Mercedes Brookins
Staff Writer

“What are we even celebrating this year,” Norma de la Rosa, a third-year at Whittier College, questions as she thinks back to the crazy year 2020 has been. She says it has been an especially difficult year in terms of racial injustice and climate change, and adding a global pandemic on top of it has made life that much more stressful. While racial injustice and climate change have been issues for a long time, I believe the lack of distractions this year has put those issues more into focus — so they, along with the pandemic, have been front and center this year. It is understandable why de la Rosa would question what there is to celebrate this holiday season. Many people would likely share this pessimistic outlook on 2020.

De la Rosa is currently living on campus and will most likely be spending the majority of her time for winter break there as well. Her mom lives near the area, so she is going to be spending Christmas with her and her cat, Mango. While de la Rosa is excited to be spending time with her mom and her cat, she wishes she was able to see more of her friends for the holiday season. She says it is already hard for her to connect with friends during this time of the year because she usually stays on campus, and her friends tend to go back to their hometowns.

However, with COVID-19 restrictions, it will be even harder for de la Rosa to connect with friends. Although this year will be harder, she plans on trying her best to stay connected. While she is going to be busy working, she has made friends with her coworkers, so she is going to at least get to see them virtually. She also plans on having Zoom calls with other friends to check in.

Like de la Rosa, this year has not been my personal best. It’s been hard to keep an optimistic attitude from a year that feels like there’s always going to be something going wrong. While Christmas is one of my favorite holidays, it is also one of the most stressful for me. I’m going to be in Portland, OR. for winter break, so let me paint a picture of what the average holiday season is like in Portland. For college students, winter in Portland means family drama, anxiety, and seasonal depression. Adding a pandemic on top of that is like adding nutmeg to eggnog; it’ll add flavor, but it’s definitely not necessary.

The rain in Portland is something I have noticed takes a toll on many people in the city in general, but especially so in the winter. We often don’t get snow in the winter, but when we do it’s usually icy, making it hard to drive in. The holidays can be a really stressful time for some people, aside from the weather as well. Stressors can include struggling with finances or not having healthy relationships with their families. Those who do have healthy relationships with their families can still agree that they can be additional sources of stress during the holiday season.

So far this year, holidays have not felt the same. With Halloween and Thanksgiving already in our rearview, it has been so hard to connect with friends and family this year while staying compliant to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. Of course, it is important to be responsible this year, with such a highly-contagious virus spreading, but, for people like me, friends can be a rock in stressful times. Usually for the holidays, I am back home in Oregon with my family, and constantly at work. For me, work was one of the only times I would go out in the winter due to it being so cold and gloomy this time of year. Otherwise, my close friends usually drag me out of being as gloomy as the weather. This year, however, I am not currently working, and Multnomah County, where Portland is, currently has strict laws in place to help prevent COVID-19 from spreading any more than it already has. Seeing my friends in person this break is not really an option.

Of course I’m disappointed that my friends and I can’t go on pointless drives or have a gingerbread house-making competition, but I understand how crucial it is to respect CDC guidelines. This is why my friends and I have already discussed how we plan on staying connected during the holiday season. We plan on having Zoom calls to check in with each other and have a Netflix watch party, or watch other streaming services together. One of my friends thought it would be fun to send gifts to each other’s houses this year, so we can still buy presents for one another.

This has been a frustrating, stressful year for most people, and, for some, this pandemic has only made their lives harder than they already were. Here are some ways you can give back this year: you can write letters to incarcerated people through organizations like Prisoner Correspondence Project, you can send essential products like coats and blankets to homeless shelters through organizations like PDX Warmer Winter Drive (visit @thepeoplesstorepdx for more information), or you can adopt a letter from a child and buy them a present through USPS Operation Santa. These are just a few examples, though; there are so many other ways you help out this year! You can look up other ways to donate on a local or a national scale, and I encourage you to do so.

At the very least, remember the holiday season isn’t easy for everyone, and this year has really hit a lot of people hard. So if you find yourself feeling like the grinch this holiday season, remind yourself there are other ways to connect with friends, family and your community and try to  be especially kind!

Feature Image: Courtesy of Cleveland Clinic’s Health Essentials

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