Holiday gatherings have become more intentional and cherished. Photo by Monstera from Pexels

Holiday, who? Finding the new normal for the holiday season

Restrictions have certainly loosened since the last holiday season. But with the emergence of the Omicron variant, celebrants are playing Christmas and New Year’s Eve festivities by ear. 

Offbeat to what we have grown accustomed to, the CDC loosened its holiday gathering restrictions. With that, familiar American holiday traditions like Macy’s much anticipated 95th annual Thanksgiving Day Parade followed by the Hollywood Christmas parade kicked off. Similarly, Times Square in New York City will once again be filled with crowds waiting to watch the ball drop for New Year’s Eve. 

Still, the unavailability of the vaccine for children under the age of five makes the holiday season difficult for some. “[My] youngest granddaughter is two [and my] grandson is four,” laments Creative Funk Records CEO and actor Gary DeBerry Sr., describing the difficulty of not having physical contact with his grandchildren during the holidays. 

“We miss the hugs and kisses…This whole futuristic Zoom thing is like an outer space movie,” DeBerry Sr. continues. 

While some are eager to dart back to holiday gatherings or visiting loved ones, sheltering in place brought the value of staying at home to light for others. “For me personally I don’t have FOMO [or the fear of missing out],” National Grid’s U.S. Director and U.K. Senior Manager of  Employment & Labor Tanya N. Blocker tells Ark Republic. 

Prior to the assistant general counsel stepping into her role at National Grid, Blocker served as the President of the Association of Black Women Attorneys. In that position, her presence was required at every function. “There was one point I was going out every night of the week . . . I don’t have that fear anymore,” she recounts.

“If I’m leaving the house, [to go to] an environment where I still need to be very conscious of safety and the transmission of COVID, it needs to be deliberate.” Before stepping out, Blocker evaluates whether or not there is any value in attending an event. “I’m not just going to go,” she says.

For sure, the pandemic abruptly stopped evening jaunts and ad hoc visits to family members or even a social space. With the shuttering of thousands of businesses and the change of protocol, there’s been more intention put into how we engage. “COVID-19 is overturning the idea that nature and its benefits–from stress reduction to social connection– are becoming ‘luxury goods,’” said Rubenstein School PhD candidate and Gund Graduate Fellow Diana Hackenburg.

Family gatherings of extended members are becoming more intimate. But those who continue have implemented safety protocols. Others have reported that with the rise of COVID-19, cultures with large family gatherings have been impacted. Photo credit: August de Richelieu from Pexels

Tread lightly

Whether sheltering in place turned you into a homebody or caused you to jet to holiday affairs to regain some sense of normalcy, the recent emergence of the Omicron variant may cause this year’s celebrators to pump their brakes. Said to spread twice as quickly as the Delta variant, Omicron made its appearance in South Africa, the U.K., Austria and Canada shortly after Thanksgiving.

Referred to as the “Frankenstein mix,” countries are already taking preventative measures to decrease the spread. Recently, the EU, Japan, Australia, U.S. and Canada have tightened restrictions. 

In America, the Biden Administration announced travel restrictions from South African countries. Likewise, the Canadian Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos along with Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra and Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino have opted to block flights from South African countries. All the while, proceeding with the Niagara Falls New Year’s Eve celebration. 

Celebrants are required to provide proof of vaccination with a photo ID. As well, capacity limits for indoor and outdoor activities are based on maintaining a distance of six feet. 

Contrarily, Japan is approaching its year-end party season with caution. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has reinstated the recently lifted ban on foreigners entering the country. 

| Read: Christmas and winter traditions change as the US shifts in demographics

There are more holiday traditions implemented during this time of the year in the U.S. as the population shifts. Such as tea gatherings from Arabic or English diasporans. Photo credit: Rodnae productions

Meanwhile in the U.K., Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that all international travelers will have to take a Day 2 PCR test and shelter in place until their results come back negative. As well, masks are now mandatory in shops and on public transportation. The spread of the new variant has already caused the cancellation of Christmas parties in restaurants and pubs

“It is definitely having an impact on our bookings, not just on bedroom bookings but also meetings and events,” said  Arora Group chairman, Surinder Arora. 

In Sydney, Australians are currently waiting on word from its Lord Mayor Clover Moore in regards to their New Year’s Eve fireworks celebration. “It would be incredibly sad if Sydney New Year’s Eve cannot go ahead, but that is a real possibility we’re facing,” admitted Moore.

Despite the communicability of the Omicron variant, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is taking more of a laid-back approach. “Nobody will be given this vaccine against their will nor will the vaccine be administered in secret or some dark corners,” stated President Ramaphosa. He added that unvaccinated citizens will not be forbidden from traveling wherever they please including schools or public places.

Chairwoman of the South African Medical Association, Dr. Angelique Coetzee enumerated the symptoms of the Omicron variant as extreme fatigue and headaches in conjunction with a scratchy throat. To date, there have been no cases including the loss of taste or smell.

“Each variant has halved in its case fatality: alpha 1.9 percent, beta 1.2 percent and delta 0.51 percent. So [perhaps the Omicron variant will be] 0.25 percent. Let’s be optimistic,” said Consultant Surgeon Dr. Anthony Hinton. To the degree that it spreads fast with mild symptoms, good news may result if it gives full immunity to the vaccinated and unvaccinated.

Presently scientists are researching the new variant while big pharma companies including BioNTech and AstraZeneca among others are moving to test their vaccinations against it. Concurrently citizens all over the world are contriving ways to celebrate while complying with COVID-19 restrictions.

Journalist established in 2001, inspired by transformative leads.

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