How to preserve holiday traditions while staying safe

The Times staff share their plans for Christmas and lessons learned during the pandemic

Dung Tran

This year has been an exceptional year for everyone in our country and the world.

The pandemic has turned people’s lives completely upside down, and their lives and jobs have also

changed a lot. We have been fortunate not to be infected with COVID-19. We are still in the warm little house while many homeless people live on the street corners or along the roadside on cold winter nights.

Thank God we are so much luckier than other families who have suffered from losing loved ones in the pandemic.

From Saturday, Dec 5 the California state government decided to lock down again as the pandemic is spreading. Especially with Santa Clara County, the number of newly infected people is increasing every day.

Because of the current situation, to ensure all family members’ safety, my family will not hold a Christmas party this year because I do not want my children to come from another area to my house for a party.

My family and I discussed and agreed together that on Christmas Day, we would use Viber (a social media platform) to talk to each other. We will also order some Christmas presents for kids and grandchildren via Amazon to send to their homes.

We will remotely fix an appointment to pray together for peace in the world this Christmas and New Year.

What I wish the most during this holiday season is for the pandemic to end soon so everyone can return to everyday life.

I hope our country’s economy recovers soon. May all of us in the United States unite together, ignore all differences in political opinion or anything else and build a prosperous life together.

The lesson that I learned in this pandemic is that we must protect ourselves and our family members, and we must have the self-discipline to follow the government’s and health agencies’ instructions to help prevent the disease from spreading.


Maryellen Torres

For this holiday season, my plan is to stay in with the family to enjoy some good food and relaxing activities. It won’t be much different from previous years, as this is the norm for my family not to do much.

The only difference is we won’t be able to do our traditional walk through at Christmas in the park, in downtown San Jose.

The unique thing about my family is we do a lot of activities at home together, whether it’s cooking, playing video games or board games. I am lucky to have a family that enjoys the small things.

I learned the lesson of being grateful for every little thing. This year has been a tough one, and I feel as though everyone has been tested with battles.

It’s important to be grateful for what we still have by our side at the end of this year. I am looking forward to a year of growth in 2021.

I look forward to a positive year that won’t stop anyone from prospering into the best version of themselves.


Elaisa Acota Meneses

My original plan was to take a road trip with my family across the state. Because of the stricter rules put in place to slow the spread of COVID, I decided to cancel my trip. I will stay home and spend the holiday season with my family.

My plans are not set yet; but it will include baking, watching movies and finishing some Netflix series.

I planned to celebrate Christmas the same way I do every year. In my culture, we start our celebration on Christmas Eve at around 8 p.m., and it extends until 2 a.m. at least.

My husband and I prepare the Christmas dinner with typical dishes from our native country (Venezuela): Ham, bread, chicken potato salad, smoked ham, baked pork, beef, seasonings and Hallacas, a tamale stuffed with chicken.

I know it sounds like a lot of work; and it is, but back in my home country, the whole family participates in the preparation of the food. The family also includes extended family, so it’s like an entire tribe.

In the 20 years I have been living away from my home country, I kept the tradition alive; and I pass it down to my children.

If I cannot travel back to visit my family, I meet with my closest friends and celebrate it the same way. We usually call everyone who is not present, and we try to share this moment even at a distance.

There is also the music. In December we listen to Gaitas. It’s a genre of music from Maracaibo, a city in Venezuela. I cannot listen to this music without feeling a lump in my throat while it transports me to the best moments of my childhood, spending Christmas with my parents and my brothers.

This pandemic has taught me that planning is of little use, that life is unpredictable and that the basics is what really matters. I don’t need more than I have to live my life to the fullest.

The pandemic also taught me that I should have gone on vacation last year.

I am looking forward to traveling in 2021. I want to meet with my mother. I don’t know where and when but that’s what I am looking forward to.


Monica Hernandez Escobar

My plan for this holiday season is to stay in, eat good food and relax with my family.

This year is a bit different from previous years because my family and I usually go out of town to San Francisco or Pismo Beach, stay in a hotel to enjoy the city on Dec. 23 and 24, and then come back home on Dec. 25 to open our presents.

In my culture (in El Salvador), Christmas is Dec. 24, so that’s when we do most of our Christmas activities and eat traditional meals. We wait to open our presents until the morning of Dec. 25 because my mom likes to make my sister and me wait.

During this pandemic, I learned the importance of friendships and communication, which I have never been the best at. Quarantine really showed me that it’s important to check on your friends and that I’m allowed to communicate my emotions/feelings to others.

In 2021, I am looking forward to a new beginning and taking all the chances I was scared to take this year. I hope 2021 is filled with fun, growth and health.