A blue Christmas today, but hope for tomorrow

Marco Levytsky, Western Bureau Chief.

I’ll have a blue Christmas without you
I’ll be so blue just thinking about you
Decorations of red on a green Christmas tree
Won’t be the same dear, if you’re not here with me.

Written by Billy Hayes and Jay W. Johnson in 1948, and most famously performed by Elvis Presley in 1957, Blue Christmas is a tale of unrequited love during the holidays. And, throughout the years, Christmas has been blue for many unfortunate souls – the lonely, the shut-ins, the sick, the poor and others. But with this year’s pandemic, it takes on a whole new meaning as Christmas will be celebrated in many provinces by individual households only. Even grandchildren will not be able to celebrate with their grandparents. This may seem a bit ludicrous when grandparents often perform baby-sitting duties for working parents but won’t be able to celebrate Christmas with them – at least not in person. Like it or not, those are the rules, and we must follow them.

Ukrainians traditionally sit down with their extended families for a sumptuous meal of 12 meatless dishes on Christmas Eve and welcome carolers who bring songs of joy. This is usually followed by attendance at a late night (even midnight in some places) Divine Liturgy. That will not happen this year. Even church attendance is limited to 15 percent capacity in many places. How that will be handled remains to be seen.

As we live in a highly developed technological world much of that void will be filled virtually. Extended families can get in touch with Zoom or similar platforms. Church services are streamed online. That softens the blow somewhat, but it is still not the same.

But while 2020 will go down in history as a most difficult year, with the Covid pandemic reaching its highest levels just as this year is about to end, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Throughout the past year, scientists around the world have been working at unprecedented speed to develop vaccines. And several are now available. On December 9, Health Canada gave emergency marketing approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Two days later, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that several hundred thousand doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine will be available in Canada before the end of the year — shots primarily earmarked for long-term care home residents and the staff working there. The Government plans to launch a mass inoculation campaign, which is expected to take many months to complete. After long-term care home residents and staff are immunized, the national advisory committee on immunization (NACI) said the next priority group should be all Canadians over the age of 80, followed by those over 70, and so on. It will be up to provincial leaders to decide who gets shots when, but Trudeau said the premiers agree that the NACI guidelines should be followed and the most vulnerable should be first in line. The vaccines will be distributed to jurisdictions on a per-capita basis, meaning each province will receive vaccine doses in numbers proportionate to their share of the population.

So, since it will take a long time before enough Canadians have been immunized for the pandemic to be stopped, you can say that while there is light at the end of the tunnel, it’s still a long, dark tunnel.

Nevertheless, there is hope. And hope is the essence of Christmas. It is the hope that was created by the birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. It is the promise of eternal life and peace for humankind.

So, let us embrace this hope and move forward. Let us rejoice in the Good News of Christ’s birth and spread goodwill throughout the world. Even though we must celebrate with our families virtually, and even though we will most likely have to attend virtual services, let us make the most of this Blue Christmas and look forward to a much better year ahead.

One thing we all can do is pray.

Pray for an end to this pandemic and the economic revival that will accompany this end.

Pray for peace in the world – especially in Ukraine and other parts of the world plagued with conflict.

Pray for freedom and democracy in such countries like Belarus and others suffering under the heel of tyrannical dictatorships.

And pray that next year we can celebrate Christmas with our extended families, that we can enjoy the visit of carollers to our homes and that we can pack the churches to rejoice in the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and give thanks for having endured this pandemic.

Христoс Раждається! Славiм Йoгo!
Christ is Born! Let us Glorify Him!