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The COVID-19 Grinch That Tried (And Mostly Failed) To Steal Christmas

Everyone knows the famous Dr. Seuss children’s Christmas story and movie “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

The Grinch — resident sourpuss in the fictional town of Whoville — is tired of the locals’ incessant Christmas cheer and noise, and decides he’s going to do something to end it. So he dresses up like Santa, descends into Whoville and steals all their Christmas presents, decorations and food in hopes that the residents (known as the “Whos”) will wake up and be brokenhearted that Christmas has been robbed from them.

Ultimately, it doesn’t quite work out the way the Grinch expects. Some singing sends his heart into a massive growth spurt, and he finds himself returning everything to the Whos — and even carving the dinner meal (“roast beast”) at the end.

Well, here in the real world, we have our own Grinch this year — although it goes by the name “COVID-19.” And our Grinch is objectively worse than Dr. Seuss’ version. Much like its fictional crabby counterpart, the COVID-19 Grinch is trying to steal Christmas, but without any of the amazing pageantry of the original book and movie.

There are no costumes for the COVID-19 Grinch, no little dog named Max (the Grinch’s friendly sidekick), no Cindy Lou Who and no chance of the Grinch changing its mind. The COVID-19 Grinch is trying to steal Christmas the way it stole most of 2020: by siphoning away all of the fun we’re used to having.

Thanks to the pandemic, the shopping season started in October before Halloween decorations were down, while Black Friday was a bust in stores. Meanwhile, getting together with friends and family for holiday visits has been something health officials have been cautioning against since September, as COVID-19 case numbers consistently tick up.

And the hits just kept on coming, as COVID-19 spreads its anti-cheer to every corner of the season.

And yet … Christmas is still on the calendar, because no matter how sour or infectious the COVID-19 Grinch happens to be, Christmas isn’t just the most wonderful time of the year, it’s also the most persistent.

The COVID-19 Grinch’s Biggest Grabs

While there are many ways we could enumerate how COVID-19 has put a kink in Christmas cheer, we can condense them into the three biggest swings at the holiday’s three biggest symbols: Santa, the Christmas tree and the presents.

The tree attack was seen in New York City, home of the nation’s most famous Christmas tree, the one that overlooks the skating rink at Rockefeller Center. The 2020 tree was, to put it mildly, something of a disappointment to bystanders on the day it was unveiled.

To be sure, it was a towering pine tree — but it looked a lot worse for the traveling wear given the initial attempt to stand it up. Bald in some areas, somewhat crooked and with visible brown spots, the tree was widely mocked as atrocious — and yet oddly appropriate for holiday 2020.

“In true 2020 form, the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree looks like it tried to cut its own hair,” one Twitter user noted.

Added another: “The Rockefeller Christmas tree, just like the rest of us, will really be through things in 2020.”

But at least the tree made it. That’s more than we can say for Santa, who’s sitting out the vast majority of his annual mall appearances in an attempt to slow COVID-19’s spread. For the first time in 158 years, Jolly Old St. Nick skipped his annual appearance at Macy’s Herald Square location in New York City. Those looking for a miracle on 34th street this year, it seems, will have to look elsewhere.

And those looking for mall visits with Santa in general were out of luck this year, as malls by and large weren’t hiring one.

“I normally have 20 to 30 bookings, and right now I have two,” mall Santa Mike Hadrych, 72, who lives with his family in Canoga Park, California, told the media. “So I expect it to be really, really slow … there’s just a lot of unknowns right now.”

And then, there are the presents. Between the unusual surge in eCommerce this year, new COVID-19 vaccines entering shipping channels and this week’s massive Northeast snow, the shipping situation has become tenuous.

“Ship-ageddon” is upon us, with the U.S. Postal Service, FedEx and UPS all warning that shipping delays are likely this holiday season. That’s bad news for Christmas presents that consumers want to be delivered by Dec. 25.

UPS has even started ramping down how much major merchants like Gap can ship on its platform. “Knowing the unique constraints the industry is facing this peak season, we worked with our carriers early on to collectively build a strategic plan of execution,” a Gap spokeswoman told The Wall Street Journal.

How Christmas Battled Back

But it turns out that Christmas is pretty tough in its own right.

Take that busted Rockefeller Center tree. Like just about everyone and everything else, it has a blog all its own — and it warned us all to not be fooled by first appearances.

“In total New York fashion, I’ll be having some work done … I’m currently under construction,” the tree “wrote” on the blog.

And in fact, with a little work, some extensions, lots of lights and a 900-pound Swarovski star sitting on top, the tree — in the proud tradition of the Charlie Brown Christmas tree — looked on the whole just perfect. All it needed was a little extra love.

And Santa might not be at the mall this Christmas, but he is on Zoom. Kids can’t sit on his lap this year, but they can get in close and whisper their secret Christmas wishes to him via the magic of video calling.

And as for those presents? Well, the USPS is warning there could indeed be delays. But the postal system is working around the clock to deliver as many of them as humanly possible, and is somewhat confident it will actually do so.

“To help handle the expected volume increase, the Postal Service has the capacity to flex its nationwide processing and delivery network to meet surges in the volume of mail and packages, including the expected additional holiday package volume that may result as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” USPS spokeswoman Kim Frum told NBC News. “Our network is designed to handle temporary and seasonal increases in volume, and we have the ability to deliver those additional holiday packages in a timely manner.”

Christmas and its traditions, as it turns out, are a lot harder to knock off than even the problems that a massive global pandemic can muster.

And even if the tree isn’t quite right, you can’t see Santa in person or some of the gifts aren’t under the tree on time, we remind you of the last and most important lesson in “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”:

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! ‘Maybe Christmas,’ he thought, ‘doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas … perhaps … means a little bit more!'”

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