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There is always hope
Published in Ahram Online on 15 - 12 - 2020

Although 2020 is not over yet, who knows what more it has in store for us during those final weeks? It is hard to conceive of more afflictions, therefore a sigh of relief is heard by all as its end draws near.
There were no wars, no nuclear explosions, no terrorists, no genocide, nothing more than a tiny, invisible, lifeless killer that invaded the human body, attaching itself to another tiny cell, thus gaining life and strength, ravaging and choking its victim to death.
So little is known as to the how, when, where and why, but the virus has claimed the lives of over a million souls and caused pain and suffering to millions more.
The healthy were not spared either. They suffered lockdowns, quarantines, isolation, social distancing, wearing of masks and washing of hands, not to mention the fear of contamination and possibly the grief over lost ones.
By year's end there was talk of several vaccines, but controversy surrounding their effectiveness shrouded the confidence of its benefits.
Does anyone really know anything, yesterday, today or tomorrow? All remains questionable.
Through a kind of intoxication of our intellectual faculties, we emerged the loser in this game. Between leaders who know nothing and the public who knows less, we have been transformed into mechanical toys, following every instruction, submitting to every command, as the pharmaceutical industry gets fatter and fatter.
There is a ray of light in this dark and dreary predicament, and that they were unable to control, steal or erase.
It is the coming of the Christmas season.
Despite all the restrictions, the joy of Christmas shines through. It fills us with hope — the hope that has saved mankind from extinction.
Yes, Christmas is alive and well. Coronavirus cut off a few feathers, but the bird of peace and goodwill flies high, bringing joy to mankind.
Travel restrictions may not be such a tragedy as there is much to enjoy at home.
The radiantly glowing Christmas lights are shining in every city, Christian or non-Christian.
There is something about light, due to Thomas Edison or God's sunshine, that fills our hearts with warmth, love and hope. There is amazement and wonderment at the magical Christmas lights and there is more of them this year than ever before.
You may miss the iconic lights of New York, Paris Strasbourg or Prague, or better still the famous Vilnius tree of Lithuania, considered the most beautiful in Europe. Switzerland is famous for its 100 pine trees that border the streets like brightly lit sentinels enjoyed by its natives — but since travel is unlikely why not enjoy home, sweet home?
Lights have become the highlight of the season.
Families are decorating their homes far more magnificently than ever before.
People have become obsessed with their homebound existence, their luminous, dazzling decorations.
Some restrictions have been eased so a small group of loved ones can celebrate together amid a pandemic.
Since the coronavirus has commandeered our world and robbed us of so much, it could not steal our Christmas. We would not allow it.
Hope springs eternal in our hearts and compulsively we hum or sing or listen to our Christmas music, songs and Christmas carols. They are not contagious and they are heard non-stop, coming out of every corner. Can you help but joyfully sing along?
Children are the centre of focus at Christmas time. It is priceless to see their eyes light up with anticipation, as if they are living a fairy tale. Their pleasure is what we seek, what the Christ whose birthday we celebrate, also sought.
Toymakers are among the few who shall have a Merry Christmas, indeed. Midway in 2020, they started getting ready for a coronavirus Christmas. There are 29 new toys on the market, most of which are learning toys that keep the children informed and entertained for hours, despite their confinement. Lego is number one, naturally.
Christmas is usually big business and a good festive season that can see retailers through the rest of the year.
Online sales are the winners this year as people avoid crowds and shop online. It is a challenge for retailers and the big ones have taken this on with growing budgets to meet growing expectations.
Streaming is also a big winner. All our favourite Christmas movies we never tire of seeing year after year, we can see again, plus a few new ones. Our teenage crowd will be thrilled with a brand new Miley Cyrus musical, not to mention new specials such as a 2020 Charlie Brown Christmas.
It was quite a surprise to discover that the number one film of the Christmas season by popular demand is the British production Love, Actually. Our usual traditional favourites are also on the list, A Christmas Carol and It's A Wonderful Life, but who would have thought of the old film The Bells of St Mary's, with Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman?
It is an unprecedented Christmas indeed, with books selling like hotcakes, such as A Song Below Water by Bethany C Morrow.
We can catch up on our reading, listen to our Christmas music, enjoy our scrumptious snacks and watch our milliard shows. High hopes are never dashed.
Ethics have become so rare and virtues are melting away, but hope will keep us standing.
There will always be Christmas. There will always be hope.
“Youth fades; love droops, the leaves of friendship fall / A mother's secret hope outlives them all.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes (1841-1935)
*A version of this article appears in print in the 17 December, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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