How women from KL to Cardiff are keeping the Christmas and New Year spirit alive amidst a pandemic. (Marina Khrapova/Unsplash)

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It doesn’t need to be said that COVID-19’s made most of 2020 a real downer of a year. With lockdowns, travel restrictions, and social distancing to contend with, how do we celebrate what’s normally a warm and fuzzy time of year that’s filled with parties, hugs, and laughs? Well, we make the most of things, that’s what we do! Because we’re resilient and it’s not easy to break the human spirit. Here’s how 11 women from across the globe are keeping the festive magic alive:

Jessica Ee-Ohlsen
London, United Kingdom

In London, we are having a yearly Christmas dinner at mine, which we hosted on 12 December. We usually have about 20 guests, but for this year, only invited 10 people. It was a very small and intimate dinner due to the pandemic. However, we’re flying off to Sweden to visit my in-laws for a week from 20 December. After that, we’re planning to fly off to Dubai to celebrate the last bit of 2020.

Debrina Chan
Milan, Italy

We won’t be doing anything I guess, as our situation is being monitored day by day to see what the colour assignment will be for our region (a nation-wide tiered system that determines SOPs and risk according to region). We are currently in orange, which means we have some liberty to leave home, but only for necessary purposes. For the period between 21 December to 6 January, there are restrictions on interstate travel. In addition to this, on days 24, 25, and 31 December, we have a curfew from 10 pm to 7 am. So we will try to have an intimate lunch and relax come evening in the comforts of home! No restaurants have been allowed to open beyond 6 pm (and not at all in red and orange zones).

Hannah Christina Quiogue-Subramaniam
Cardiff, Wales

When you’re 10,755 kilometres away from home, and seeing your family becomes impossible due to a global pandemic, one is left with no choice but to get creative, and most importantly, learn to live through it. In between video calls that could never replace missed birthdays and milestones, and seeing my mother push on in her ongoing battle with breast cancer through a 5×3-inch screen, it’s safe to say that there’s a distinct type of homesickness that comes with living abroad, away from the ones you love. That homesickness becomes ever-more poignant with the arrival of the holiday season.

In previous years, I was able to remedy this homesickness with travel – from enjoying traditional hot chocolate in Barcelona, to dancing under the decorative lights of central London. This year however, I’ll be spending Christmas in my quiet university town with my flatmates, homemade dinner, lots of grocery store wine, and plenty of Netflix. It isn’t Christmas in the usual sense for me, but it’s an attempt at carving a little piece of home for myself when home is so far away. I’ll be spending this Christmas thinking of the people I love, and trying my best to remain content with the fact that although I can’t be with them, I know that they’re happy and staying safe.

Tengku Zai
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

For as long as I can remember, Christmas has been a huge deal for my family. Every year, someone would take turns hosting Nochebuena (Christmas Eve) – a night of feasting and merry-making that culminates in everyone opening and exchanging presents. But ever since moving into my own home three Christmases ago, the Nochebuena hosting baton has been passed (permanently) on to me.

Thankfully, with restrictions here easing up, I’ll be able to have my immediate family over for Nochebuena this year. We’re generally cautious, and while we’d love to host about 30-plus guests over as we normally do, we’re scaling it way back. I’m just glad that the ’Rona isn’t putting a dampener on celebrations. Rather, the pandemic is making this Christmas and New Year a whole lot more intimate.

Danielle Reis
Germantown Maryland, USA

Sadly, we had to cancel our trip to Orlando. So, we’ll be staying home with family, and perhaps some close friends. We can have people over within the limit of our county, and we just bought a karaoke today – to have something extra to do. Let’s sing and eat! Oh, and it might snow too! ❄

Amanda Yap
Melbourne, Australia

After eight months of one of the hardest lockdowns in the world, we have been COVID-19-free for 34 days. Unless someone from interstate or overseas brings it in, we have virtually eliminated the disease from the state, so Christmas will be spent with friends and travelling around. For countries which aren’t as fortunate, here’s wishing everyone a safe Christmas and New Year. ?

Diwa Tharan Sanders
Anantara, Maldives

Interestingly, 2020’s Christmas and New Year’s Eve will look like 2019’s. It might even be better in several ways. ‘Better’ in terms of the resort’s Christmas and New Year’s Eve setup and what we’ve got planned for the festive activities, but also in terms of the energy and feeling as we head towards the festive season – I’m sensing we’ll be celebrating even harder.

After months of uncertainty, being in lockdown, and generally feeling disconnected from people, places, and nature, I believe we (resort guests and team members) will all be carrying extra gratitude and joy for being able to be on this island. We’ll be with family and friends, doing what we love, feeling safe, and having a good time together.

Connection is something I see that was lost in many ways earlier this year, but now that it’s been regained, we’re appreciating it more than ever. I see it in everyone here – bigger smiles, friendlier faces, more gratitude. I also see more appreciation for every sunset, sunrise, and storm.

Camille Valencia
Manila, Philippines

We’ll be celebrating it the same as every year. It’s always a quiet Christmas at home with family. What’s different this year is that what already used to be a small family gathering will be even smaller. The are precautionary measures that we need to practice too. It’s now mostly immediate family that are meeting for the holidays. Usually, we spend Nochebuena at home together, and then spend Christmas day out and about.

This year, we’ve decided to just stay in and perhaps have a little family trip out of town when the holiday bustle is over. As much as I’m looking forward to family time, I’m also looking forward for everything to go back to normal.

Claudine Quiogue-Kasuya
Tokyo, Japan

In Japanese culture, Christmas is like any ordinary day where people still go to work and to school. The only difference is that they buy Christmas cake and chicken as a tradition of sorts. Actually, millions of Japanese families buy KFC as a Yuletide tradition! Some couples even treat it like they would Valentine’s Day. But overall, Christmas is pretty quiet until New Year rolls around (a big celebration for all Japanese).

While other Japanese families have their unique traditions, I give my celebration at home a Pinoy (Filipino) spin. I cook spaghetti, macaroni salad, embutido (Filipino-style meatloaf), roast chicken, bake a cake, and make buko pandan (fruit salad with coconut and screwpine flavours). This year, I want to introduce my two Japanese children to the Filipino tradition of exchanging gifts.

Vanessa Merjudio
Ottowa, Canada

Since there’s a maximum of 10 people for indoor settings in Ontario, we’re going to have Nochebuena with my husband’s side of the family at my in-laws’ house. On Christmas Day, we have a family reunion Zoom party with my husband’s relatives. His dad has 12 siblings, so you can imagine how big that Zoom meeting’s going to be. There’s a programme along with games and prizes – socially-distanced, but fun.

My own side of the family is scattered – with me in Canada, my brother in the USA, and my mom in the Philippines. We usually spend Christmas together, but with the Canadian borders closed, we will have a Facebook Messenger party instead.

Sew Yew Lee
Sydney, Australia

Celebrating with joy and happiness that all states in Australia will be opened in time to welcome Christmas. We’ve ordered seafood for Christmas, and together with the barbie (barbeque), we’ll be having a typical Aussie Christmas. Our kids from Melbourne will be driving up to Sydney, so we’re looking forward to a reunion catch-up with them. Finally, we’ll extend our celebration by staying over in Hunter Valley to spoil ourselves silly by relaxing with good food and wine.

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