A COVID Christmas: How Canadians Are Celebrating

A COVID Christmas: How Canadians Are Celebrating
People walk along a street festooned with Christmas decorations in the Petit Champlain district of Quebec City on Dec. 20, 2020. (The Canadian Press/Jacques Boissinot)
Lee Harding

Strict social distancing orders have led some families to invite no one home for Christmas, while some are meeting online, and still others are gathering in defiance of public orders.

Geraldine Boyer and her husband, residents of Saskatoon, would normally have a big gathering of 18 to 25 people, both family and friends, but not this year.

“This year it will be just the two of us,” Boyer said in an interview.

“Our in-city family are staying in their own homes, and our family in Calgary are staying there. We’re not going there either, the risk is just too great. Having said that, I’m still going to cook a small turkey and make it a regular Christmas dinner with all the trimmings.”

Larry Eliese, a caretaker in Regina, said his plan is to connect with family on Christmas Day via video conference. When his wife’s sister had a birthday recently, 61 people joined in on a 45-minute conference call.

“What we do normally is … have our little get-together with our family and that would be it, because everybody’s families are so big now so we don’t get together with the brothers and the sisters and all that kind of stuff. My immediate family, there’s 21 of us—that’s enough.”

Eliese is expecting 40 family members to connect on the Christmas call, from Alberta, Ontario, and Saskatchewan. Eliese would rather see his four children and nine grandchildren in person.

“Of course! It’s a tradition that most people have. But this is a good alternative.”

Public health orders won’t prevent homemaker Brenda (pseudonym) from leaving Lethbridge, Alberta, with her son and husband to visit her parents and brother in Saskatchewan.

“My dad lives for family and traditions. If none of us or my sister’s family would come, he'd be devastated. My dad is now 86. We’re doing it for him,” Brenda told The Epoch Times.

“There will be only six of us. If the other three [in my sister’s family] would come, it would be too much in one house.”

Since Dec. 17 in Saskatchewan, all private-dwelling indoor gatherings have been limited to immediate households. People who live alone are allowed to meet with one household of less than five people, and it must be always the same household.

Bobby (pseudonym), a miner in Saskatchewan, won’t abide by the orders. He says his wife and young children plan to drive four-and-a-half hours north on Christmas Eve to see her dad and stepmom. After Bobby’s shifts end on Dec. 29, he’ll stay at his brother’s house until the new year.

“My wife and kids will meet me at my brother’s house. He just bought a new acreage and I haven’t seen it because of all this COVID BS, and I’m sick and tired of being told that I can’t go to properties that I’m invited to,” he said.

“I heard there’s some snitches up there so I don’t want to say where I’m going. … We’ll keep our distance and we’ll behave ourselves and everything.”

Across Canada, others are making their own decisions as they see fit.

In Victoria, B.C., Paul Gower said he expects to connect with family for Christmas via video conferencing. The fisherman said he “would like to ‘do normal’ but here all [are] in fear, even though we only had two cases that weren’t in care homes.”

Colleen Douglas in Port Alberni, B.C., said she’s participating in a lot of video conferencing calls during the season.

“We are aware of the strain it has cost families. We cannot see family this year in Kelowna or Ontario, so we wait for better days. It’s just [my husband] Alan and I and we will meet with some neighbour who is in our bubble.”

In Calgary, retirees Nigel and Collette Lacey plan to connect with loved ones in Winnipeg and elsewhere via video conferencing. They say some family members live “in relatively low-infection places” and it would be “really unfair and selfish to others for us to meet up. We have to be responsible so we can get a lid on the spread.”

Some Canadians abroad enjoy more freedom. “Christmas parties and family get-togethers are unaffected in QLD for the time being. Hugs to everyone back home,” said Shauna Fjaagesund, a Swift Current, Sask., resident taking her MBA in Queensland, Australia.

Others, like Kevin Smith in Waldheim, Sask., are more facetious.

“We’re doing Christmas at Walmart this year,” he joked. “We'll open gifts over by men’s socks—all 30 of us. Perfectly legal.”