While we’ve all surely “Face-timed” throughout the holiday season in years past, and for a while now, the idea of “Zooming” a huge, festive meal together — never mind maybe decorating the Christmas tree virtually — is completely anticlimactic. It flies in the face of what the season is all about, especially for those who cannot fly home: togetherness.
That said, the year 2020 proved to be the year that wrapped its arms around that increasingly popular, frustrating saying, “It is what it is.” Sadly, it is.
But, how ‘bout a rousing chorus of “heck no, we won’t go...virtual.” And simply see who you see when you see them, keeping things small, and maybe even learning what your true inner circle actually is at the same time?
Fact is, this past year has already been a revelatory exercise in that: Finding out who our inner circle really is. But when it comes to the holidays, all bets are off as far as further introspection, reevaluation and the like. What’s more, that’s the stuff of New Year’s resolution!
Many families have already put their Christmas trees up, some barely a few days into November. There is a mad dash to get this year over with.
On my way to work, from Branford, over the Q-Bridge and off to Hamden, I noticed a home with Christmas lights hung out front going as far back as early October.
I say go for it. Buy even more lights. Hang extra bulbs. You’re going to be serving less food anyway, so there will be fewer dollars spent at the grocery store. Just leave doing anything virtually out of it. It’s too Rod Sterling, never mind George Orwell.
One of the two Christmas trees of mine that I put up every year is already up, and while hanging the lights on this admittedly smaller of the two, my sister from Las Vegas rang me up. I told her what I was up to with her only niece and her only nephew, and she squealed, “Ooh, FaceTime me back!”
I declined, saying I’d just pass the phone on to them one at a time, the same way we did when our grandparents would call us from Hollywood, Fla., throughout our childhoods. She groaned, but acquiesced. To do otherwise would have proved futile anyway, and she knew this.
Our Christmas vinyl was spinning in the background (the Burl Ives-helmed “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” is the one that gets the most spins every year, and always the first to hit the turntable).
The ornaments were being separated into two piles: the store-bought and gift ones, and the homemade ones. The latter have always been my favorite ornaments of choice, and our mother did a great job of hanging onto even the most fragile of the lot.
I’m talking about ornaments that are basically cut-up construction paper with gobs of Elmer’s Glue on them and sparkly bits on top of the gobs. Things that are, quite literally, half a century old — bent, tattered, and in some cases, tape holding them together. Just barely.
How does one hang an ornament with such personal family history with their children while doing a reality TV show for family that is across the country? Well, I suppose the how is easy enough to answer, but certainly not the why. Not for me anyway.
There is a banter that takes place as a family painstakingly decorates their Christmas tree, loaded with muttering and snarky patter, never mind the choreography. I can only imagine the cries of “what’d ya say?” that would chorus from laptops across the country.
And when you go for a real Christmas tree, there is a focus and palpable tension that makes colorful outbursts even more than possible — it is likely. Sure, you can hit the mute button on Uncle Tony, but never quite in time and most kids are fairly sure what hitting the mute button means. Why risk it?
To be sure, a zoomed champagne toast is simple, and nice enough, but pretending an entire family is actually with you as you turn on the lights draped across your front porch for the first time of the season, gathered on your lawn, one of you holding the laptop up in the bitter cold, is all rather silly.
A member of the family serving in the military is one thing — place that laptop at a seat at the table, and leave it there from antipasto to espresso. But a virtual holiday where the whole family is banging their heads together to get a look at the screen isn’t anything I see myself participating in.
In my house, tradition won’t be televised.