Merry or Happy Whatever Holiday You Celebrate Near the Winter Solstice

Yes, I know 2020 has been hell on wheels. 2020 itself has become analogous with bad things and is sort of a defacto swear word.

You just say, “2020” and everyone knows exactly what you mean.

Thankfully, it’s almost over! The year anyway.

Today, of all days, I want to share a different flavor message with you.

A Perspective of Hope and Gratitude

I’m writing this in a home with no twinkling Christmas tree, with no family members visiting, no grandchildren chattering, no crinkling of wrapping paper, and fewer family members than we began with this year.

And yes, I miss my family and the holiday festivities and traditions desperately – BUT – and this is huge….

I’m safe.

You’re safe, or at least I hope you are.

I’m extremely, extremely fortunate to be in a house that IS safe.

In a location that IS safe.

I’m blessed to have the ability to stay home SAFE.

It’s not a violation of my rights, but a sacred privilege.

To have the luxury of making the safe decision to shelter at home is an opportunity denied to many.

I don’t have to face Covid and the possibility of getting infected myself in a hospital as a front-line medical worker. Or as an EMT, or public safety officer, grocery store worker or others who have no choice in the matter.

For many, it’s work or starve – literally – a choice they are also making for their other family members, including children.


Children in America with no food. Let that sink in for a minute.

Several of my family members, including my children and their spouses, don’t have the luxury of safety because of the nature of their jobs, and I’m desperately worried about them.

I’m not forced to face or deal with unmasked people risking the safety and very lives of others.

And while I’m unhappy and inconvenienced staying at home and missing out on the things I’d like to be doing – my level of frustration is extremely, extremely minor in the grand scheme of things. A minuscule tradeoff for the ability to protect myself and others, saving lives.

I’m not being evicted because I’ve lost my job and can’t pay my rent.

I have heat and water and light and food. My family members and pets have food too.

My Christmas tree isn’t put up because I didn’t feel festive – not because I lost it in an eviction or because I no longer have a home to put it in.

No photo description available.

This year’s tree will simply have to be a Facebook memory of my tree from a happier time. Reflecting on the past that I took for granted, but certainly don’t now, hoping for the future, and simply trying to be grateful for what I have today.

Sometimes it takes misfortune to really bring the message of gratitude home.

My house did not burn to the ground, in the midst of a pandemic, like my friend’s house did.

My kids and grandkids aren’t suffering.

We are all staying safe, separately, together.

I have seen them in parking lots and on outdoor hikes a few times this year and we’ve made memories, nonetheless. Differently, than we would have preferred, but safely. Responsibly. No one risked the health of anyone else.

It’s not the best of circumstances – but it’s far, far from the worst.

I have multiple friends and family members who have died from and others who are severely debilitated by Covid.

And through all of this, I can’t help but think of my ancestors who died young, during plagues, of infections and situations now preventable or treatable, particularly with the advent of antibiotics in the era of modern medicine.

How blessed they would view our lives – given that we DO have the ability to understand the source of this plague and CAN do something about it. Simple things really, wearing masks, staying home, washing our hands, and soon, to take vaccines.

We can wage this war without marching off, killing others, and destroying the countryside. Although, ironically, Covid has now killed more people than Vietnam, Korea, and WWI, combined and is approaching the mortality of WWII – yet we don’t think of Covid as a war. Nonetheless, it is.

Instead of fighting in mortal combat, all we need to do is simply stay at home. It’s that simple. What our ancestors would have given for this opportunity.

Instead, they died. The church records tell their story, along with that of their entire village.

They died in childbirth, died of infections, died in wave after wave of pandemics such as the Black Death and recurring illnesses like typhoid and smallpox that wiped out one third to one half of the population, over and over again.

Many people were blamed for bringing these plagues into their villages by “witchcraft.”

Ignorance, too, is deadly in more ways than one.

Those who moved away from the homeland were truly alone, never seeing or talking to their family again. If you moved away and your family or spouse died – unless you could find someone else to marry quickly, especially if you were a woman, you too were relegated to destitution, poverty, and death.

Even in this current “worst of times,” we are so much better off than our ancestors. 2020 has certainly provided me with a different perspective of their world.

We have so much to be thankful for – beginning with the opportunity and means to keep ourselves safe. Such simple things, really.

I’m incredibly grateful for Skype, Zoom, Facetime, and other technologies that make being together, safely-distanced, possible. Apart doesn’t necessarily mean disconnected now.

These apps may even be responsible for encouraging some people to stay home that would have otherwise risked traveling, exposing and infecting themselves and others.

Yes, while 2020 has been “difficult,” to put it mildly, and the first half of 2021 will likely be even worse while Covid continues to spike, those of us who can stay home and stay safe until it’s our turn for that life-saving vaccine are indeed the blessed, even if we are the unhappy, complaining and sometimes ungrateful blessed.

Having Said That…

I want to share my heartfelt condolences and concern for those who:

  • Have lost family members
  • Are truly alone
  • Aren’t safe
  • Don’t have enough food
  • Are suffering, either physically or mentally

Because there are many, many…so many.

We don’t necessarily know who they are, because sometimes suffering isn’t evident.

And sometimes, it is, especially if we are cognizant and look.

I hope we all take this time to reflect on others, notice their need, and reach out to help to relieve their suffering, as best we can.

  • Drop off food. Safely, on porches.
  • Reach out to say hello and convey that we care.
  • Help with technology. My husband is coordinating Zoom calls for families.
  • Provide supportive assistance to solve problems, such as suggesting and arranging for grocery or prescription pickup and delivery.
  • Provide other types of assistance, safely.
  • And the animals. Don’t forget the animals who are entirely dependent on people.

Additionally, we can contribute to organizations and reputable charities that work collectively to assist people in need. Food banks come to mind right now.

My “gifts” this year, with the exception of small things delivered by no-contact “porch Santas” to family members have all been in the form of donations of one flavor or another to assist those not so fortunate.

Light, Prayer, Hope

It is for all of us that I walk in the labyrinth this winter solstice – the longest, darkest day of the year, carrying this single candle of light.

Hope for the future

For light in our life

For brighter days

For 2021

For humanity

For all of us, collectively

And individually

For you…

49 thoughts on “Merry or Happy Whatever Holiday You Celebrate Near the Winter Solstice

  1. You lifted my heart. I haven’t met my new granddaughter as yet, but looking forward to it. So much to be grateful for.

  2. I’m glad I discovered your blog this year, since it has helped me with genealogy, I agree so much with this post. Merry Christmas!

  3. I can relate to you not feeling festive this year. I didn’t either. I considered not getting a tree, but it has been a family tradition to cut one down and I could not bear the thought of my grandchildren and their family going without me probably asking “why isn’t Granny coming with us?” I hadn’t seen them since mid-March. So we each drove in separate cars, the lot had mask regulations, and we kept our 6′ distance. I am so glad I went. Although we had our regulations, it was so worth it. My tree doesn’t have the usual mounds of decorations, only a few white lights and silver ornaments, but now that it is up, I still don’t really feel festive, but I feel content to deal with this Christmas season, whatever happens.

    • And you got to see your family for a bit!! I exchanged gifts with my daughter in the parking lot today, fully masked. At least we CAN make memories.

  4. Where I live, Ottawa, Canada, we will begin another lockdown. In some ways, I feel this pandemic is like a reset button for society… many valuable lessons to be learned. We need to do so many things differently. The problem is that… the button is stuck.

  5. Thank you Roberta, you are such a great writer. I love your messages and share them with my family snd friends
    Stay Safe

  6. Thank you for this. You touched on one of the things I love about genealogy-its constant reminders that people manage to get through horrible times, times much more horrible than those I’ve experienced. I consider myself lucky to be able to say that and realize many cannot. As you point out, it’s important to keep those persons in mind and do what we can to help.

  7. Amen, Roberta, to all of it. Although I lost my beloved husband last December, this year I feel lucky to be “in a bubble” with my daughter, son-in-law and 2 year old grandson. I did not celebrate Christmas last year, of course, but will have a low key day with them, masked as needed. Thank you for the reminder to be grateful for what IS, despite what isn’t this year. Thank you, too, for the blog, I always enjoy what you share.
    May God bless you and yours with a happier and healthy 2021.

  8. Your words are all so true. Studying family history is an eye-opener to the suffering and hardships our ancestors experienced, even in the recent past. Our lives are blessed and we often don’t realize it. One of my sons is overseas but skype makes him seem not very far away. We exchanged gifts with our other son at a park the other day, and I’m happy that he is taking the same precautions that we are.
    Happy Holidays and, as always, I will be looking forward to your posts in the new year!

  9. I too am very lucky to live in a safe environment. I am retired and secure. My daughter works day in and day out with homeless people in a very large city. I feel desperate for her, but she literally walked into the fire. She is one of the helpers that Mr. Rogers always spoke of.
    I won’t see my children, grand children or great grandchildren this year, but that’s okay. We will get through this.
    Best Wishes Roberta

  10. Isaiah Chapter 65 Versicle 17:

    “For look! I am creating new heavens and new earth;And the former things will not be called to mind,Nor will they come up into the heart,”

    Mathew Chapter 5 versicle 5:

    “Happy are the mild-tempered, since they will inherit the earth,”

    Psalm Chapter 37 versicle 29:

    “The righteous will possess the earth, And they will live forever on it.”

    Psalms Chapter 37 versicle 10 to 11:

    “Just a little while longer, and the wicked will be no more;You will look at where they were,And they will not be there. 11 But the meek will possess the earth,And they will find exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.”

    Isaiah Chapter 33 Versicle 24:

    “and no resident will say: “I am sick.”The people dwelling in the land will be pardoned for their error.”

    Acts Chapter 24 versicle 15:

    “And I have hope toward God, which hope these men also look forward to, that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.”

    The Good News According to The Apostle John Chapter 5 versicle 28:

    “Do not be amazed at this, for the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out […]”

  11. This is so true, Roberta and fellow readers! I too wish everyone a Holiday filled with great rest, good food, and new memories. My husband and I will have the Holiday alone with each other while his son and grandchildren remain in Washington state and his daughter is at home in Portland, OR. When the grand kids wake up, they will be on the phone to us all morning, talking and running through their house and opening up their presents. one will have their phone with us on the line and the other will be in same room with their phone on the great grandma whom they call Nana (Nay Nay). It will last hours. All of us are out of state from them. This is what they started early in the Covid Cycle as I call it. Last year March. They surprised me in Oct by driving all day to come to the house for my Birthday. I send everyone of you good tidings, wishes and fond memories.I wish for all of us to find a new ‘goodie’ in our DNA and to explore MyHeritage’s new ethnicity areas as ExPlained by Roberta. To all of you, I have transferred every lab I’ve done to them and expect to find lots of differences. Am excited enough to keep me busy for the holidays. Happy New Year, no matter what it brings. I have to start it with a positive approach, after all. Cheers to you all! Anniedear

  12. Thank you for reminding us what is really important. And how fortunate we are to have all that we have. Here in Mexico it looks as if we old folks will be getting vaccinated sometime Feb or March so not that long to wait. Have a holiday season filled with love and appreciation from all your readers.

  13. Cuz, You read my mind, I’ve tried all day to not feel sorry for myself. I’m so blessed to be here and keep reminding myself of the what If’s if I didn’t have a home, food, money, and family.

    2 grands work with mental handicap adults and children everyday and worry about them. One small mistake is all it takes. Have lost childhood friends and a part of my own childhood. Heartbreaking for their families and friends.
    No tree or celebration or special food for me either. Ordered Outback for 2 days, my celebration dinners.

    Passing the days packing, sold home and moving into MIL apt attached to grand Nikki’s house. Going from 2000sf to 3 rooms. Where did all this stuff come from, found stuff didn’t know I had.
    Take care of you and Jim. Hopefully we’ll see each other and hug next year.
    Love you Girl!!

    • I have to keep giving myself pep talks. Hope for next year is what is getting me through this – and dear family like you. Love you Dee.

  14. Wishing all a wonderful Christmas, Hannukah or even just family time from the Summer Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere (South Africa).

    Thank you for all the tips and hints in tracing our cousins throughout the world.

  15. Back in the fall when it became obvious that my college age grandchildren would not be able to live on campus, I was really feeling sorry for them, especially Jake in his freshman year. Then I saw pictures from our local high school’s 1942 year book – two of the boys who should have been there to graduate were shown in their army uniforms. One hell of a senior trip for those boys and thousands of others. So yes – I’m grateful for what we do have.

  16. This was a lovely, inspiring read this morning. Thank you for your beautiful writing and thoughtful, caring soul!

  17. Thank you, Roberta — for keeping it real, whether it’s genealogy, genetics, or us all making history this year. Living history in the moment is a weird feeling. The mundane we may take for granted. But, 2020 has been anything but mundane! Bless you and your readers in the coming year and always!

  18. This year I put up my big artificial Christmas tree I have had stored for a few years, using a smaller one the past few years. It has all the lights and decorations, so I did not have to go shopping. It is a bit worse for wear, but looks surprisingly good. It makes me feel more hopeful.

    Wednesday, my daughter, who is an ICU nurse, received her covid virus vaccination. I am 1/2 of a year too young to receive the next round of vaccinations, but I am in good health. My daughter is having a hard time emotionally with her work. I try to help.

    I still take the risk of babysitting my grandchildren at their house three to five days a week.. The baby is two-years-old, and does not socially distance. I have always babysit for my grandchildren, and decided not to change that when covid appeared. If I do not babysit, either my daughter or her husband would have to quit their job, because there are no babysitters in rural mid America, and they would probably lose their house. Also, I would miss seeing my family terribly. It is more than that.. My daughter takes a risk going to work every day, and I do also. That is just the way it is. We take covid precautions as much as possible. I am a household member at my daughter’s house, even though I have my own house. One of the perks and risks is I get to see my grandkids open their presents Christmas morning.

    We came from American pioneer ancestors who also took risks. Some of the risks family members took in the past did not turn out well, but some did, or we would no be here. This is just the way it was and is. We do the best we can under the circumstances.

  19. This Christmas was a gift – my family is healthy and managing the physical disconnection while keeping our family love continuing to grow. Thank you for your thoughtful message of hope and what the future hopefully will bring. Merry Christmas and love,

  20. Hi,
    I’ve come across your blog a couple of times. I have really pressing question.

    My grandma did the Geno 2.0 Helix dna test. we realised we couldn’t transfer it anywhere. We were in the process of getting her to do the Ancestry test when she passed away.

    Do you know of any way to transfer Helix dna to other websites. I’d be really really grateful for a reply.

    Also helix said they would provide me with a download for about 500 dollars. Of her genetic dna. I already have her download from genographic. Do you think i should download her dna and try to get processed in some way.


    • Salem:

      I transferred my Fsther’s old Geno test to Family Tree DNA for free but the result is in the low end technology Y12. Call the FTDNA Tech support to see what options you have and try to make the transfer to be an MtDNA full sequence and also make the Family Finder Unexpendive test at the same time. Then you will have the best quality results to dig in your genetical genealogy field using the best results and the best tools.


  21. All best wishes to you Roberta for the New Year. Thank you for so many
    interesting posts during 2020 which I am sure have been a welcome distraction
    for many from the incredible events of this year. Stay well.


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