The face-to-face Christmas parties that we needed after the COVID lockdowns
As I write this, I (still) feel within me a bit of reluctance to welcome the new year with open arms. It’s not that I’m unprepared for 2023; I just enjoyed the last holiday season way more than the two previous ones. I’m usually forward-looking and not (yet) sentimental over the passing of another year. But this time, part of my mind still lingers in December 2022 mainly due to the two face-to-face Christmas parties I attended.
Since my co-lectors/commentators and I had agreed during our November meeting to hold our Dec. 10 party at any of three possible venues—at a member’s residence, at our church’s patio, or at the barangay hall—there had been a lot of exchange about it in our group chat. But the discussion got more animated when someone suggested later on that we have it instead at a nearby fast-food place, which our group had never done since I joined it almost 22 years ago. The majority was receptive to this novel idea as holding it there would spare each of us from having to prepare and bring to the venue our potluck contribution. We would just pay the reservation fee in advance using part of our group’s funds and have each one pay for his/her individual order on the party date.
The next few days saw a flurry of messages, comments, suggestions, and questions from many members about what set meal to order, what the attire and party theme would be, what games to play, what gift to bring for the “monito monita” (which did not happen), etc. Collectively kiddie-giddy, we encouraged each other to attend. Come Dec. 10, we had almost 40 (of about 50-plus) members in attendance at the nearby fast-food place. Not bad. The other members had prior commitments so they could not join us.
That night, everyone was in a festive mood as we feasted on our simple fast-food fare and played parlor games facilitated by the in-house party host. Impromptu group dances were also performed, jokes were thrown around, and loads of goodwill and laughter were shared among everyone, as we reveled in our togetherness.
I felt and witnessed the same merriment four days later at the other party where I cohosted as “Santa Claude” in full costume before my colleagues at our main campus along Taft Avenue in Manila. All the hundreds of employees from our university’s different departments gathered at the quadrangle (or “paseo”) for the afternoon program, which consisted of live and pre-taped dance numbers, games, a TikToker dance showdown, announcement of the Christmas tree-making competition, and raffle draws. Everyone had been working so hard and had gone through a lot of difficulties (job-related and otherwise) since the school year started in August (and since the start of the pandemic in March 2020), so it was really nice to again see the joy in everyone’s faces as we partied away pre-pandemic style.
As some of my co-lectors and colleagues expressed, it feels great to be physically connected with friends and peers during “the most wonderful time of the year.” Being with each other beyond the virtual setup strengthens our bond all the more. It is likewise comforting and reassuring, and brings us a feeling of optimism, telling us that we, survivors of what we hope were already the worst parts of this three-year pandemic, are still alive and kicking, and will stick around and be here for each other.
Venturing into 2023 knowing that COVID-19 has already claimed countless lives, may we value all the more not just our family and relatives, but also our friends, peers, and colleagues, who make our lives happier and more meaningful.
Claude Lucas C.
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