Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday December 24, 2021
The ghosts of a pandemic Christmas
A lot of Canadians will empathize with Ebenezer Scrooge on this second COVID-19 Christmas Eve.
It’s not that they share the opinion of Charles Dickens’ infamous miser that the holiday is nothing but “humbug.” It’s simply that as they take stock of life at the end of 2021 they will, like the hero of “A Christmas Carol,” be haunted by three phantoms: the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future.
The Ghost of Christmas Past: The first spirit will be the most amiable, but unfortunately in ways that make the other pair seem even more worrisome. Somehow those childhood Yuletides are always gold-plated.
We might remember nervously sitting on the knee of a shopping-mall Santa, listing our heart’s desires for Christmas Day. Or we’ll recall laying a stocking by our bedside on Christmas Eve, secure in the knowledge it will magically be filled to the brim next morning. Helped by the Ghost of Christmas Past, we’ll hear the songs of carolers and, perhaps, of a church choir singing “Silent Night.” And we’ll laugh, perhaps even blush, at the antics of bygone Christmas office parties
Was it only two Christmases ago that people still came together in large gatherings, where a card table would be set up in the dining room and lawn chairs hauled in from the garage to handle the mob of relatives and friends cramming our homes to the rafters? People still shook hands and hugged in those days. Imagine that.
The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come: The smiles inspired by the Ghost of Christmas Past might turn upside down when this grim reaper drops by. What will Christmas 2022, 2023 or 2024 be like? We might shudder to think, as Scrooge did when his phantom of the future finally led him to a graveyard.
What variant might we face in a Christmas or two? What pandemic wave might engulf us then? Will the antivirals coming our way cure us if we catch COVID? Will the vaccines we have now still work? Christmas or not, there’s no denying that two years into COVID the situation is still disastrous and there are no guarantees it won’t be this bad next year. Which brings us to the ghost that matters most.
The Ghost of Christmas Present: Whatever rose-coloured glasses we put on to view the past, it is gone and unrecoverable. As for the future, despite our valid trepidation, it nonetheless remains within our power — as it did with Scrooge — to determine what it will be. We should reach out and grasp that power.
If we’re responsible and respect the new provincial guidelines set down just days ago, many of our gatherings with families and friends will be smaller this year — or even cancelled. Loved ones who’ve tested positive — a growing trend with the emergence of the Omicron variant — will be absent. The latest advisories against nonessential travel will keep others somewhere else, far away. So yes, a lot of people won’t be home for this Christmas.
But there is still this stubborn, resilient holiday waiting for us. Though we may not be able to mark it as we once did, we need it more than ever as 2021 staggers to a close. We need its peace, its joy and its unquenchable spirit of giving — especially to the sick, the homeless and all those living in great want. Even wearing a protective mask, we can celebrate the hope found not only in all the wondrous Christmas stories but in what we have done together to survive nearly two years of pandemic. We should never forget that those game-changing, life-saving vaccines developed in record time are themselves veritable miracles worthy of continual thanks.
And finally, whether we celebrate the special day in a church, around the tree in our living room, or even if this holiday is not part of our own tradition, we should all be able to perceive the inestimable value of human love wrapped up in the gift it leaves for us. In the darkest time of year, the days are finally lengthening again. So, when the Ghost of Christmas Present comes knocking at your door, let him in. (Hamilton Spectator Editorial)