CHRISTMAS 2020 will certainly be a festive season like no other that has been seen in quite a long time. While people may travel to any part of the country, as they can leave their own counties over the holiday period and avail of household visits with people from two other households, there should be a lot less socialising going on and it will be a lonely time for more people than usual with many relatives from abroad following public health advice and not making the journey home for Christmas.
There has been a smaller window than usual for shopping because shops selling non-essential goods were closed under Level 5 restrictions until December 1st. However, one upside has been the increase in people shopping locally, which is vital for sustaining businesses and employment in this terrible year for them due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
One sector of the economy that has suffered more than most is the pub trade, especially pubs not serving food, which remain closed – having only been allowed open for a mere four weeks since the first lockdown started the day before St Patrick’s Day in mid-March – and have not been able to provide social outlets for the likes of office parties and for those who have returned home for Christmas. The festive season is usually the busiest time of year for publicans, so not being able to open now is like adding insult to injury.
And, as the feared return to Level 5 restrictions straight after the Christmas-new year period has now been deemed necessary, some publicans may decide never to re-open again, which would be a blow to many rural communities where the pub often provides a vital social hub.
However, all the talk about the social and commercial sides of this unusual Christmas forgets the very essence of the occasion, the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, all the people who want to won’t be able to join in the public devotion and celebration because numbers allowed to attend church ceremonies are limited.
Who would ever have thought that people would have to book to attend mass? But that is the reality for 2020. Such a situation is unprecedented in the history of the Catholic Church here.
Dating back to the Great Famine of the 19th century and the Spanish ’flu epidemic of 100 years ago, public religious devotion continued as people prayed for divine intervention in their hour of need. Numbers attending organised religious services have decreased quite a bit in the increasingly-more materialistic and secular society that we have been living in throughout recent decades, so there is a certain irony in the fact that the hottest tickets in town this Christmas are for masses.
However, it means a lot for people to be able to celebrate the true significance of Christmas and those attending religious services need to adhere to the protocols ordained by public health advice so that they do not add to the further spread of the virus, the incidence of which has been creeping back up steadily since we moved from Level 5 to Level 3 restrictions at the start of the month and especially now also that the ban on people moving between counties has been lifted for the festive season.
Please stay safe and enjoy the break.