This isn't the Christmas any of us wanted. It's still Christmas.

This was supposed to be the Christmas spent with friends and family again, right? After a year in isolation, this was when we'd all be able to take a deep breath and gather together.

Honestly, that was never going to be this Christmas for my family. We've got a toddler, and even before the news the vaccine trials for that age bracket weren't a rousing success, it was clear the timeline wasn't going to line up. Our most optimistic projections would have been having our kid vaccinated sometime in early January. Now we're hoping for late spring and trying not to get our hopes up.

But I know those of you without young children (and some with more tolerance for risk) were thinking this was the year you'd be able to celebrate without concern. Big parties, nights out... Christmas traditions. I know a lot of you are doing those things, anyway. And, I mean, I hope you're vaccinated, boosted, and taking as many precautions as you can. I hope Omicron really does turn out relatively mild. I hope you're lucky enough to avoid catching the damn thing entirely.

Those of us less eager to test our luck find ourselves in the same predicament we were in last year: facing another holiday with a virus widely circulating outside. We're barricading ourselves inside, lighting the fire, and spending the season with those we live with.

This isn't the Christmas I asked for. It's not the one I wanted. And yet...

Over the past few months, I've been refamiliarizing myself with some yuletide history, exploring some of the folklore and origins of the holidays (side note: this amazing Youtube series offers a fantastic look at how Christmas was celebrated in Europe, for anyone interested). It was a nice reminder that Christmas used to be a scary time. In much of the world, it was a time the cold could literally kill you, and to pass the time people invented stories of ghosts, demons, giants, and monsters lurking in the night.

I'm not saying Christmas 2021 is in any way equivalent to winters our ancestors endured, but I do think there's value in looking back to a time when the celebration of Christmas was in opposition to the darkness, and the goal was survival. I also take some genuine comfort in the idea that a Christmas spent hiding from the dark things of the world is, in a very real way, not less authentic than one spent at festivals or restaurants. At its core, Christmas is about outlasting the winter.

As much as I'd like things to be different, I've got food, decorations, my immediate family, and some time off to spend with them. I'm enjoying this holiday, and I hope wherever you are, whatever situation you find yourself in, you're also finding comfort this midwinter as you drive the cold winter away.