This may be one Christmas season different in so many ways from previous ones because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Western Europe and the United States, where Santa Claus figures prominently as Father Christmas planners are already figuring out ways to bring him to children without endangering them through strict adherence to distancing and other safety protocols.
London holiday planner Ministry of Fun is determined to see that British children get to experience meeting Santa as in previous years, but this time he will be wearing a face mask. It will be made of red velvet with white fur as Santa’s beard. Santa won’t be handing gifts directly to the children, but place them on a sleigh between them for proper distancing.
“You can’t have Christmas without Santa,” it said. “A child meeting Father Christmas is a really big deal.” It is still early in the year, it said, but people are already looking forward to the Christmas season at the end of the year and “people need reassurance that Father Christmas can appear.”
Our Christmas in the Philippines is less about Santa as about Belens and parols, carols about Pasko, Christmas programs in schools, exchange of gifts, giant Chrismas trees in malls and parks, Simbang Gabi starting December 16, and finally the Christmas Eve Mass that ends on Christmas Day.
Two days from today, on November 1, we will start hearing Pasko carols on radio. It is the start of the “ber” months and Filipinos see these months as part of the holiday season, although it is the dawn masses of the Simbang Gabi starting December 16 that stand out in the Filipino celebration of Christmas. It is a tradition that many Filipinos observe even when they have come to live and work in Europe, the US, and other countries.
The world today is still in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic. It may take two more years before it will cease to be a problem, according to the World Health Organization. There should be vaccines by December that will hasten the end of the pandemic.
With or without COVID-19, Christians around the world will celebrate Christmas, this dearest of Christian holidays. In the last six months, so many people could not go to church on Sundays; even now, only 10 percent are allowed in churches in Metro Manila. All these restrictions, we hope, will soon be lifted and we will celebrate Christmas with joy as we have always celebrated it.