patriarch always led the Seder, for as long as he could, and then he passed the Haggadah down to the next generation.

2020 would have been the first Seder together after our Patriarch died. My sister used to be at the table each year, until she moved to Santa Fe with her husband. Then 2020 happened, and the nation was in lock down during Passover. We couldn’t have gathered together even if we wanted to. We held a virtual Seder. Such a solution to gather altogether would never have occurred to us before COVID even though this technology existed long before the pandemic kept us apart. Everyone was there!  The entire family who we have always been with and those who have moved far away and haven’t been with us for years. It was the last time I spent time with our Matriarch before she died this year. Without our virtual Seder, I wouldn’t have seen her at all.

The Jewish High Holy days presented another magical opportunity for our family. We knew in advance that our services were going to be held virtually so it didn’t matter where we were physically. We could still be present. We decided to rent a VRBO in Door County and we invited our best friends to join us. The home, overlooking Lake Michigan was spectacular, with a view so vast it looked like the ocean. We cooked a traditional holiday dinner and participated in Rosh Hashanah services in our pajamas. We took long walks together and cooked delicious meals. Surprised by how much I loved the virtual services, I hope to never go back to in-person services. And if I didn’t like our virtual services, which I did, I could have participated in another congregation’s services. For Yom Kippur, we gathered back at home within our bubble, once again, to participate virtually.

Thanksgiving has come and gone.  If you stayed home as advised, did you spend time with family and friends you usually don’t see? Did you start any new traditions you like so much you might incorporate them into a hybrid celebration next year? 

I bet if you chose to travel over Thanksgiving it was fraught with a mixture of joy, guilt and anxiety not to mention the sheer aggravation of travel on a holiday. 

There is a lot of conversation now, across our country, about how to celebrate Christmas and the New Year. We all have a choice to make. Do we choose a new way of celebrating safely this year, to ensure we can all be together next year? Are we willing to be open-minded and embrace the opportunity to change things up?  Who knows what good can come from it?  Maybe you get to include folks in your Thanksgiving meal who you haven’t seen for years. Maybe Christmas becomes a time of storytelling instead of excessive gift giving.  Oh and New Year’s eve? Don’t even get me started. I’m usually in bed by 8. 

Were it not for my socially-distanced Jewish Holidays, I would never have experienced how great virtual services were. Because if I’m being honest, I had already begun to dread in-person, services, and I kinda quit going long ago. But this year, I felt a spiritual rejuvenation, and connection, because I was totally present. From my couch. In my jammies. How great might your COVID holidays be?  You get to decide. They will be as great as you make them.