As sleigh bells of the approaching holidays can be heard faintly just around the corner, the minds of Gonzaga students and staff alike are , understandably, drifting towards thoughts of home.
Holiday traditions provide the perfect daydreaming subject; sleigh rides with sing-alongs, family recipes adorning tables and exciting trips to visit extended family all come together to form fond memories.
With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic however, family traditions for Zags have had to be modified in the name of health and safety.
“Christmas Eve I would usually spend with my extended family, and Christmas morning with my immediate family,” said Brooke Lee, an undergrad student at GU. “This year I won’t be seeing my extended family at all.”
With COVID-19 cases on the rise across the nation, many Christmas gatherings will be forced in following suit to Lee’s.
Long-standing traditions have fallen to the wayside this year as it becomes increasingly difficult to gather with those we would typically celebrate with.
Family meals or gift exchanges that usually would include cousins, aunts and grandparents are being forced to downsize as the pandemic hovers over the holidays.
“We’d always go over to my grandparents’ house and have a big Christmas Eve feast,” said Audrey Stevenson, a GU student from Arizona. “Then we’d usually open presents with all the uncles, cousins and kids.”
Despite the difficulties facing family gatherings during these troubling times, many students were excited to make new traditions with those they could spend their time with this year.
Getting a small group together over Thanksgiving, or in the time before Christmas for those staying on campus is a new opportunity to make holiday traditions and create memories.
Despite unexpected turns in holiday plans, GU sophomore Emily Schwartz expressed that she looked forward to getting together with those closest to her for gatherings or meals in the coming months.
Private gatherings and meals have changed dramatically, but for those who ordinarily go out for a holiday tradition, circumstances have shifted even more.
“My mom and I would always go out to this little town and see a movie at this old-fashioned movie theater,” said Gracie Pelton, a student at GU. “Obviously that’s not really happening this year.”
As restaurants, movie theaters and other businesses have again begun to close their doors, those who go out in pursuit of holiday fun are encountering barriers to their traditional holiday activities.
Will Smith, another GU student, customarily takes a ski trip to Chewelah, Washington over the holidays. He expressed that uncertainty about restrictions on businesses might change long-held plans to spend time on the slopes.
Travel is certain to look different going into this busy season, but GU students are ready to take plane, train and automobile to see family.
Simply being home to see family is something Santiago Calvillo, a GU student from Mexico, was greatly anticipating with these particularly difficult holidays.
As an atypical Christmas and New Year’s draw near, so too holiday traditions must adapt to the new environment. However, while standard gatherings, events and attractions may be out of commission, the spirit of the season remains.
Collectively our activities may be a bit unusual, but the love we share with others and care we bring to the world will still be evident as we merrily traverse through this extraordinary holiday season.