In the holiday film favorite “Home Alone,” 8-year-old Kevin (played by Macaulay Culkin) cranks up the volume on a gangster film to scare would-be bandits away from the McCallister family home. The sound of machine gun fire has the desired effect on the bad guys and the old-timey gangster delivers the movie’s signature line: “Keep the change, ya filthy animal.” Today you can find the irreverent greeting “Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal” stamped on cards, T-shirts and coffee mugs. It may just be the perfect slogan for a pandemic holiday when we must behave as if all around us are potential vectors of disease. Many will be home alone this year.
Even beloved carols have taken on a particularly wistful tone: “Faithful friends who are dear to us gather near to us…” Nope. “There’ll be much mistletoeing and hearts will be glowing when loved ones are near…” Sigh. “Children laughing. People passing. Meeting smile after smile…” Remember those pre-mask days when you could tell when someone was smiling?
All this to say it will be an unusual Christmas. For the luckiest among us, 2020 is a detour from traditions with extended family and friends that can be picked up again next year. Others are mourning loved ones with whom they will never again celebrate. Food pantries and toy drives have experienced increased demand as local families struggle to make ends meet. Many Mainers report being stressed, anxious, isolated and depressed. But among all that bleakness is light, quite literally.
Hancock County is aglow. Christmas trees and light displays went up early this year in a show of determined cheer. Island Nursing Home, which has suffered a heartbreaking and deadly COVID-19 outbreak, has been so flooded with cards and gifts that staff have had to start gently turning them away. Volunteers have baked meals and stuffed stockings for area seniors. Anonymous donors paid off store layaways and handed out surprise cash gifts to store patrons. Even Santa has touched down in Hancock County for some socially distant appearances. Christmas, it seems, is alive and well.
So may you find comfort and joy this strange holiday season. As Tiny Tim said, “God Bless us, everyone,” or more, informally, Merry Christmas, ya filthy animals.