Out with the Old, in with the New Traditions

How the pandemic influenced winter holiday celebrations.

After a bout of self-pity, spending New Year’s Eve without that coveted midnight smooch was all worth it when my mom’s face lit up at the array of balloons and gold decorations my sister and I surprised her with on the eve of 2021.

I may not have lived the New Year’s Eve fantasy of partying until the ball drops, but I did get to spend the holidays with the people in my life I care about most. The outcome was an intimate series of holidays where too much wine was consumed and new recipes were made.

Other EvCC students also found that sometimes a tight-knit group for the holidays creates stronger memories than the family reunion style gatherings we all know and (kind of) love. 

Elissa Elmor, a 17-year-old aspiring biology major, usually travels to see her extended family from Canada and the Middle East for the holidays. This year, she celebrated with her immediate family, and they focused on feasting. 

“We cooked a lot of Lebanese food. I’m from Lebanon in the Middle East, so we cooked meat and falafel, and we had little mini turkeys,” said Elmor.

Elmorr’s holiday feast. Featuring mini turkeys. (Courtesy photo from Elissa Elmorr.)

Besides the copious amounts of delicious food, Elmor also got into the holiday spirit by being more giving with the extra time on her hands. She put together packages with snacks and sanitizer in them and handed them out to people in the community who did not have a place to spend the holidays. 

“I never had time to do that before, and it felt nice. It was way better to dial down and think about other people.”

Some traditions were taken to Zoom this year. Advanced Technical Design student Heather Costello said that her “family usually does a cookie contest, complete with supposedly impartial judges, a blind taste test, score sheets and prizes.” To make their tasty tradition safer, they did it virtually and had a cash prize for the winner.

“It was a $5 entry fee and the winner got to keep all the money. We had nine entries and each participant got to vote for their top favorites in creativity, most technical and overall. It was so much fun and an awesome way to feel connected even though we couldn’t be together. We are now making this an annual tradition, and I am already scheming my next gingerbread design for December 2021!” said Costello.

Debbie Sarich, Interim Executive Assistant to Interim VP of Student Services, continued her usual holiday traditions, with safety measures, out of a need for familial connection after her mother passed from COVID-19 in July.

“We needed each other to get by. She was always the oldest in our group, and with her being gone it is now on me. I could not bear being without my family this year. We all made sure we were safe and did only what we needed prior to meeting up. We have already lost one family member to COVID, we were not going to lose another one,” said Sarich.

Her mother would crochet stockings for new family members. Sarich took it upon herself to pick up the yarn her mother had already purchased and craft the stockings for three new family members. Carrying out the family tradition and bringing a sense of familiarity to a year that felt like no other. 

Even after a year full of loss and change, Sarich is hopeful for what’s to come. “We did the best we could regarding the 2020 holidays. But just wait, 2021 is going to be our best.”