06 Oct 2022

Christmas 2020 in Kildare: Drive through Santas, elves in quarantine and virtual hugs

A reflection on all that's changed during the past year

Christmas 2020 in Kildare: Drive through Santas, elves in quarantine and virtual hugs

Antoinette Conway with her granddaughter Ella May pictured back in March 2020 Picture: Aishling Conway

This article is the result of my efforts to write a positive article about 2020 — the year of Covid funerals, Covid weddings, birthday drive-bys, virtual hugs, handsanitiser shortages and new fangled mask fashion.

While striving to hit an upbeat note, one cannot but acknowledge the tough times endured by many people this year. Many people lost their lives and others struggled with serious illness as a result of the pandemic.

With vaccines on the horizon, here’s hoping that over the next few months, the new norm will become the old norm.

Looking back, various recollections surface.

Memories of a Covid funeral early on in the first lockdown are etched in my mind. Relatives and friends standing by roadsides and streets as the funeral cortege passes. Mourners drive by in solitary grief. No hugs, no sympathetic handshakes.

Two metres apart they stand as they bless themselves as the hearse passes, nodding in acknowledgment to each other.

Empty churches with a scattering of people. Absent are the lines of sympathisers queuing to offer warm hugs, handshakes and commiserations.

No friends gathering for wakes, telling stories of times gone by, no reminiscing. No family gatherings. Conversations through car windows parked in a row outside.

Between lockdowns, some restrictions ease but times are still hard. No grandchildren visits for grandparents, no birthday parties, communions postponed, no bouncy castles.

Chatting through patio doors. Nursing home greetings through windows, hands touching hands with a pane of glass between.

Freezing your butt off around an outdoor patio heater to have a cuppa with a friend. Staying on even when it starts to rain because you just want to chat.

Supermarket queues, two metre markers on floors everywhere, and shoppers dodging each other in the isles.

Many people lose their jobs. Some retrain. Some set up new businesses.

Yet through all this doom and gloom, the goodness of people shines through.

Neighbours offer to do shopping for elderly people, meals are cooked and dropped off at homes, flowers sent by post.

Gardening becomes the new craze. People are glued to Monty Don on Gardeners’ World every Friday.

Videos flood in from all over the world. One guy creates a bathroom garden with ferns.

Friends swap seeds, seedlings, herbs and crops, when they are grown. A good year for courgettes, not so good for tomatoes, or mine at least.

Book boxes are set up on Kildare country roads. Neighbours drop off their best reads and pick out a few offerings in exchange.

Cycling — never have we seen so many people cycling.

Not a bike to be had for sale when lockdown hits — sold out!

New walking routes are discovered as people explore within their 5km limit. Chatting neighbours over fences, walls and hedges. School kids send letters and Christmas parcels to nursing homes.

Beauty experts invent mask-proof lipstick. Drive through Santas are set up. Children chat the man in red through car windows. Many elves on the shelf remain in quarantine for much of December until they are deemed Covid free. Children are reassured that Santa can’t get Covid.

Parcels are piled high in An Post and courier vans as they dash around the country. Online shopping sales soar.

Memories of 2020 are very different from other years. Pandemic tales to be imparted to future generations — both grim and heartwarming.

Lessons are learned as to what is important to all of us.

Priorities are restored and the goodness of people comes to the fore with new paths forged, and old paths seen in a new light.

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