HomeCommunityStaycations, local gatherings becoming new norm for holiday season

Staycations, local gatherings becoming new norm for holiday season

Published Dec. 14, 2020

By CARISSA MENDOZA

With millions gathering for the holidays, cases across the nation have spiked at unprecedented rates, surpassing 16.4 million in the U.S. In response, many countries have turned towards lockdowns once again to further discourage gatherings, but with the holidays around the corner, it is uncertain how things will pan out. Locally, students at Carmel High School are adjusting to this new reality. 

“For Christmas, it is looking rather grim, especially with the new shutdown,” freshman Shayla Dutta explains. “It is looking so far like we will be unable to do anything with anyone outside of our household.”

Likewise, senior Ally Carroll’s Hanukkah celebration is going to be kept small as she is planning on simply staying home, making food and opening gifts. 

Students celebrating Christmas are also planning on keeping their holiday plans local. 

“For Christmas, my family and I are just going to stay in the area, to stay safe for everyone, especially since we see my grandma pretty frequently,” sophomore Julia Hadland says. “We are trying to keep it as normal as we can, but we want to stay safe as a priority.” 

Despite the pandemic, some students aim to see their extended family over the upcoming break.

“My plans for Christmas are still on the table,” junior Addy Dawson notes. “Though my sister and I plan to travel to Connecticut to visit family for Christmas, during this time we would both be getting a COVID-19 test.”

Others plan to turn to technology to maintain contact with loved ones.

“[The pandemic] has affected our family from getting to see other friends and family members from outside our area,” senior Carlos Zarazua explains, “but we still keep in touch with them through technology. We want to keep them and our family healthy. We still catch up with them through phone calls and on social media.” 

COVID-19 is bound to affect the upcoming holidays, but as senior Madison Hart explains, she hopes to remain optimistic. 

Carlos Zarazua celebrated his Thanksgiving with his family in his household. (courtesy of Carlos Zarazua)

“We have definitely had to adapt some of our traditions because of the pandemic, but we are making the best of it and trying to maintain some sense of normalcy.”

While limiting gatherings over the holidays is not ideal, freshman Marcus Michie expresses he still is grateful to have his family to celebrate with: “We definitely have had to adjust. The pandemic has stopped my family and I from visiting friends and family because of safety concerns, but we have each other for the holidays.”

Although students have attempted to remain hopeful, many find it disappointing to adjust to the changes the pandemic has brought.

“Each holiday my family and I get together with both sides of our family and have a big celebration and lots of food,” freshman Malia Stoney says. “I have really had to adjust because I am such a social person, and not getting together with big groups of friends and family has been difficult…but knowing that we are doing everything in our power to keep each other healthy is what matters the most right now.”

Junior Mackenzie Scattini expresses disappointment as well: “One major tradition that we’ve done every year since I can remember is going to see “The Nutcracker” ballet in December. It was a major tradition in our family. However, we cannot do that this year, and it is really upsetting.”

With church likely to be held digitally, one student expresses loss in not being able to carry out this tradition. 

The government has stressed the importance of staying home during the holidays and keeping celebrations limited to the members in one’s household.

“For Thanksgiving this year, it definitely was a bit weird,” Hadland says. “Most of my family couldn’t come over for dinner, so it was uneventful.” 

Like Hadland, many others kept their gatherings small for Thanksgiving. 

“This year for Thanksgiving, my family and I kept our circle small and only celebrated with the family in our household,” Stoney explains.

“We did not want to put ourselves or our relatives at risk, so we just celebrated as a family,” says Michie. 

Senior Grant Gallaway, far right, celebrated his socially distanced Thanksgiving with his brother Pierce and cousins from San Francisco. (Courtesy of Grant Gallaway)

Public health officials urged Americans to refrain from travelling during the holidays to mitigate the further advancement of the virus, but in hopes of seeing family and friends, many did. Over 1.04 million Americans traveled for the Thanksgiving holiday by plane, according to NPR, likely the most crowded the airport has been since the pandemic began.

Yet most Carmel High students did not travel.

“We had initially planned to spend Thanksgiving with my grandparents in Florida,” Dawson explains, “though we changed plans due to the increased cases.”

While small, local celebrations for the holidays are typical for some Carmel High students, this Thanksgiving strayed far from normalcy for others. Angel Elias, a senior who had a few relatives attend this year’s Thanksgiving dinner, explains that while he had a few people over, this was drastically different from his family’s normal gathering. 

“The pandemic did in fact affect plans because every Thanksgiving we invite over the whole family on my mom’s side, and we have 20-plus people at home,” Elias says. “This year it was around 9 to 10 people.”

Likewise, senior Brendan Lin celebrated the holiday with only his grandparents, quite different from his typical celebration that takes place in the Bay Area with about 30 family members and friends. 

“COVID-19 completely changed Thanksgiving,” adds Dutta. “Normally, we would rent a large house and gather with my mom’s side of the family. Unfortunately we were unable to do so this year, and only had a small six-person gathering with proper precautions.” 

Many turned to using masks as the primary form of precaution. 

“We got to see our cousin’s family, and none of us had any of the symptoms for COVID-19, and we did not get tested,” explains Zarazua. “However, we still made sure to stay socially-distanced while wearing our masks as well.”

While the pandemic has caused novel changes impacting students’ ability to visit friends and family, teens are making an effort to use the time to share love and joy, whether their celebrations are large or small. 

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