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COVID-19 impacts students' holiday traditions

The 2020 holiday season looked quite different for members of St. Martin’s Episcopal School. Whether plans were canceled or altered, everyone felt the shift in this year's holiday season due to COVID-19 restrictions. Many students experienced these changes within their families and to their holiday traditions.

Senior Laura McCrary felt the effects within her family, including not being able to see one of her brothers that lives out of state.

“One of my brothers and his wife couldn't come visit us for Christmas due to their fear of COVID,” McCrary said. “It was unfortunate because I only get to see him once a year if I’m lucky, and Christmas is meant to be spent with family. My other brother did get to visit though, but we couldn’t really go anywhere due to the restrictions [throughout] the city. It was still good to see him though.”

Senior Erica Ricci shared that this holiday season was spent alone with her immediate family, rather than gathering with those she loves as usual.

“This year, I just spent the holidays with my mom, my brother, and my dog,” Ricci said. “It was kind of sad because we usually celebrate with all of our friends and family, but this year it was just quiet. I mean, we were making the most out of it, but it just wasn’t the same.”

Others felt the lack of activities among friends this time of year, like Senior Thomas Devall, who missed the parties usually associated with winter break.

“It was weird,” Devall said. “I wasn’t able to spend Christmas with the rest of the family like we usually do. For New Year’s, no one was able to have a large get together or party due to COVID. I’m crossing my fingers that it will be different next year.”

Other students, like Freshman Emy Farber, faced the difficult issue of having their older loved ones over for festivities. She recalled having to take precautions in order to spend time with them due to the large spike in COVID-19 cases.

“This season definitely felt different for me,” Farber said. “Normally, I would have some family come in, but this year it was just immediate family, and we had to take extra precautions just to invite my grandma. It changed a lot. It was also super scary knowing how many people would be traveling at this time of year and the risk it would pose. Overall, it felt weird, but it wasn't too bad.”

Other students spent time with their family in less traditional ways, like Senior Elena Gaver. Her family from outside of the state opted to hold virtual meetings over Zoom to see each other, rather than risking exposure from travel.

“This holiday season I stayed home for Christmas for the first time ever,” Gaver said. “My family and I Zoomed with family during the holidays. It was really weird but it was still nice to be able to talk to them. I haven’t seen any of them in over a year and they live out of the country and on the West Coast. It definitely felt different and I hope to see them soon.”

Despite the changes in plans for this time of year, Junior Lilly Rabe was able to enjoy the break with her parents and her sister, whom she does not get to see often because of college.

“This year my extended family didn’t spend the holidays together which was new for our family,” Rabe said. “ Instead of our usual family traditions, I spent the holidays with my parents and my sister.

Although it was a smaller group, I enjoyed spending time with my sister, who is away at college, and had a happy holiday season despite the differences.

Some students had their usual holiday trips canceled, such as Senior Camila Figueroa, but still tried to keep the spirit of the season alive in other ways.

“This holiday season felt different because of the increase in COVID cases,” Figueroa said. “I usually like to go on trips with my family, but we couldn’t this year, so the holiday season wasn’t the same. While I did have a good holiday season, traditions definitely weren’t the same as usual, and we had to do things with more precautions and safety.”

Sophomore Lauren Crowell used this year to reevaluate the meaning of the holiday season.

“Before this, I thought I’d be more upset about missing out on the hectic events of the holiday season,” Crowell said. “Normally, this time of year is stressfully spent trying to manage studying for exams as well as keeping up annual holiday traditions. Despite the obstacles faced this year, I was able to spend the holidays focusing on my family and friends, even if I might not have been able to see them in person. Overall, although this year was unlike any we’ve ever had, I think it gave us all time to realize what we’re actually supposed to be celebrating [during] the holidays.”

Junior Quinncy Boutchard echoed that sentiment and explained why this year’s celebrations had a different feeling from previous ones.

“The holiday season itself was the same at heart,“ Boutchard said. “But since my family couldn’t come together, it brought an undeniable feeling of difference and sadness that came not from change but from not being to be with your family and loved ones to experience it.”

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