By Yenna Chong '23
As the holiday season is upon us, most of us are thinking about how winter break is going to look this year, as COVID-19 cases are continuously increasing and travelling becomes more and more dangerous. For most people, the holidays typically include festive parties with friends, celebrations, family meals, gift-giving, and traveling, but the pandemic is affecting the holidays the same way it did this past spring, summer, and fall. Winter break is going to look very different because we are still recommended to stay home, social distance, and avoid large gatherings. Holiday parties and family dinners will be over Zoom, gifts will be shipped to the recipient’s home as opposed to being given in person, and vacation will be minimal. Thus, many of our traditional holiday activities will be modified for everyone’s health and safety.
With the frigid, windy weather, the gray skies, and the short daylight, in addition to the dreadfulness of almost an entire year with COVID-19, the holiday spirits are much lower than they have been in past years. Sigrid Drefke ‘23 says, “I think that holiday spirits are a little lower this year because [people] aren’t able to celebrate the holidays with their friends in the same ways... they normally would. I also think that [it] generally increases when there are more people, as the holiday spirit of a group feeds off of the collective energy, and being... far apart, small groups [limit] the amount that that energy can grow.” In sum, the coronavirus is preventing us from being as excited for the holidays as we normally would be.
Additionally, these three weeks of school until the holidays seem like the longest three weeks ever, because teachers try to squeeze in as much work as they can before the end of the semester. This always causes lots of stress amongst the students, but the hybrid plan makes it worse, thus affecting holiday excitement as well. Once winter break begins, I believe that people will have more anticipation because there is no stressful schoolwork. The holidays will still be a time for mental relaxation and disconnection from anything school-related, regardless of the effects of the pandemic.
In my family, we do not have very festive and traditional holiday gatherings, so one of my favorite holiday events is the Lessons and Carols service at the Cathedral. Throughout lower and middle school, I remember having to sit inside the Cathedral for what seemed like forever, watching performances and listening to speeches and blessings. Regarding content, it was not boring, but because we would have to sit hours on end, not knowing when it was going to end, it was challenging to focus. Consequently, lower and middle school me thought that it was the most boring service of the entire year.
As I have gotten older, I have begun to appreciate this beautiful Close tradition. I now admire the beautiful Christmas decorations, the several eye-catching performances, graceful Christmas music, and the lessons are interesting as well. Unfortunately, like everything else, the pandemic is forcing this service to be over Zoom this year, and there will be no captivating in-person experience inside the crowded Cathedral. Large events like this are what make the holiday season so special and it is upsetting to know that we are missing out on these experiences.
Despite having different holiday plans, this time provides us with an opportunity to appreciate the little things that we take for granted every day and to spend time with family at home. Although holiday spirits are low right now, we can still discover new ways to spread the holiday cheer with each other and find new family activities that make us happy.
By Sammy Dereje '22
A conflict between Ethiopia’s federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), representing the country’s northernmost region, has been mounting for the last few months. The TPLF led a coalition that took over the Ethiopian government following the overthrow of a dictatorship in 1991. Now, tensions between the TPLF and the federal government have escalated after Abiy Ahmed, the prime minister of Ethiopia and last year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, postponed the national election due to concerns regarding COVID-19. On November 4th, Prime Minister Abiy ordered a military offensive against the TPLF after accusing them of attacking a military base of the Ethiopian army. As the conflict intensifies, each side is doubling down in their efforts to keep power.
The most troubling issue regarding this conflict is the possibility of Tigrayan termination. The U.N. Refugee Agency warned that there could be a “full scale humanitarian crisis” unfolding in Tigray. The area is filled with destruction and violence; human bodies litter the streets. Upwards of 33,000 refugees have already crossed into Sudan, and the U.N. Refugee Agency expects another 200,000 to do so if the fighting continues. The refugees threaten to destabilize a country that’s already home to about a million other displaced African people. Semere Tesfai, a 35-year-old English teacher fleeing violence, said this about the conflict: “This is a genocide against Tigray people.” People are fleeing for their lives with no resources to survive. Zam Zam Maconin, a 26-year-old mother, stated, “We didn’t bring any food or clothes - we just escaped to save our lives and our children’s lives.” Speaking about federal forces, she added, “They’re killing people madly.” As refugees flee, government forces can be quoted as saying “Abiy Ahmed rules. We will rule you.”
These horrifying words exacerbate the worries of Ethiopian citizens just as the now-daily gunfire and fighting do. And to make matters worse, there’s a communications blackout that heavily restricts any incoming aid. This aid is essential to assist the thousands of Ethiopians affected by the conflict. Ethnic tensions have heightened in Ethiopia for far too long, and they are tearing apart the historic nation. Fighting continues all while opposing sides claim to fight in defense of their homeland, a homeland that’s shared by more than a hundred million people.
The hope of talks between the two sides has dissipated, as Mamo Mihretu, a senior aide to Abiy, told the BBC that “We don’t negotiate with criminals… We bring them to justice, not to the negotiating table.”
The Tigrayan people are innocent, yet their lives are being torn apart by the greed of others. In order to repair the damage from this conflict and heal as a community, these people need the world’s help. Just as it came together to support Haiti after an earthquake in 2010, the global community should unite to restore the richness of Tigray. When confronted with the responsibility of knowing where his brother was, Cain asked God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The answer is yes. In this case, when the world asks itself if it’s the keeper of Tigray, the answer is yes. We have a duty and a responsibility as human beings to help each other. Even in the midst of hardships resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, these responsibilities do not vanish.
Aid agencies are requesting $50 million to help support the waves of refugees because they don’t have the funds to continue providing for so many migrants. Opposing forces continue to cause more damage and hurt Tigrayans who are fleeing to survive. However, both sides need to acknowledge their faults and work to help the people of Ethiopia.
For further reading about the conflict, see the sources below.