Holiday outings, gatherings take different with COVID-19 restrictions

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How is it possible to celebrate a popular holiday event without being together?

This holiday season has changed due to mandatory state and local guidelines for individuals and businesses. That means the cancellation of some long-running events and variations to others.

Social distancing means six-feet from Santa and his reindeer in pictures this year too. Creativity and Do-It-Yourself (D.I.Y) has become the answer for annual events and organizations.

Seasonal events are still happening from Lincoln Center’s coat drive, Lodi’s Christmas Extravaganza, the Hospice of San Joaquin’s Tree of Lights in honor of loved ones who passed, crab feeds, chopping your own Christmas tree, local synchronized Christmas light shows, and local Santa appearances. 

“Christmas is a bit uncertain this year for my family,” said Emily M. Gonzalez of Stockton. “I mean, I want everyone together, but it’s not worth the anxiety of getting sick with Covid[19]. I’m worried for myself and parents if this sickness is as dangerous as it is.”

Events now are being hosted outside or in a drive-through concept. The Greater Lodi Kiwanis Club, which has historically hosted a Christmas parade, will instead host a Christmas Extravaganza, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Dec. 11 and Dec. 12 at the Lodi Grape Festival Grounds. The event is free with a recommended $5 donation. Though drive-through events and outdoor events are not “new”, but now it’s mandatory to aid in not being shut down or fined.

Lincoln Center’s Coat and Sock Drive runs through Dec. 31. Gently used coats and new socks can be dropped off at Lincoln Center locations, and then donated to the Gospel Center Rescue Mission in downtown Stockton.

Meeting Santa Claus and picture-taking is still available to the children. He’ll be at several locations for pictures at Sherwood and Weberstown mall, and Sherwood Mall even has a “virtual” option where a reservation can be made to personally talk to Santa from your home.

Hospice of San Joaquin continues to host its Tree of Lights in locations around San Joaquin County. The Stockton tree is located at the Pacific and Yokuts avenues entrance to Delta College.

” Due to the pandemic and to ensure the safety of the public and guidelines from the CDC, this year’s ceremony was modified and done virtually on our website and social media channels.” said Kelvin Cao, Multimedia Marketing Manager, ”This lead to… concerns with engaging the community to be involved and participate in this annual tradition, as well as coordinating the pre-recorded ceremony with all the speakers, creating a script, scheduling speakers, media production and editing of the video, promoting the event, as well as making sure operationally on Delta College’s end and our end, that we were all aware what was going on. The pandemic overall has altered our overall day to day operations.” 

 The concept is that every purchased light on the Christmas trees is in honor of someone who has passed away. People are still able to purchase a Christmas light on the Tree of Lights in honor of loved ones for the trees in Tracy, Lodi, Lockeford, Stockton, Ripon, Manteca, Escalon, and Rio Vista. 

The lighting ceremonies are typically big events, but Hospice of San Joaquin has shifted to virtual ceremonies this year.

“Our priority has always been the safety of our patients, families, staff, and volunteers while supporting the highest quality of care for the community. Hospice of San Joaquin’s Tree of Lights has a big impact this year because this is the first time we purposely went virtual, and with the new guidelines and protocols we now have to follow, it is more vital than ever that the lighting ceremony is a success. With community events going virtual and everyone practicing social distancing, the leverage of online media and social media is more important and crucial than ever before. We thank San Joaquin Delta College’s help for their support and commitment in making this year’s virtual event a success.” said Cao.

While events are nice, the true spirit of the holiday is togetherness.

“Holidays are meant to be shared and be around those you love, just remember everybody needs each other, so be kind during this cold season,” said Gonzalez.