A COVID Christmas – The Corona Diaries – Part Three

Bah Humbug!

            Like many other people, I’m just not in the mood for Christmas this year.  Call me Scrooge, call me the Grinch – let’s just fast forward to January.

Many years ago, I read a book called Skipping Christmas, by John Grisham.  (goodreads link) It was a departure from his usual legal thrillers and in this short novel, the protagonist, fed up with the fuss and expense and drama of their elaborate and ever-expanding Christmas celebrations, announces to his wife his intention to skip it altogether. Spoiler alert – of course, he didn’t really skip Christmas, they just had a scaled down version of it, a simpler celebration, more in honor of the true meaning of the season. 

Many people will be having smaller Christmases this year with just those in their immediate bubble, and some people will be staying home alone.   While it’s nice to have a bit of a crowd around at Christmas there’s something to be said for quieter times too.  Christmas is often a sad time for those who have lost loved ones or who are alone and lonely, but pretending to be jolly when you’re not, can be exhausting too.   If you have to get in the Christmas spirit, because other people are depending on you to be a merry little elf, this song may help, because we all need a little Christmas, even if it’s just in small doses.

For I’ve grown a little leaner, grown a little colder, grown a little sadder, grown a little older….

I love the lyrics to this song, “Haul out the holly, Put up the tree before my spirit falls again, Fill up the stockings, I may be rushing things, but deck the halls again now.”

Feeling better now…perhaps a bit more gleeful?

Part of the problem with getting in the festive mood this year is that so many of our yuletide traditions have been modified or cancelled.   Who would have predicted this time last year that we’d be in the middle of a pandemic, and simply singing a Christmas carol would be forbidden – all those droplets spewing forth possible germs – yuck.   Other activities have adapted, so in Part Three of The Corona Diaries lets take a look at a few of those old favorites and see what’s changed and what’s stayed the same, or maybe even improved – yea more cookies for me! Fortunately the parts of Christmas I love the most, the lights, the decorating, the music and the food, tend to be COVID-resistant.

The Festive Special: 

Swiss Chalet has been offering their Christmas Special for over 30 years now.  It usually starts in mid-November as a kick-off to the season, in order to capture those hungry shoppers smart enough to do their shopping early.   This Canadian restaurant chain is known for their rotisserie quarter chicken dinners, and for three dollars more the Festive Special gets you a small scoop of (box) stuffing, a thimbleful of cranberry sauce and a gift box of five Lindor/Lindt chocolates.

Hey it’s a family tradition…..

This years TV commercial features a little girl excited to see Nana and Papa and then a shot of the family dining inside the restaurant, cut to the Door-Dash guy delivering a meal to the grandparents, and then the family zooming with them via an I-Pad on their respective tables.   Creative marketing at it’s finest.   Ours was take-out this year, and the cranberry sauce was as skimpy as ever, but the chocolates were good.  You can’t go wrong with Lindt Chocolates, even if you have to pay for the the free ones.

Musical Interlude – because mid-Nov. is still a bit too early for non-stop Christmas music. Anyone remember this song by the Queen of Soul? (youtube link)

 Nov 25 – Santa Claus is Coming To Town:

Last year’s nighttime parade….

The Santa Claus parade may be canceled, but Santa’s coming to a neighbourhood near you!   While many Santa Claus parades have become stationary drive-through events or are being conducted on football fields sans spectators and broadcast live (the annual Toronto parade), in the smaller cities and towns, the parade may come right to you.  I had forgotten all about this, until I heard the sirens and looked out and saw all the little kids in the neighborhood running down to the corner.   Kind of negates the idea of not congregating, but Santa can’t cover every street in town.   This year’s parade was really scaled down, only one float and two firetrucks, but Santa was on one of them.  Go Santa!         

Christmas Charities:

The Salvation army buckets are out in full force, but not manned this year, although some had the new tap and pay feature. Other charities have adapted too. Although there were no toy drive drop offs, just cash donations, Christmas for Everyone is still doing food and toy hampers, as the need is greater than ever this year.  The Legion and church offered take-out turkey and roast beef dinners as a fundraiser and sold-out in days – because who isn’t sick of cooking?   

Christmas Shopping: (or you’re a mean one, Mrs. Grinch)

I remember one year buying presents for 32 people – talk about insanity.  Only half of those were for family and the other half, friends or employees.   I was a department head and decided I would buy my staff a small gift, personally geared to their interests – I ran myself ragged shopping, and I don’t like Christmas shopping at the best of times.   I only did that one year, the next everyone got the same holiday candle and Tim Horton’s gift cards.  Work was always so busy that time of year that eventually I learned to shop early in the fall and would not go near the stores at all in December.  A hospital can be a sad place at Christmas and I can’t imagine how the staff are coping now, burnt out and exhausted, with all time off cancelled due to lack of staffing.  

I didn’t do ANY Christmas shopping this year – a few small gag gifts from the dollar store, but I did not go to any store for anything other than essentials.  Being retired now and our stats still good, I thought I had all kinds of time, but I left it too late and by then the numbers were ticking up and they were telling people to stay home. The few things I bought online had to be returned, so I just gave up, as Canada Post couldn’t promise delivery after Dec 3.   I don’t like online shopping anyway, preferring to actually see the item first, and on my one return-and-dash trip to the mall, it was so crowded I felt unsafe and left after half an hour. So this Christmas will be money stuffed in an envelope – not even gift cards.  I didn’t realize until recently that Visa gift cards expire if you shove them in a drawer and forget about them – yes after a year they start to subtract a monthly fee.   There’s nothing wrong with cash, you can take it to the bank and deposit it, and I had cash lying around I hadn’t used from the spring – so now it’s used up!    Easy-peasy!      

Dec 1 – Mad for Plaid:

My sole purchase for myself, as you need to treat yourself at Christmas too, was these plaid face masks.

I asked a neighbour where she got hers and she said Old Navy and she liked them as most masks were too big for her narrow face and these have side loops you can adjust, so I got a pack of the Christmas plaid ones on sale – $11 for 5.    Plaid is festive at Christmas and matches my plaid scarves from those new coats I blogged about last year, now sitting in my closet with no place to go.  (link to Joni and the Amazing Technicolor Coats).   You might think it’s too much plaid but style icon Kate Middleton wore one, so that’s good enough for me, and I find anything plaid immensely cheering.

Dec 9 – Baking:

Speaking of treats, we all have to eat, so why not treat yourself to Santa’s Favorite Chocolate Cookies (link to blog).  I only make these rich decadent cookies once a year at Christmas and normally would make several batches to give away, but this year I don’t have to!   I made my first batch in early December – 28 cookies I don’t have to share!  Well, I shared some…..but still…more for me!  Baking is also a good way to use up all that flour you stockpiled in the spring with the best of bread-baking intentions.

Dec 12 and 15 – Deck the Halls:

I was late putting up the decorations this year, so I didn’t put up as much, either inside or out, as in a few weeks I’ll just have to take them all down again, and that’s always a downer. I’m keeping it simple.   A few wreaths outside, no lights, but candles in the windows.   I know everyone is going overboard with lights this year but they sold out early and I forgot to ask the electrician when he upgraded the hydro if I could still use the front outdoor socket.

Instead of buying those overpriced pine arrangements  I stole this idea from my neighbor, after watching her out my kitchen window one morning, hacking branches off her pine tree with pruning shears.  Saves money ($35) and the rustic look is in.   I just love the plaid ribbon, and the cattails were from a ditch. 

My mother’s evergreen tree willingly donated some branches,

It needed a trim anyway….

 so I did one for her with a few dollar store decorations from previous years.  

And then one for my front porch.

Personally I think there should be a law against those blow up decorations – if you’re already feeling deflated this Christmas, a sight like this doesn’t help.  

Charlie Brown looks so sad….

Someone in my neighbourhood has so many of them on their small lot that I lost count after thirty. There should be a bylaw – two per household, and only if you have little children.   

 A Charlie Brown Holly Bush:

My holly bush is keeping it simple too.   I planted four of these one year, one male and his harem of three, but two died and the surviving one is really just a Holly Golightly twig.   As they’re sandwiched in between a row of lavender and a row of rose bushes (not one of my better landscaping decisions) they never really did well.  But one sprig of holly is all you need for atop the store-bought Christmas pudding. 

Holiday Movies:

The Sound of Music (check), White Christmas (check), that one with the annoying kid with the BB gun (check) – my mother loves A Christmas Story, it reminds her of growing up in the Depression. I haven’t watched Scrooge or It’s A Wonderful Life, but they’re always on Christmas Eve day.   

Holiday Music:

I started listening early, as motivation to walk – fresh air and music.  As well as the usual Christmas favorites, I’m enjoying some of the old Christmas hymns I remember from Christmas Eve services.  (link to blog – Joy to the World – Christmas Playlist)   There won’t be any midnight mass here this year, certainly no choir, just an early service you have to register for online, and a video broadcast link later. We usually tune into the church channel with the Basilica from Washington DC, if they are allowed to have it this year?  

I always enjoyed this Christmas reggae song by Boney M – very uplifting.

The Reason for the Season:

If you’re feeling frazzled, like the jolly guy here, clinging to the tree, remember this too shall pass, and remember the reason for the season.   Keep those traditions you can and those that have meaning for you and let the others go for this year.   Peace and goodwill to all.  Wishing everyone a Merry Little Christmas!

PS.   Will you be staying home for Christmas? Are there any Christmas traditions you are especially missing? Any new ones you have started?

34 thoughts on “A COVID Christmas – The Corona Diaries – Part Three

  1. Writer of Words, etc says:

    What a wonderful post. I have similar sentiments this year. In fact, we just put up a tiny tree yesterday and already the puppy is treating it as his personal water dish. So far, it has lights, but not yet ornaments. (I’m scared…)

    We won’t be seeing anyone other than my mom who’s been in our bubble since the beginning so we’ll keep it low key.

    Merry Christmas to you Joni!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Anne says:

    It has been difficult to enter the Christmas spirit so far – COVID-19 has come far too close! Still, with only a week to go I have baked fruit cake and fruit mince pies (what would our Christmas be without them?) and will soon pick a tiny pine tree to decorate. We will be three for Christmas dinner: I will plan to make the meal special in some way. What I miss (and have done for a few years now) are the arrival of Christmas cards that used to cheer us up. We can’t even buy them here anymore – mind you, our postal system us just about defunct. I think your outdoor decorations look VERY smart and your post has inspired me to get my festive spirit off the back burner!


    • Joni says:

      I’m glad I inspired you Anne! I’d like to pop over for some fruitcake and mince tarts! I only get a few Christmas cards, no one seems to do that anymore here either. I guess they email.. I can remember my parents getting 50 or more and stringing them around the room. I do have one friend who continues the card tradition for fun – every year she finds a card with the most glitter on it and I usually open it in the car after I’ve picking up the mail and the glitter goes all over the car and me! You’d think I’d learn but I forget and open it anyway.


  3. Eilene Lyon says:

    Christmas has been just me and hubby forever, so no real change this year. We keep gifts to a minimum, as we both tend to just buy whatever we need or want for ourselves. I did decorate early and a little more than I usually do. Last year I was so unmotivated I never even put up the tree!

    You’re right about those pre-paid credit cards being a bad deal. I only buy one gift card and it’s always for a major store that never expires.

    I haven’t listened to any holiday music this year and don’t know if I will.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      Thanks for sharing Eileen! I usually only buy gift cards specific to a store so was surprised by the Visa policy, esp as the gifter had said they never expire, so was saving it for something special. Your’re right, if we buy everything we want or need during the year, it’s hard to surprise someone with something they actually want or could use!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. thegenxtravels says:

    Just my husband and I for Christmas this year. I’m having trouble getting in the mood as well and I’m glad I’m not the only one!! We haven’t even put up all of our decorations, seemed like a lot to do for just us!! On the plus side we mailed out packages to all of our kids and that was fun putting them together. Best present so far is my husband gets the Covid vaccine tomorrow morning! Hoping there is an end in sight!! Have a Merry Christmas!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Linda Schaub says:

    I think you are in the holiday spirit more than you think Joni – you did a great job on the arrangements and I’ll bet they last a long time. The songs, the movies can get you into the spirit. I don’t see any movies on TV but half-entertained the idea of watching those two holiday specials as it has been ten years for me, just like you, since I saw “Rudolph” … but than involves plugging in everything and there is stuff stuffed and more stuff stuffed everywhere in that room because of overbuying food through April. It is usually more manageable, but since I’m not going at all to the store until April (hopefully), I had to substitute for the perishables I’m not buying (I usually went at least once/month for perishables and clementines which I miss). So it is a cluttered mess and I shut my eyes when I walk past. Next year I will decorate a little bit as one wreath on the door every year may look festive from the outside, but it is not festive inside. I know you like plaid from your bows and your face masks and from prior posts … I’m mad about plaid too and I always find it cheery looking. I keep forgetting to look if my holly bush has berries – it is not an annual event for my holly. I am with you on the inflatables – some houses have way too many, collapsed on a heap in the morning, and way too large when inflated. Some, on small properties take up the whole front lawn. My lawn is small and could not take a big one and certainly not more than one. My neighbor mix-and-matches her (gawdy) decorations (like oversized Christmas bulbs hanging from her house which is smaller than mine) and putting them next to a creche. I think a creche is nice, but keep it separate from the other holiday decor. Just my opinion which is not worth a hill of beans.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      I enjoyed doing the evergreen arrangements, and making the cookies, and listening to the music. I did not enjoy the shopping ever….unless I could find the right present. And I absolutely hated wrapping. Simpler is better in outdoor decorating – I wish more people realized that. It seems like they have to put everything out and then they add to it and it just looks tacky.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Linda Schaub says:

        I see tacky and want to cringe … next door leaves me SMH. Plus still the Fall and Summer decorations pushed to the side. And I hate mixing a nativity scene with white lit-up reindeer. Just no. My mom and I shopped through the year and bought our gifts for each other months ahead of time and knew they fit (if it was clothes) and no returning for the right size. And we celebrated Christmas in mid-November when my grandmother was still here. So no last-minute running around – it is draining dealing with crowds.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Joni says:

        So true…..I’m dreading going to the grocery store tomorrow to pick up the turkey. Ford announced we will be in lockdown for a month starting Dec26, so the grocery store will be worse than normal, even though it will stay open.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Linda Schaub says:

        Hope it went okay Joni – see, that is how I feel about going anywhere with our rates of deaths and cases, although our deaths have gone down the last week – we were higher throughout November. I told the allergist’s office on 11/23 I would not be back until February (if then) … that gives enough time for the wave from Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years to subside, but vaccines are still not out to the public (first shot) until April or after that. I heard Joe Biden saying today that the worst of the pandemic is ahead of us, not behind us, even with the vaccine roll-out. That’s straight talk, not like we’ve heard since the pandemic began. Trump said tonight that Americans deserve more than $600.00 for a stimulus check – $2,000.00 is better and either pass that or I will be back and do it. Hmm. You are in lockdown on 12/16 due to the new strain or just as the cases have ramped up? On the national news this morning, they were urging all retired pharmacists to come out of retirement because there are not enough pharmacists to give vaccines once they arrive for the general public in drug stores and grocery stores. My grocery store will be giving it – I already saw them on the list. I looked for the story to send you FYI but I could not find it. They also want other retired pharmacy techs to help in conjunction with the vaccines. I thought at one time they were to have the National Guard administer the vaccines – I guess that fizzled out?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Joni says:

        I know your cost of living is lower in the US, and food is cheaper etc, but $600 did not seem like very much to me for a one time only cheque. Trump is only saying that to gain favor, why didn’t he tell the Republicans to press for more? They’ve been wrangling about it for a month? No, our lockdown doesn’t have anything to do with the new strain at all. Top health DR. said again today not detected in Canada yet. It has to do with the rising COVID stats in Toronto and GTA and the fact that the hospitals there are getting at near capacity in the ICU’s etc. They are having to cancel elective surgeries. So by hitting the reset button he is trying to break the 2200/new cases per day. I think it’s a wise idea. Most businesses have a slow time in January anyway, and by extending the school break he will prevent the spread from the holiday gatherings because we know people will be going to get together over Xmas etc. The grade school kids will only have a 2 week lockdown, but high school will be remote for a month. Even here where I live we have more cases now, 66 cases Monday whereas we only had 30 on Friday, so it jumped over 30 cases over the weekend, and we had been low for a long time. My neighbour told me tonight that one of the restaurants was closed due to an outbreak, (not a place I ever go to, but not too far away), and yet the Health Unit won’t tell us where the work outbreaks are due to confidentiality, so it’s gets around by rumor or Facebook. So frustrating. I can’t see many retired pharmacists stepping up to give vaccines, me included. I let my license lapse, including my immunization license, even though that course cost me $1000 plus travel expenses. RNA’s – registered nursing assistants here can give flu shots, maybe that would be a better idea to do clinics, and not expect the pharmacy staff to try and fit people in along with all their regular checking Rx duties? Realistically how many people could they do in a day? Re the National Guard, maybe they didn’t want to, although you can basically teach anyone to give a shot, although there is some potential for error – I cringe when I see some of the technique on tv? One had half the liquid running down the patients arm! An experienced nurse with great technique – you don’t even feel the needle. Someone I know ended up with nerve damage for months as the nurse was a new grad and she hit a nerve instead of muscle. The grocery story today was a nightmare, as everyone is trying to stock up – I grabbed my turkey and a few perishables and got out quick! And am not going anywhere now for 2 weeks!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Linda Schaub says:

        I gave blood for many years but the last time I gave blood I had an inexperienced phlebotomist and she could not find a vein and kept sticking me, starting the line and walking away – it was not inserted right and fell on the floor. The first time it happened, I was blunt as she had tried both arms (and yes, even a seasoned phlebotomist had a difficult time finding a vein sometimes), and I asked her to get another person to do it as there were several older women standing by the donuts and coffee and talking about their “exes”. She got mad that I insinuated she didn’t know what she was doing and tried again, so I called over and asked someone to finish it as I was going to leave if they did not. They came over and saw all the places she had stuck me – and told the young one to move aside and she did it, got it inserted fairly quickly and she stayed nearby the rest of the blood draw. By the time I was finished, she did apologize and wrapped me up to go home. Later at home, I had black and blue marks where she had tried to start the blood draw and where she kept sticking me. To this day, I have a funny mark on the inside of my forearm … like a dot. I don’t care, no one sees it but that was the end of my giving blood. I gave at a church where I used to go to light candles for my mom for Mother’s Day, her birthday and Christmas. They closed the church to visitors as there were many break-ins. But they had a blood drive two or three times a year so I gave each time. No more. My blood is just Type A so nothing essential or extraordinary, so I stopped.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Joni says:

        RN’s have to re-certify doing an iv line every once in awhile, so once I had a Chronic care RN do an iv on me when I went for a scan and had to have dye inserted. She was being supervised by the regular CAT scan RN. Well, my blood went spurting all over the floor and the supervising RN jumped in and yanked my arm up and started yelling at the Chronic Care RN and told her that if she did that one more time, she was done. She apologized to me, even though it wasn’t her fault, but ever since I’ve been squeamish about having an iv done now – nothing like seeing your blood squirting all over to make you pass out!


      • Linda Schaub says:

        Yikes – I was annoyed as the senior phlebotomists were in a corner drinking coffee, eating donuts and in a big discussion about their exes and they should have watched her. I agree with you seeing your blood squiring all over … the needle kept falling out of my arm. This might have been since it was a mobile blood drive but I think they would have a proper set-up. I went once to a Red Cross donation center. They did not have the tables, but rather a comfy chair and it went back all the way and they monitor you continuously. There is a big shortage of blood here … all types. I don’t donate anymore, but I would not do it during this pandemic.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. annieasksyou says:

    Joni, that was such a comprehensive and relevant look at Christmas season, 2020. I especially enjoyed your comments about the deflated blowups—they are the saddest things to behold.

    And your artwork in using your mom’s tree is super.

    Wishing holiday cheer to you both. I look forward to comparing your 2021 holiday post with this one: I’m confident we’re heading toward happier times.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      Constructing those evergreen arrangements was the most creative and enjoyable part of my decorating this year. Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas Annie, and a Safe and Peaceful New Years. I’m sure next year will be better in all kinds of ways!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. indianeskitchen says:

    My Christmas bubble was broken when the grandkids moved in with us. It has been Rudolph, the Grinch and more. Driving around town seeing all the Christmas lights and baking cookies. It was just what I needed. Your pine arrangements are gorgeous!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. ruthsoaper says:

    I’m glad you continue to journal the effects of covid. I found it took extra effort to fight off the covid blues this season. Watching more Christmas movies, listening to more Christmas movies, decorating and spending a lot of time making gifts got me through.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      Thanks Ruth! I hope in my next installment we’ll be getting our vaccines, at least my mother might be in one of the first groups. I’m feeling more of the post-Christmas let down this year. Usually I enjoy January as a quiet time after all the Christmas rush, but this year I think it will be difficult, as we’ve already been so shut-in already.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. J P says:

    So much here. It’s kind of interesting to see this after the big day. Our preparations were minimal but we survived.

    Marianne has wanted holly bushes for years. We planted 2 or 3 but they were mugged by honeysuckle before they became really established. We need to try again.

    Great musical choices. That Sinatra album has been in the family literally my entire life.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Dave says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever taken the time to really listen to the lyrics of “We Need a Little Christmas”. I agree – it’s a great message. Apparently I’ve just tuned out the words all these years, at least until I get to the chorus. Also, we have way too many leftover Lindor truffles right now. They always show up in bags and gift baskets this time of year. I know – you can never have “way too many” Lindor truffles – but we may have to put them away for a couple of months until they become temptations again. “Joni and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”. Haha, good one!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      I listen to that song when I was walking so had he lyrics memorized! You can not ever have too many Lindor chocolates. I’m way behind in Reader and am counting on the calm of January to get caught up.


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