October is a month that represents much that is traditional here including harvest, Thanksgiving and Hallowe’en. Tradition is something that has meaning for many of us, and the Covid19 pandemic has affected all of that in certain ways.
Thanksgiving has always been one of the traditional annual holidays for families to get together and share food. This year throws that all out of whack. Some families can get together in a very limited way if their cohort is small and if everyone in the cohort understands the limitations of that (and the misinterpretations can be pretty wild). But since family gatherings have become one of the major ways that the virus is spread, many of us had small and solo Thanksgivings, sometimes with a video call to include family. The necessity of being away from many of the people who we love in order to protect them and ourselves is not easy. It takes courage and sometimes you have to be strong for other friends and family members who are struggling with the concept of distancing. Or maybe you are struggling yourself – we all are to different degrees and at different times. We need to support each other and not let this divide us.
Outside of my art practice, most of my career life has been spent as an archivist and researcher in the heritage field. These jobs tend to deal with tradition and established fact (although there are always those who pick and choose historical facts to suit their agenda – and what the heck – even make them up!) History has lessons for us if we are willing to listen. Although not an exact template, the 1918 flu and even to some extent, the Black Death plague hold lessons for us. Officials at those times called for measures of control, but many people did not follow the restrictions, some continued to party, and many others spread conspiracy theories and blamed minority groups for the diseases. Sound familiar? As writer and philosopher George Santayana said “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Habit, comfort and familiarity are a part of tradition and make adapting even harder. We tend to resent change. If we have always gone about our lives in certain ways that have been comfortable, we don’t like having to change our routines. But those nicely upholstered ruts could put us or someone else in danger, and damage the economy. There can be advantages to change in every situation – it just takes longer to find them sometimes – and the pandemic sure is an example of that. Not only is it not going away, the numbers are worse than ever. We don’t have time to slowly adapt to change, and if 8 months hasn’t been enough, what will be? We are at a tipping point – right now it’s even more urgent.
Hallowe’en was something that made me hopeful though. Some of the traditions around Hallowe’en changed, but the changes weren’t major, so that’s maybe why people adapted more easily. It is a fairly safe holiday since trick or treating is outdoors. The weather was great, so the kids could show off their costumes. In some cold, snowy years they all look like Scott of the Antarctic! I’m always impressed with how polite the kids are and none of them complained about having to do things a bit differently. In fact, some innovations made it more fun! People came up with clever ways to give out candy from a distance. We set up a candy chute – the kids put their bags at the bottom and we sent the candy down the chute from the top. They had lots of fun with that and we might even make it a new tradition every year.
Stay safe. Wear masks. Keep distance. Wash your hands. Don’t form human clumps indoors. You know, the usual. And yes, after 8 months it is the usual.
Posted by Marlena Wyman