The holiday spirit may be harder to find this year, but that doesn’t mean we should stop looking! Three of our recent authors took being published during COVID head on, and now, regardless of the holiday blues, they are finding things to be thankful for.
Tyler LeBlanc, author of Acadian Driftwood.
Christmas is usually pretty busy for me. We usually have a rum-and-eggnog-soaked Christmas Eve, followed by two huge meals on Christmas Day (full turkey and ham dinner for lunch, and again for supper), and for the last two years, two equally massive meals with my partner’s family on the 26th. We always enjoy these meals, but not only is it a stomach-aching amount of eating, it’s also a lot of moving around. Both our families live on the South Shore of Nova Scotia, about an hour apart, and we’re often jumping back and forth between houses trying to spend as much time as possible with everyone. A tale as old as time.
This year though, with COVID in mind, the pace will be a little less frenetic. We’re dialing back on all the large meals and will be spending Christmas with just our immediate families. As an unforeseen bonus, we’ll get to spend some of Christmas with the two kittens we recently adopted. Under normal circumstances we would have had to find someone to look after them while we were out of town for a few days, but this year, we’ll be home much more than any other Christmas, so we’ll get to hang out with them, and likely make them wear silly bandanas that they’ll hate. We’re embracing this unique Christmas by trying to focus on what we can do, instead of what we cannot.
Catherine Bush, author of Blaze Island.
This year, like every year, I am baking for the holidays. I bake fruitcake, using a recipe from English food writer Nigel Slater, whose recipes are flexible and generous, my kind of recipe. I am baking for a friend who received a terrible health diagnosis late in the fall. Once in the past, I had a fruitcake competition with a dear friend, a master baker. Then, as her ALS progressed and she could no longer bake for herself, I baked fruitcake for her. This year, when the pandemic means we are literally out of touch with so many whom we cherish, I love the tactility of baking: the cutting of all the dried fruit (figs, prunes, apricots), the measuring of others (candied peel, raisins, dried cranberries), the creaming of butter and sugar, which I do by hand, before stirring everything into a thick, chunky batter. This recipe is full of citrus and the keen aroma threads through my kitchen. Baking fruitcake is like baking a promise: you need to believe in the future since, no matter how delicious its aroma when pulled from the oven, the cake isn’t to be eaten now but weeks from now. First it must be tended and fed (the best brandy if possible), like a live creature. Like hope itself. This year, when we can’t gather, the labour and care of baking can take the place of touch. The gift of taste will join us together.
Tyler Enfield, author of Like Rum-Drunk Angels.
When asked to write a paragraph or two about holiday traditions during COVID, I was reminded of a line from the novel, Madder Carmine: “It’s an American tradition to break all others.”
While I wouldn’t say America is responsible for this year’s holiday hiatus, I am discovering that I’m not opposed to the change. We have many traditions, and some are beautiful. But
I find many go unexamined, and my adherence to them becomes more a habit — essentially doing things a certain way because that’s how they were done before. I get lazy.
Enter COVID: the great disruptor of our time. As individuals, COVID poses a threat to our way of life, and perhaps life itself. But on a larger scale “disruption” has always served a key function in our growth. The role of circuit-breaker. Social upheavals, like COVID lockdowns, have the ability to open windows in time. The world screeches to a halt, and for a brief, precious period we’re invited to choose between status quo and a break toward greater meaning. To re-examine beliefs, and values, and side with real knowledge. It’s a time of deconstruction, and therefore fantastic opportunity.
Sure, sometimes change sucks — but nothing changes without it. So let’s greet it together.
Happy new year, world.