What are celebrations in isolation looking like?
By Narisa ‘Nina’ Phichitsingh
For some time now, celebrations have been put on hold, downsized, or cancelled completely. Milestones such as birthdays, anniversaries, weddings,and graduations were skipped. Like everyone, I was in my own bubble for many months, just amongst immediate family members, which, although precious and meaningful, just didn’t feel the same.
Last week, I met up with some childhood friends for the first time in seven long months to celebrate one of their birthdays, and though it was the most heartwarming experience, it felt so strange! Were we supposed to hug? Do we keep our masks on? Our greetings included our vaccine status, vaccine brand and number of shots, our whereabouts during the lockdown, and our level of openness or fear. It begged the question, how have celebrations changed since pre-COVID times?
Now that vaccination rates have increased and festive season is approaching, with Diwali just around the corner, I interviewed three Thai-Indians about their opinions on the situation, and how they’re celebrating events as we enter the complicated ‘post-COVID’ era.
35, Businessman and Recent Graduate
“Life has been quite unpredictable during the pandemic. Though the first and second waves weren’t as bad as the third, all the lockdowns have socially and mentally distanced all of us, in many ways. However, when the restrictions were slowly lifted, there was a sigh of relief for me as I disliked missing all the usual events and activities. I recently graduated from my Master’s, and was looking to celebrate. The first thing I wanted to do was to get out of the house to cycle, which was my new hobby, and check out the latest rooftop bar. Cycling is my new perfect way of celebrating as it’s outdoors, responsible, and a healthy fitness activity.
“Overall, I am very spontaneous when it comes to making plans, so I was ready! I took safety measures, carried sanitiser, wore my mask when appropriate, and avoided overly- crowded spaces. Getting vaccinated also eased a lot of my fears. I also don’t have to doubt myself as much afterwards, thinking, ‘Was I safe? Was I responsible? Were those around me vaccinated?’ This virus is going to be with us moving forward, possibly in different variants, and all we can really do is take precautions and implement safety measures.”
30, Financial Advisor and New Dad
“Celebrations are always close to our hearts simply because they bring us together, and empower us by building strong bonds between each other. Celebrating together allows our children to meet and greet everyone, and know the importance of togetherness.
“However, COVID-19 has been more than a pandemic; it’s forever changed our way of life and perspective. The usual things became unusual, and the normal was overtaken by the new normal. The presence of people changed drastically – ‘the more the merrier’ became ‘the fewer the safer.’ Although celebrations remain a happy time and being a part of one is always special, our urge to attend any has reduced drastically because, more than the fear of getting COVID, we feared being the ones spreading it. Now that we have a one- year-old, we are extra cautious, even now.
“For our daughter’s recent first birthday, a big milestone, we celebrated amongst just family. All the props, decorations, balloons, and the cake were ordered online. We thoroughly enjoyed decorating the house ourselves, and got a chance to re-connect with close family members. There were about 10 of us, and we closely followed safety measures. Despite the small gathering, our daughter was excited by all the gifts and love showered upon her on that very special day.”
32, Digital Content Marketer and PhD Student
“I’ll talk about Diwali, as that’s the next celebration coming up. Diwali celebrations for my family and me are about maintaining simplicity. We usually engage in prayers and hymns from the Gurbani together, arrange the flower décor, and light the beautiful diyas around the house. We also take time to enjoy family mealtime, which of course will include traditional Indian desserts. We used to play with fireworks during Diwali when wewere younger, but for the past few years we stopped because of the excessive pollution they cause. I think if we are celebrating a festival, our celebrations should be beneficial and not harmful to the environment. Regardless of COVID, our celebrations have always been more of a peaceful affair rather than an extravagant one.
“Diwali is more than just a festival to celebrate or enjoy, for me it’s about the triumph of good over evil. Even centuries after the original victory took place, no matter how advanced a world we now live in, values such as kindness, honesty, loyalty, and fairness are still ranked as top values that we encourage one another to possess. These core values will never be outdated, and will keep us and our future generations in touch with our roots and culture. As the country’s restrictions ease and we begin to engage in more social activities and outings, these are the values we need to remind ourselves of.”