Christmas brings out the creativity in many people. Neighbors on our cul-de-sac like to exchange original holiday-themed crafts, Christmas cookie trays or special drinks from hot chocolate mix to homemade wine to apple cider spiked with moonshine.

This Christmas is requiring more creativity than most: Many families, respecting medical advice regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, will not be gathering as usual. Fewer people will be sitting at Christmas tables, and many will hold virtual family gatherings by group chat on Zoom, FaceTime or some other platform.

That could be a plus for avoiding Uncle Herman’s halitosis hugs or Grandma Mabel’s rum-soaked fruitcake, but that won’t stop opinionated relatives from dominating the Brady Bunch-style gathering unless the host maintains control of the mute button.

Exchanging gifts by long distance may have involved ordering online and having it shipped to the recipient in hopes that it would arrive on time. Gift card sales are up, especially the digital variety. Digital Commerce 360 reports that sales of digital gift cards were up 114% over the previous year during the third quarter of 2020, and total sales had increased by 65%. Fourth quarter sales may go even higher.

More people staying home means more people buying Christmas trees, which led to a shortage of Christmas trees this year, with prices skyrocketing for those that were available. That has led to a different kind of creativity.

Susan decorated our schefflera plant with a strand of stars and a few ornaments, hanging others on lamps and elsewhere.

I like the idea of building a pyramid from empty Amazon boxes and spray-painting it green. With enough lights, it could still look nice through the window.

Christmas Eve church services have taken on a different cast. Some churches are still gathering, but with limited numbers at multiple times. Others have set up outdoor nativities with recorded hymns and prayers. Many will hold virtual observances.

My favorite crèche of the year turned up at Myrtle Beach. A friend offered the use of her condo for a few days, and we decided to bring Susan’s sons to the beach, which neither had visited in more than a decade.

While out for a walk, we spotted a woman in the near distance. She was wearing flowered tights, a long black puffy down coat and a toboggan made to look like a sock monkey. I quietly remarked on the creativity of her costume.

We offered a friendly greeting as we approached, and she waved us over to see what she had done. You can see it at the top of the column.

Some people build sandcastles or forts. Just above the tide line, she had built a manger scene of driftwood, shells and a starfish.

We paused to admire it and to express thanks for her creative expression.

In its sincere simplicity, the sandy crèche offered a silent prayer for peace on earth and good will to all.

So may it be.

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