Don’t let the pandemic rob us of joyful traditions

We’re missing holiday closeness just when we need it most. But even grim, uncertain times can hold sparks of love and light.

For centuries, people around the globe have created miniature devotional objects often called “pocket shrines.” Most consist of a tiny vessel—a leather or cloth case, a wood or metal capsule, a matchbox, even a bullet casing—sheltering a statuette or image.
ILLUSTRATION by ELENI KALORKOTI

Sometimes we let go of things, sometimes things are taken away, and sometimes things break, such as lives, hearts, entire ways of life. Doesn’t our world feel broken in the time of COVID-19, maybe especially when holy days arrive?

If we are wise, we avoid large gatherings, dinner indoors with family and old friends, services at our mosques, temples, churches—so we lose the joyful and profound rituals and gatherings at this time of devastation when we need them most. But does this mean we lose the nurture, bonding, and sacred silliness that ceremonies provide?

Maybe we can be fully immersed in the holy even as we keep ourselves and our beloveds safe. Maybe broken isn’t the end of the world. Maybe broken is a new beginning, a portal.

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