How we miss the mundane joy of the real world

The festive season – like the rest of life – just isn’t the same through a screen.

A man dressed as Santa Claus speaks with a virtual visitor at the Santa Experience in the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, on Nov 24, 2020. PHOTO: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

(NYTIMES) - At the end of September, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention posted a list of recommendations for how Americans can safely celebrate Thanksgiving this year. Eat all the pie you want (but only with your immediate family). Attend parades and big games (but only on TV). Shop till you drop (from the couch). Skip the flight back home (Zoom with your relatives instead). Give thanks (while maintaining social distance).

As a Canadian, I experienced this virtual version of Thanksgiving last month, preceded by the Jewish High Holy Days a few weeks before that. Normally, on the night before Yom Kippur, I would dress in a suit and walk to a nearby synagogue, to hear my brother-in-law sing the Kol Nidre prayer. But rising case numbers in Toronto made that unwise, so my wife and I sat on the couch and streamed a programme that featured an array of voices representing a cross-section of the Jewish experience, from Iraqi cantors and LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) rabbis, to a short film about Black Lives Matter. It was beautiful, meaningful and just one of hundreds of online services we could have tuned into that night.

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