Christmastide

Your Christmas gifts are not late.

Now, that doesn’t mean they will arrive on December 25. The current USPS delivery load is estimated at 40% over normal and 19,000 of their workers are out due to COVID-19 symptoms or exposure. Those of us who respect the opinions of medical experts and the health department are not delivering packages ourselves as we stay home for the holiday and ship instead. It’s a stressful time to be working at the post office.

But still, your Christmas gifts are not late. Christmas is actually a twelve-day festival called Christmastide which begins December 25 and ends January 6. In fact in Latin America, the day to exchange gifts is the Epiphany, the commemoration of the visit of the Magi to the Christ child and the offering of their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

That last one, myrrh is an embalming oil. Whether you believe in COVID-19 or not, there are 400,000+ more deaths in 2020 than in 2019, the largest yearly increase since 1919 and the Spanish Flu. I will ask the question to the naysayers again: if you include total deaths together regardless of cause, what exactly explains the increase?

2020 Deaths all causes

I am spending my first Christmas with my partner Loren in our new condo. It’s been a lot of fun (for me anyway) to decide where the tree goes, what lights to (get him to ) hang in the windows, and how to consolidate our Christmas ornaments. Winter blew into Minneapolis with last night’s blizzard, wind gusts at 50+ mph and sub-zero temperatures today. Hey, I guess we get a white Christmas after all.

But this is my first Christmas in Minneapolis in ten years. I’ve been single since 2009 and spent the last ten Christmases with my mom and family back in Peoria, IL. By this time of the day on Christmas Eve, mom and I would have already been to the pub for beers and lunch, stopped by the house to grab some family and head out to another pub for beers and apps, then make it home in time for the 8pm Christmas concert and Mass at the cathedral downtown. Then we’d get up early for mimosas, snacks, and gifts in the morning. Irish-American Catholic Christmas all the way.

But my mom died this year.

May 2020, on Mother’s Day no less (way to make an exit). Not of COVID-19 but Leukemia. At least I don’t have to worry about COVID-19 taking her anymore. Walking her home was grueling and I am still working through my grief. But I recognize now that Christmas was the quality time I spent with mom for the past decade and it has transformed the season for me. It is not one of sadness, but of gratitude. I was able to go home for ten days every year for a decade without guilt or worry about anyone else (except maybe the cats) and my happy memories of my mom now fill Christmas.

I cherish this time of year because I was able to take part in it. I didn’t miss out.

Now for Christmas Eve, I am in my home with Loren. We ordered Christmas Eve dinner of lamb shanks with all the fixings from Al’s Breakfast in Dinkytown, the site of our first ‘not-a-date’ date back in May 2019. We’re trying to help keep our favorite restaurants open. He’s cooking crab legs and tortellini for Christmas dinner. We’ll have gifts and Tom & Jerry cocktails and a fire both nights.

This season, I cooked and shared twelve dozen cookies and mailed 126 Christmas Cards. I might be the reason for the back-up at the post office. The Christmas cards we received in return line the picture rails in my dining room. As Loren and I enjoy our first Christmas dinner together, just the two of us at our ten-seat dining room table, our friends and families are surrounding us with their written well wishes of joy and peace.

Christmas will arrive right on time.

Merry Christmas and a much better New Year from our home to you and yours.

-Copyright C.M.Mounts, December 2020

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