2020 was a year embarked on with many bright hopes. The dawn of a new decade, the vague promise of a return to the roaring ‘20s. There was much said last year at this time about how the new year was the beginning of a new future. And the beginning of a new future it was – albeit not entirely the future we had in mind. The pandemic has changed all of us. It has changed how we interact with others, how we work, and how we think. But through it all, we persevere, and now that we creep up on Christmas, it’s evident the Christmas spirit too will persevere.
We’ve seen Christmas decor come up in and around Colombo; at hotels, malls, shops, restaurants, and even in our homes. Regardless of whether we celebrate Christmas as a religious festival or not, there is something magical about Christmas that puts all of us in a festive mood.
Ahead of Christmas, The Sunday Morning Brunch chatted to a few Sri Lankans to find out how we as Sri Lankans are celebrating this upcoming Christmas and how we are approaching the new year.
‘Tis the season
Despite the pandemic, Christmas is by no means cancelled, and though we may not be able to celebrate the way we normally do, we are still able to keep the Christmas spirit alive and well in our hearts.
Ramani Fernando Salons Managing Director Ramani Fernando shared that she hopes to spend this Christmas with her family like she normally does. “We will be having our usual Christmas lunch this year at my residence,” Fernando said, further adding that in troubled times it is important to be grateful. “Take nothing for granted and be thankful for everything you’ve got, be thankful for family, friends, and all the little things in life. I want to wish everyone a blessed Christmas with health, happiness, peace, and prosperity.”
For home baker Little Miss Shortcake, Christmas is likely to be subdued. “I’m not feeling that festive. Family functions are cancelled, and I feel a curfew might definitely fall in place during Christmastime. Even when you go out, there aren’t a lot of people shopping. It feels like everything’s going to be very quiet this year.”
Feelings of a quiet Christmas were echoed by renowned musician Rukshan Perera. “Due to the pandemic, this year Christmas will be a quiet one. We will call our children on Zoom, but will limit our visits anywhere during Christmas,” Perera said, stressing the importance of being responsible this holiday season. “Enjoy Christmas while adhering to the health guidelines, help those who are badly off due to the pandemic, and stay positive for a better 2021. Merry Christmas to all.”
Personality development and corporate etiquette trainer Kumar de Silva also envisions a quiet Christmas for himself. “Christmas will be very, very quiet and low-key. Basically at home with Netflix and hot chocolate. Whatever I would have lavishly spent on myself to enjoy Christmas, I have distributed among three financially challenged families I help. That brings me far greater joy than spending on myself.”
Entrepreneur and body positivity advocate Ranjula Herath shared that Christmas for her would be a largely homebound activity. “This year, Christmas will be a celebration at home with my family,” Herath shared, adding: “Probably a nice brunch. We’re Buddhist, but I still enjoy celebrating the festive side of Christmas with a nice spread and some Christmas cookies. I will probably drop in at a few of my close friends’ homes for Christmas lunches or dinners to celebrate.”
Looking back on 2020
No matter how you try to slice it, 2020 has not been a great year for most. The lockdown in March saw our people and our industries suffer. The second wave of infections has, for many people, been worse than the first, not least because of its timing, which came when people were just starting to place their hopes on a productive and “normal” Christmas season.
Entertainment was a segment very badly hit by the pandemic. The first things to be cancelled were events like concerts. Entertainers everywhere saw dramatic life changes practically overnight. “Our general lifestyle has been curtailed overnight and as a result, we couldn’t visit our children in the US,” Perera shared, adding: “However, I am happy that I was able to complete my ‘Rukshan Perera Live In Concert 1’ (the all-original charity concerts) for the 10th year in a row which was announced as my final concert of this series.”
“For me, 2020 has been absolutely horrible like it has been for the whole world. I would be a liar if I were to say otherwise,” de Silva shared. “But through it all, I think what also kept us going was hope…praying and hoping for a better tomorrow which I hope arrives in the New Year.”
“2020 has been a great chance for growth and reflection,” Herath shared. “It’s been a turbulent year and with the pandemic, it’s just been a plot twist, but it’s also been a year for learning, and to help me feel really grounded and to identify what matters most. You become more grateful. Businesswise, for my body positivity platform Flabulous, it has also been a year of change and growth. We had to find new business models and Flabulous discovered lots of new things and new customers at a time when many other businesses were struggling and had to close.”
Looking to the future
Perseverance has been what has got many people through 2020, and the dawn of 2021 brings with it new hope. “It has definitely been a very challenging year for everyone. However, we have managed to remain resilient throughout this difficult time in spite of how hard it has been. We have worked hard in order to get to where we are and keep things moving forward,” Fernando shared, adding: “We are all hoping for the best for the year 2021. Personally, this is the longest period of time where I haven’t been able to visit my daughter and her family in England and I would love more than anything to be able to visit them soon. In life nothing is certain. This has never been truer than it is today. We are living in the most uncertain times with a world that is continuing forward as best as possible. The world will move beyond the challenge that is Covid-19 hopefully soon.”
The end of Covid is on all of our minds. “My wish is that the world will be able to see the end of Covid-19, and we are looking forward to visiting our children in the US when the situation improves with the vaccine,” Perera shared, adding: “Since there are no concerts, I will be releasing my previous concerts on YouTube and also will continue my new programme titled ‘Talking Piano’ – the first episode, the ‘Story of Clarence Wijewardena’ is already on my YouTube Channel ‘Ruklanka’ (or Rukshan Perera).”
2021 is likely to see the implementation of Covid-19 vaccines, which will hopefully mean progress with overcoming the pandemic, a hope expressed by de Silva. “We still don’t know whether or not the vaccine will totally work but let’s hope it does,” he said, adding: “It’s easy for me to say that we all need to stay positive…but we need to keep our spirits high in the midst of this pandemic. My hope is that there will be ‘tangible’ light at the end of that tunnel.”
“For 2021, I hope to be healthy and happy, and that’s something I wish for everyone. This year has really helped us to identify that what matters most is our health and that we need to take care of ourselves more, love ourselves more, and focus on ourselves more,” Herath shared. “2020 has been a year of self-development for most people. The most important thing is to be grateful and to be happy; to be happy that you’re alive and that you’re here. That’s what matters most. To be yourself more, to love yourself more, and to be able to really feel yourself and use your power to spread positivity and be happy.”
Photos by Eshan Dasanayaka