• 19 Dec - 25 Dec, 2020
  • Sidra Khan
  • Feature

Imagine heavily decorated Christmas trees, fairy lights, and the most delicious Christmas candies – now imagine all of this in a ghost town! It may be an exaggeration, but it may as well be true for it certainly feels like it. The pandemic has affected the holidays like anything. While families might still be getting together for intimate dinners, a shadow has already been caste on the celebrations; masses have been cancelled, so have the different parties organised specially for the occasion. All those who would have otherwise stepped out for a nice dinner have limited options with only outdoor dining available at selected restaurants.

Talking to a friend, I realised how hard it really is. Apart from all the social activities, the Christian community also has to keep away from Church as a precaution. “We as Christians celebrate this time of the year with joy, happiness and great tidings. Families light candles in their houses, have lots of decorations put up, have paint the houses, stitch new clothes this is all in preparations to welcome the one and only Jesus Christ. This is the season to feast and share gifts with those do not have as much,” says Jonathan D’Souza with great pride, but laments, “This year is different because the main purpose [of the celebrations] is for us come together to celebrate The Christ’s birth. Due to covid we are not able to visit our house of worship.” He mentions that mass during Easter was conducted through live streaming instead. He further shares, “[We] cannot meet and greet our brothers and sisters in Christ through a hug or kiss on the cheek, cannot visit our friends and family as freely as we did when covid was not a part of lives.”

For as long as I have had Christians friends, I have known them to be full-of-life kind of people; they are always ready to have a good time and their homes are always open to everyone, irrespective of caste or religion. It is hard imagining Christmas celebrations with them limiting their social plans to a minimum and confining themselves indoors. Nevertheless, it makes me extremely proud of them as well – as a community, they have shown immense strength and responsibility during this critical time. I remember Masjids being packed during Ramadan and soirees on the rise during Eid. There was a constant debate on social media on whether it is responsible of people to be continuing with celebrations as is. Nonetheless, the parties went on as planned. 20-year-old Rhea D’Souza says, “It doesn't feel like Christmas at all. Everything is very toned down, there's no door-to-door carol singing where little children would come singing the festive songs and be given treats and goodies, somewhat like Halloween, but just not scary. The play on the birth of Jesus on Christmas day has been cancelled in order to practice social distancing.”

The rest of the traditions will be carried on with, however even the feast has not been spared by the dark cloud of the pandemic. Rhea mentions, “Due to covid, the rates [for ingredients] have increased in the market, not many are able to afford making the sweets or the [traditional] dishes this year or in the desired quantity to be able to share it with others. All festivities have been cancelled and so has the Christmas Bazaar from where we'd buy Christmas decorations, sweets and food put up on sale made by people promoting their home businesses.”

It is not just the people though, even businesses have been affected severely. Belinda Fonseca, a young home chef who runs Love At First Bite, says the pandemic has not been kind to businesses all over, but the food industry has seen one of the worst declines. “When people started taking all sorts of precautions, they also started to eat indoors, so the business obviously saw a downfall. But whatever little business the home chefs managed to get, was incredibly hard to keep up with as initially delivery services weren’t operating. So either we had to deliver order ourselves, or the clients had to pick them up, which was inconvenient for both the parties. Even though the lockdown hasn’t been imposed with severity like earlier, the prices of the ingredients have tripled. For chefs like me, who use imported ingredients, this poses a huge challenge because the price of the product goes up,” Belinda explains. Even in these trying times where she has to take extra measure to ensure food safety, she is grateful that her clients have trusted her with the hygiene of their food. “I do fitness food as well, so even when people were eating out less, there were still many who were eating healthy and wanted to continue with their diet regime,” Belinda states one of the reasons her business managed to survive.

Not all hope is lost, though! There are still those who are high on life and will not let the pandemic dampen their spirits. “For a fact we know Christmas this year is not going to be the same. I mean what is Christmas even without a packed church ground with loads of laughter, gifts, one-dish parties, cousins getting together and millions of photographs? But, will it be memorable and fun? Hell yes!” exclaims Samuel Nixon, the most vivacious, optimistic young man you will ever come across. “I'll still place the ornaments on tree myself, as always and argue with my mom on how I dislike the way she decorates around,” he says with a playful wink and continues, “We'll still be making the white chocolate butter toffees, cheese straws, the dry fruit cakes and snacking up on nuts, while Elvis, Celine and Mariah play loud in the background.

“I'm expecting a fun-filled holiday season with people that actually matter and won't make my Christmas feel blue. And of course, I'll still be slaying my Christmas outfit,” Samuel manages to barely complete his sentence before he rushes off in the wind. And that’s what any of us can do, really. Make the best of what we have and make the most of the time we have with our loved ones, because if 2020 has taught us anything, it is to live every moment as if it is your last and never take anything for granted! Here hoping a much better year awaits us on the other side and wishing the Christian community a very Merry Christmas! •