Isabel Tarnutzer ’21: Known warmly as the “happiest time of the year”, the holiday season remains one of the most beloved and anticipated times of the year. Full of cultural and familial traditions, decorations, lights, gift-giving and family gatherings, many view this holiday season as a time for unification and to join together with family.  Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or another winter holiday, one can be sure no two families will celebrate exactly alike. Within each family, certain traditions emerge during each holiday season unique to the individual family. 

For some, their most valued tradition revolves around uniting with family.

“My favorite tradition is very year my family has a big Christmas Eve party,” Alex Basel 21’ said

Some families’ traditions involve a little added holiday magic, and families leave out cookies and milk for Santa, or eat certain food on Christmas morning.

“My favorite Christmas tradition is on Christmas morning when [my siblings and I] would find little Hershey kisses leading from our door down to the tree, every year since we were little,” Ian Tarnutzer ‘23 said.

For others, their traditions involve blessing others beyond their own circle. Some families choose to serve others in their community around them through volunteering or other service opportunities.

“In my family we do this volunteer thing where we go and wrap presents for kids in foster homes and then we also make a bunch of italian food for Christmas together on the 23rd,” Sophia Hein ‘21 said.

Such traditions give the holiday season its life and appeal and showcase the importance of family and the continuation of generational beliefs and values. However, with COVID-19’s grip on our nation, the holiday season remains within the virus’s effects. Many of the beloved holiday traditions American families enjoy no longer remain available or safe in the new age of COVID-19. Some states even called for families to stay seperate on Thanksgiving and winter holidays to prevent the possible spread of the virus. As a result of the restrictions, families learn to adjust to the changing times and develop new traditions and ways of connecting with family. 

“…this year we are doing [Thanksgiving] outside as best we can so we just have a bonfire in the front and back and we just aren’t letting anyone go inside,” Hein said.

Other families elect to completely forgo traditional holiday gatherings and remain in their own homes and reunite with loved ones via Zoom or other video calls, or simply postpone their holiday get-togethers until a safer time.

“Some of my family feels unsafe leaving their house, so we are waiting till it’s a little safer then we are gonna have them over for a big dinner,” Tarnutzer ‘23 said.

The emergence of new traditions becomes a commonality in this corona-affected world. Change becomes somewhat of a constant and new ideas follow as a result. It can be difficult to change or lose valued traditions, but in these trying times it becomes important to remain flexible and understanding. With this “new normal,” new traditions emerge as the best solution to maintaining the joy and happiness that the holidays bring.

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