The Editor’s Corner – Dec/Jan 2021

By Eoin Meegan

So this is Christmas. And we are together at last. I think everyone will rejoice that we can meet loved ones and be with family again. We rejoice too that travel restrictions are lifted for the Christmas and New Year period, and that in the days leading up to Christmas we can go into shops, browse cards, find that last minute gift for that special grandchild; or meet with an old friend for a mince pie and coffee, always remembering to be respectful of distance. And for those who attend religious services it will be a boon that they can do so again in person.

Of course it will be a more subdued Christmas than the kind we’ve been used to. Gone will be the office parties, the thronged arcades, big variety shows and packed streets; gone too, the familiar gesture of inviting all the neighbours around for a glass of Christmas Cheer or to ring in the New Year, as we each exercise sensible precaution.

So this is Christmas. And a year like no other draws to a close. February now seems a distant memory when we first heard rumours of a virus spreading across Europe. Surely it wouldn’t come here. But it did. And by the end of March Ireland was in full lockdown, our National holiday eclipsed, and life irrevocably changed. This generation will not easily forget the summer past: children at home from school, playgrounds padlocked, the elderly confined to homes without visitation rights, pubs shuttered, businesses ceasing to trade as we exchanged wages for a pandemic payment.
An eerie silence hung like a pall over once bustling, now deserted streets. No sport, no football matches, no concerts, no gala events, as normality became the first casualty of the new reality. We recalibrated, and got used to working from home. We learned how to keep away from people, not to shake hands or give hugs, how to hide behind face masks, and what the word ‘cocooning’ meant.

So this is Christmas. And what have we done? Well, a lot, actually. We protected each other. We sat in neighbours’ front gardens and chatted so they wouldn’t be alone. We made up food parcels and distributed them to where they were needed. We streamlined religious services, wore masks when on public transport and in shops. Frontline workers laboured tirelessly to care for the sick, and played the part of a mother or spouse to the dying so that they didn’t pass over alone.

We learned that people mattered more than economies, and that being apart didn’t mean separation. We did a lot. You did a lot. We should be very proud. And that is why it is fitting that we celebrate Christmas now. It is time to rekindle an idea born in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, that kindness and love can transform the world. And taking that radical idea forward into 2021 build a new society, one where world poverty can, and must, be eradicated, where medicines (including any vaccines on the way) are distributed fairly, including Third World countries, and where discrimination becomes an obsolete word.

Only then can we truly acclaim to have built Peace on Earth, and extended Goodwill to all Humankind.