This Christmas season, the Coronavirus could be a metaphor for the cantankerous protagonist in Dr. Suess’s book How The Grinch Stole Christmas. The Grinch is an unhappy creature with a heart “two sizes too small” wanting to ensure that everyone feels as lonely as he, which isn’t too far from reality right now. The Coronavirus is an insidious virus made up of spike proteins that act like grappling hooks, ensuring practically everyone who comes in contact with it gets sick. Yikes! Well we know what to do about the virus, but what about feeling woeful about Christmas? Maybe Dr. Suess’s book can give us direction.
The Grinch’s Plan Didn’t Go As Expected
In Dr. Suess’s book, Cindy Lou Who is concerned for her mother and twin infant brothers. She thinks her mother is overworked. Does that sound like a familiar theme right now? She hatches a scheme to capture Santa Claus, so she can speak to him personally and convince him to give her mother a happy and joyful Christmas. She instead mistakenly captures the Grinch, disguised as Santa, on his way to steal Christmas from Whoville. Cindy Lou almost enlarges his grinchy heart and stops his dastardly plan, because of her generous spirit. But he proceeds to steal Christmas from all the Who’s in Whoville.
When Christmas morning arrives and there are no festive decorations or presents, at first the Who’s are quite dismayed. But then they begin singing the Christmas Song which has a lot of the non-words that Dr. Suess is so famous for, and a magical sentence that makes everything okay: Christmas day will always be just as long as we have we. And there’s our first line of defense against the possible loss of Christmas spirit. We have we.
We Can Hold Onto The Christmas Spirit
By focusing on the “we,” Christmas is within our grasp. In the story, Cindy Lou feels empathy for the Grinch and invites him to her home for Christmas dinner. Surrounded by a loving family, he confesses that it wasn’t Christmas he hated so much as feeling alone and neglected. One little act of kindness begins to enlarge the Grinch’s heart.
We’re not going to demonstrate empathy toward the Coronavirus and invite it into our home. In fact, we’re doing the exact opposite. But we can invite Christmas into our lives with empathy for ourselves and others that are feeling alone and neglected during the holiday season. There’s a good amount of psychological evidence that when we extend kindness and compassion to others, we enlarge our hearts.
Decorate! Decorate! Decorate!
We all have our Grinch moments, but we can dispel them with action that brings us joy. This Christmas will not likely be the same old, same old holiday. For Christmas 2020, we may need to change things up. Instead of pulling back, maybe go all out with holiday decorations inside and out. Outdoor decorations, like giant snowmen or Santa and his sleigh will instill a festive spirit for our neighbors and people passing by our homes. The Journal of Environmental Psychology suggests that decorating the outside of our homes, may give our neighbors a lift and indicate to them that we’re friendly residents.
It’s likely that we’re going to connect with loved ones via Zoom or some other video platform, and for that, we can set the stage with a variety of charming and magical decorations inside the house. So, in addition to seeing the faces of those we love and cherish, they can derive pleasure from what they see as our background. Psychologists posit that when we’re feeling anxious, calling up happy childhood memories can lift our spirits, and Christmas decorations can evoke those positive feelings.
The Grinchy Coronavirus may have stolen some of our Christmas traditions, but it cannot steal our Christmas spirit! We can hold on to that by filling our homes inside and out with heartwarming decorations.