You may have heard: our annual Hawaii ALS Community Christmas (Holiday) Party is not happening this year. Our venue for the past two years, the Honolulu Central Seventh Day Adventist Church, is not open for a party or crowds more than the number allowed by the health authorities. As a testament to the careful vigilance of our families, our community has not reported any case of coronavirus (knock on wood) thus far, and we’d like to keep it that way.

The past few months, many memes have tried to condense our feelings about 2020. Most of them describe how it dread has been plaguing our country. We have been dragged – angry and afraid – through quarantines, long lines, toilet paper and essential product runs, and other inconveniences. But painfully, for many of our countrymen, it was more than mere bother – thousands succumbed to the virus and hundreds agonized days and nights in ICU’S gasping for breath, acutely aware of the specter of Death and dying. Until now, our healthcare workers and structures run the risk of collapsing at every surge.

Through spring, summer, and now fall, we have learned to work at home, breathe with face masks on, spend more alone-times than we care for, replace hugs with fist bumps, skip travel. Early this month, we survived a contentious election. While it SEEMS like the “new normal” will look a lot like the “old normal,” politics-wise. we daren’t say more, because locally, we have this term called bachi, meaning, we are afraid to want it overly much that we attract bad vibes or karma. So, let’s just leave it at that.

We’ve snuck through the Thanksgiving weekend which practical caution from our public health guardians did not stop us from traveling home to grandma. Maybe, just maybe, a surge in cases of Covid will appear as a result of giving into our desire to break bread with fellow hoomans. Businesses reconfigured our Black Friday and Saturday shopping traditions,  like most of what used to be traditions,  but we are none the worse for the experience.

So now, Christmas.

Our family’s celebration will not change much, having maintained a bubble thus far.  One change is that we will no longer will be as hospitable to those who are stranded without a place to celebrate Christmas. In holidays past, Britt would invite his international students to join us at home. When my daughter and her soldier-husband came to live with me, they’d invite single soldiers or small military families to our celebrations. Not this year. We’d love to share our bounty but keep the virus away from us, please.

As we continue to hunker down, our service agencies have agreed to a less festive event but something more in keeping with the spirit of the First Christmas.  We are hoping to distribute, safely and healthily, Christmas wreaths to our Oahu families, in fervent anticipation that next year, we can again indulge in the festivities we have grown to love over the years. In the meantime, let’s keep being healthy, vigilant, and respectful of each other.

Think of the quiet joy of the First Christmas in Bethlehem, the richness of its spiritual legacy, and the warmth of its solemnity. Know deep inside of us that, though starkly different 2020 may seem from previous years, God’s love is no less omnipresent and our humanity, even more celebrated as we keep each other apart but together in heart.

Mele Kalikimaka and Hauoli Makahiki Hou! May Joy, Peace, and Hope be always in our beings as we celebrate this Christmas season!