So this is Christmas.
A lot of Americans tell pollsters they are feeling a bit sadder, lonelier and less grateful at Christmas this year than last year, and it is little wonder why.
A once-in-a-lifetime pandemic has killed more than 300,000 people in this country and millions around the world. A brutal presidential election campaign has dragged on into a terrifying post-election, with a defeated president mulling martial law as a way to hold on to the office.
If the horrors of the pandemic have not beaten us down enough during the past 10 months, now we wait in fear to see if our democracy can withstand this attack.
Just 22 percent of Americans say they feel very or extremely festive this year, according to an opinion poll done for the Associated Press, down from 49 percent one year ago. Those who do feel festive tend to be those least worried about the virus. In other words, they are in denial.
Two of the most popular songs heard during this difficult season were written during the World War II, when our soldiers were away from home, often for years.
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” are both sad, wistful melodies that captured the mood of the country in those dark years when the war had torn families apart and had killed hundreds of thousands of Americans. In other words, a time that was a lot like now.
“Home for Christmas,” sung by Bing Crosby in 1943, was explicitly written to honor the troops overseas. It is a hopeful song but ends realistically with the words, “I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.”
“Merry Little Christmas” was written for a 1944 Judy Garland movie but was quickly adopted by divided families, again with lyrics like these, offering some hope for the future: “Through the years/ We all will be together/ If the fates allow.”
The two songs became Christmas standards in part because the WWII generation loved them — and loved hearing them again and again, as reminders of what they endured and what they had regained. They were reminders that no matter how bleak life becomes, it can get better.
That’s a good reminder for us this holiday season. We may not be in a festive mood, but most of us are trying to push through. We are decorating our houses and buying gifts and trying to carry on. Downtown Frederick, especially with the boats on Carroll Creek, is as bright as ever.
This year, our lives have been disrupted and dislocated by disease and division. Perhaps, 2020 will remind us to never again take for granted the joy of spending the holidays with those we love.
In the waning days of this seemingly endless year, our country and our world have finally seen some bright rays of hope illuminating the dark corners of our lives.
Our brilliant scientists have given us the greatest gift of all: safe and effective vaccines that hold the promise of brighter days ahead. By the middle of next year, we should be much closer to defeating the COVID-19 virus.
After months of deadlock, the Congress has finally come around to throwing a lifeline to struggling unemployed people and endangered businesses with the $900 billion relief bill.
For now, those of us who are fortunate enough to be weathering this raging storm must concentrate on what we have, rather than what we have lost.
If you are having Christmas dinner with even one or two loved ones, remember that more than 300,000 families will have an empty chair at their table this year.
If you can afford presents and a special meal, remember the 20 million people who have been thrown out of work and are trying to hold on until the tide turns.
Take a walk. Enjoy the crisp, cold air of winter and envision a coming spring.
Wherever you find yourself this holiday, we hope it’s a respite from the world’s problems.
Maybe next year, “all our troubles will be out of sight.”