Representative Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican, warned: “They tried to cancel Thanksgiving. Didn’t work! They’re coming for Christmas next.”
This is a toxic brew of science skepticism mixed with religious paranoia poured on top of a bedrock truth: We really, truly are missing out this holiday season, as we have been for most of this year. For Easter, Ramadan, Passover, Diwali, true believers, and the people who show up just for the food, have been separated from loved ones who don’t live under our roofs. The pandemic has kept us apart — out of school, out of work, away from one another. The suffering is real.
Even with vaccines on the way, the “federal overlords” and their henchmen — the C.D.C., governors, mayors and local health departments — have, indeed, persistently reminded people that large indoor gatherings are basically invitations to infection. With the number of infections and hospitalizations rising nationwide, that isn’t a risk we can take.
Still, let’s resist the urge to feel embattled. Twitter provocations aside, Covid-rule-breakers are not being threatened with arrest or imprisonment. In most cases, they weren’t even fined. The worst thing that one of the would-be Bravehearts might face is a stern talking-to or public shaming by their neighbors. Keeping Christmas small, staying home instead of traveling, seeing Grandma and Grandpa on a screen instead of in person is not religious persecution.
But it is, in fact, a sacrifice.
I’ve celebrated a Zoom Seder and a Zoom Thanksgiving and I’m preparing for a Zoom Hanukkah. I’ve set the table for four, instead of six or eight or 10, and “hosted” a Passover Seder with my siblings and my mom on my laptop screen on the counter, instead of at the table with us. I have a new niece I’ve met only onscreen, and of all the things that aren’t the same, seeing a new baby as opposed to holding one — feeling that tiny hand curling around your finger, cuddling that warm, loaf-of-bread weight against your shoulder, smelling the sweetness that’s particular to a brand-new human being — is at the very top of the list.