Christmas 2020: Silent Night

Although I still have a fair number of decorations up (just trying to make the joy joy joy last), my birthday was this weekend, which I usually think of as the end of Christmas season. Which means it’s time for the 2020 Christmas wrap up.

Some of JC’s family met up in WV for a celebration in early December, but we stayed home. The COVID numbers for our area looked like this:

Chart showing high numbers of COVID cases in early December for Harrisonburg and Rockingham Counties.
Chart by Joe Fitzgerald, who makes daily public posts on his Facebook page with the previous day’s data. It’s only gotten worse.

We felt like it would be irresponsible to travel, to see grandmothers in their 80s and 90s, to potentially bring whatever germs are going around here into contact with five other households. Besides which, I have siblings who work in hospitals. One spent the six weeks leading up to Christmas working in a COVID ICU. It was a devastating experience. They told me how upset they were seeing families getting together. I am not terrified of getting the virus myself; I know that the odds are good that I’d be fine. But avoiding travel and interaction as much as possible is our civic duty. So we were mostly home.

As our gift for friends and family, the kids and I made a Christmas album. Silas was on the uke, Petra on percussion, and I helped out with the animation. We had fun making it!

My dad was in the process of moving to Arizona, and he wanted to make sure to see us one last time before he drove west. So he took a detour on his trip and came to spend a couple of hours with us. He said, “I didn’t want the kids to have a ‘mailbox Christmas,'” quoting a phrase Silas coined. Somehow neither of us managed to get any pictures, but we had a really nice time. He ended up accidentally inducted into the Society of Soup (more on that another time), and had a good time with the kids. I was glad to spend some time with him before he headed to Arizona. He’s lived in West Virginia for forty years; I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around the concept that he doesn’t live there anymore.

Petra had a great time building this model of the Colosseum that Dad gave her. She knocked it out in an afternoon, with only a little help!

On Christmas Eve, we enjoyed Jólabókaflóð (Yule book flood), an Icelandic tradition. Supposedly, in Iceland, people give each other new books on Christmas Eve, and everyone sits around and reads and eats chocolate. We expanded that into a full-on charcuterie situation and munched and read in happy quiet for a solid hour before bed. All of us agreed that this is a tradition worth continuing.

The next morning, we opened gifts, and hung out together.

My big gift for the kids was a set of wool cloaks. Unlike the adorable little elf cloaks they have had since preschool, these are serious, keep you warm in the cold, wool cloaks. They’re pretty heavy, so I think they’ll take some getting used to, but they’re designed to fit them until they get at least as tall as I am.

I also got them “Hobbit diet” shirts.

If you or someone you know would like a cloak like this, let me know. Due to a misprint in the pattern (and my own self-talk going, “You’re bad at math, the pattern lady is smarter than you!”), I ended up with twice as much fabric as I needed. Looking to hunt the White Walkers or whatever? I’m willing to make a deal.

When Petra and I were shopping for Silas’ stocking, we found these cute paintable diorama things half off. I felt like we’d need some entertainment on Christmas day, so I brought them home. They have little LEDs in them, so they light up and look super cute. JC, Petra, and I had a good time working on them. Silas isn’t very into crafts, but he cheered us on.

My favorite is the one with the cacti.

A couple weeks later, we met up with Mom and Gary in a gorgeous Air B&B they rented. Before you all @ me, my family doesn’t go *anywhere*, and they tightened up their protocols for a couple weeks so that we could safely be in the house together. The house was on a lake, and even though I lived on a lake for all of middle and high school, I had somehow forgotten how the light on a lake changes from hour to hour. Being in a house that looked out on the water felt like coming home.

We didn’t go kayaking–it was pretty windy and cold. But we did enjoy sitting on the dock and watching the sun go down.

While we were there, an armed insurrection was going on less than 90 miles away. It was difficult to imagine, honestly.

We spent the latter half of the week watching as much of the news as we could stand and then going for hikes and stalking herons.

Mom and Gary decided to do a luau theme for our festivities. They borrowed some decorations from a friend who has a catering business and decorated all over the place. They had streamers, jellyfish, a palm tree “Christmas tree,” a toucan.

They even put together a photo booth with lots of props.

Gary kept coral reef footage rolling on the big television. I’m not much of a TV person, but this was oddly relaxing.

They set up a sand castle station!

It’s kinetic sand

We had tropical beverages every night.

Maui Sunrise!

JC’s birthday happened while we were there, so I made him a cheesecake, but kept the decorations thematic.

The last night there, we had a murder mystery luau. Petra ended up being the victim (she was THRILLED). Alex and Tiara weren’t able to make the trip from Colorado, times being what they are, but they Zoomed in for a good bit of the mystery.

After we got home, we rounded out our Christmas festivities with a quick visit from JC’s parents, who drove all this way to spend a few masked hours with us and bring the kids their Christmas gifts. We hadn’t seen them since the middle of the summer. Everyone was thrilled to have some time together, even if it was brief.

We did what we could to make the season special, and it was. Still, I hope next Christmas can be more normal!

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