Holiday Shopping in the Pandemic

Last year I didn’t do any holiday shopping. It was a strange year, full of lockdowns, isolation, and a move right in December. This year, so far not much better in terms of the pandemic. But the longer it goes, the more we find our own ways to create a new normal. Or resume our old, normal things in new ways.

For the first time in over a year and a half,I went holiday shopping in person. Twice. I have a feeling I won’t be able to exchange the gifts face to face. More likely I’ll drop them off at a door. Or do a gift exchange standing awkwardly distanced, smiles hidden beneath masks. But still, it felt like some kind of progress to go shopping in a store. It also felt like some kind of advancement to think about buying gifts for other people.

This weekend I went to an outdoor holiday market. Normally, I would avoid events with people since the pandemic started. However, this is one of those things we’ve learned how to do in a new “normal” way, masked, distanced, and armed with hand sanitizer.

Except for having to wear a mask, the other difficult adjustment was the social distancing. Usually people crowd around the stands at a holiday market. The vendors engage with multiple customers at the same time. The booths, at least the good ones, have lots of activity. This time, it was all different.

The booths were prohibitively small. Many of them only large enough to accommodate two people, barely distanced. I waited patiently to look at the artisanal selections, sometimes only behind one other person who happened to be taking their time, or conversing with the vendor. Pre-pandemic, I would’ve been able to get close enough to at least have a look and see if I was interested. Or be near enough to hear the description of the products. Instead, I meandered around, trying not to seem stalkerish, figuring out which booths I wanted to wait at to peruse and purchase something. The mask felt uncomfortably warm and I couldn’t wear my sunglasses because they kept fogging up. In the end, I walked away triumphant with a few nice things clanking around in my bag.

I suppose I could have shopped online for everybody’s gifts, but somehow that just felt so pre-pandemic.

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