Metro Weekly

Hope for the Holidays: A Metro Weekly Forum

As we close out this most challenging of years, we asked our readers if they still felt festive

Holiday wreath — Photo by Chromakey

Are you feeling the holiday spirit in 2020?

Jewel Addy, 27, Ally, D.C., Communications: I’m feeling cautious holiday spirit. I’m wanting to see my family, and have made plans to do so safely, but with COVID, there’s only so much “safe planning” you can do. Gift shopping feels especially daunting this year.

David Amoroso, 57, Va., Artist: In a strange way, it doesn’t seem that different. Holidays are always low-key for me. I do miss some of the parties and get-togethers.

John Aravosis, 57, Gay, D.C., Political Consultant: Yes. To a degree. My Christmas tree and my three big honking oversized Christmas ornaments I have hanging from my ceiling (they’re 3 feet tall!) help put me in the mood. I’m not seeing my family this Christmas because of COVID — mom is 91, and I won’t risk it. So that sucks. The only time I haven’t spent Christmas with my family was when I was studying abroad at 19. So it’s been a strange year.

Chris Banks, 53, Gay, D.C., Production Manager: I am feeling the holiday spirit this year in a more traditional sense. It’s not about presents or parties or any of that. It’s about being home with my husband and our dog and cat, and celebrating our little family.

Jonathan Bardzik, 47, Gay, D.C., Cook, Author, TV Personality: I am. The people in my life make holidays special. The traditions we have developed over the years and that have been handed down through my family make my holidays rich.

Brandon Bayton, 45, Gay, D.C., Health Advocacy: I am feeling the holiday spirit. This year more than others have made me appreciate what I have, and my life overall. The holidays are emphasizing that even more. Ironically, unlike past Christmases, I’ve been enjoying the holiday spirit more. I’ve decorated, shopped for, and wrapped presents. I’ve also enjoyed the holiday lights and decorations.

Robert Beam, 64, Gay, N.C., Retired: Yes, I am very much feeling the holiday spirit in 2020! I started decorating the outside and inside of our Georgian style home the last week in November and shopping and wrapping are all finished. And now that we have a NEW president-elect, I’m looking forward to a fantastic start to 2021!

Michael Biedzinski, 55, Gay, Va., IT Specialist: Not as much as usual, but somewhat. Sadly, we have opted to stay home and skip family visits this year due to COVID.

Gordon Binder, 72, Gay, D.C., Environmental Field: Mid to middling, that is, feeling some of the usual sentiments in this holiday season as we mark the advent of a new year, but given the pandemic we are reduced to having a zoom Christmas morning with the usual crew, my husband’s twin and us visiting their sister and her family in Williamsburg. Will miss the festive tree lighting in Colonial Williamsburg and decorating the tree where we’re marking the holiday. Oh well, not this year. A stoic’s response?

Rea Carey, 53, Queer, D.C., Executive Director of The Task Force: I am feeling grateful for the holidays. If nothing else, 2020 has stripped down any special occasion, a birthday, an anniversary, a holiday to its essential element for me — being in community with those I love. It’s just that this year, we only get to see some of them on Zoom. Also, we’ve decorated this year with lots of lights and I suspect we may not take them down until June! The parade of horribles of 2020 provides an opportunity to experience even the smallest, briefest joys as all the more meaningful.

Matthew Caws, 53, Ally, N.Y., Singer/guitarist in Nada Surf: I am, but in a smaller way, relying more on hope than in previous years. Part of the magic of shared parallel experiences is how they help us allow (this doubled verb is tortured english, but we need both encouragement and permission) ourselves to feel part of something big, something unified, a human family. We won’t/can’t feel this for the whole holiday season, but for little moments, maybe five minutes of crunching through the snow to a friend’s house or to the store to get something for a visiting relative. Are we all feeling peaceful? Are we all remembering holidays of our childhood. As our toddler asks sometimes as I pull his shirt on in the morning, “Is everyone getting ready for school right now?”

The impediment to this unity dream this year is the reality of how divided and mirrored we are. I have one Trumpist acquaintance and he thinks the Democrats are trying to steal the election, that our future and integrity must be saved. I used to bemoan the fact that politics felt like sport in America, that it was a game of Red vs. Blue. But I’m afraid we’ve left the stadium. Sportsmanship has evaporated for some. I’d gladly go back. Hell, I’ll put on a helmet if I have to, but let’s please get back to playing by some rules.

Charlotte Clymer, 34, Lesbian, D.C., Writer & Activist: It’s hard to feel the spirit these holidays. More than 300,000 Americans are dead from COVID, and the LGBTQ community is particularly at risk in a system that discriminates against us. I hope people embrace that the holiday spirit this year should mean not traveling and staying home with close loved ones. Let’s put each other’s health first.

Derrick Strawberry Cox, 31, Gay, D.C., Government Worker: No, not really, because this year has been full of so many more downs than ups, and that holiday energy that you normally get in the air just isn’t there.

Robert Crocetti, 46, Gay, D.C., Fitness Trainer: Not really. 2020 has been a downer practically since March. I have not been able to work, spend time with friends and relatives, dine out, travel, etc. The holidays are, in part for me, a time to spend with those we love and care about. Unfortunately, that is not going to happen in 2020!

Alphonso David, 50, Gay, N.Y., President, Human Rights Campaign: Yes, I am feeling the holiday spirit, because I see the heavenly resilience that we demonstrated to get us through a dark time; I see the sheer will people summoned to overcome obstacles this year; and I see the possibilities of a bright and more inclusive future. For the past four years, we have lived under an oppressive and regressive federal administration that sought to silence us and effectively erase us from protections under law. We have an opportunity to turn the tide and enact pro-equality policies that will advance this nation forward. I am grateful for the millions of voters who seized back their power and fought for our democracy this year. Thank you.

Paula Dyan, 70, Ally, D.C., Retired: I enjoy the Christmas lights and decoration! Feeling the spirit? Dunno. I’ve been donating to food banks and Mutual Aids this year. After the kids grow up, there’s less reason to buy stuff except for close friends.

Audrey Fix Schaefer, Ally, D.C., Communications: This whole year feels like a weird movie that I didn’t buy a ticket to — and the holidays feel like a strange limbo. I’m grateful for my family’s and my health because that’s not a given. But I ache to be with them, and can’t wait until that part of real life returns. I’m so grateful vaccines are on the way and eternally indebted to all those in the medical community that put their lives on the line to help perfect strangers.

Russwin Francisco, 54, Gay, D.C., Owner of Bite the Fruit: I am not feeling the holiday spirit this year. It is odd for me since Christmas is my favorite time of year. I normally decorate the day after Thanksgiving. I completed my gift shopping and wrapping by Dec. 15. At this point, I would have gone to a dozen holiday parties, not counting office and co-workers. My sweaters would smell of mulled cider or eggnog or both. My dog would be looking at me funny because I’m about to dress her in a new sweater or scarf — and she hates wearing anything.

Well, this year, with all family gatherings cancelled because of COVID, I barely decorated the house. I decided not to set up the tree. I did set a nativity scene on the fireplace mantle. It is truly the least I could do. It is difficult to feel festive when we are in the midst of a pandemic. With the death toll, hospitals inundated, many without jobs, many losing their homes and many hungry, it is overwhelming. Many can’t be with their families this season without violating lockdowns and putting themselves and their loved ones at risk. It’s hard to feel the spirit of the holidays in its full splendor when we’re rounding out one of the most difficult years in recent memory. What does one do when surrounded by seemingly insurmountable challenges? I count my blessings. I call someone and tell them I love them. I donate time or send a check to a charity. I tell myself it’s ok to feel sad. There’s a lot to be sad about. Then I try to cheer someone up.

KeeKee Funches, 52, Transgender, D.C., Hostess: I’m feeling the holiday spirit because I’m blessed to still be living a healthy, blessed and highly favored life.

Lee Gable, 60, Gay, D.C., Artistic Director, Rainbow Theatre Project: Not really. Financially things are tough and I can’t visit my stepdad, which is what I would normally be doing.

Richard Gamble, 65, Gay, De., Retired: No more than usual. I am kind of a Grinch at the holidays. Too many bad things have happened between Thanksgiving and the New Year in the past that resurface at this time of year.

Adam Garnek, 43, Gay, N.C., Self-employed: Yes, I am feeling the holiday spirit. This past year had many hurdles for all of us and I feel inspired to do my part in making this a great holiday season in ending the year on a high note. It is how we remain strong and focused on what is to come. Also, I am inspired to break out some old holiday traditions from my own childhood to make this a special season.

David Greer, 55, Gay, D.C., Communications: Absolutely. More so than in previous non-pandemic years. The front door of our house looks like the Christmas fairy vomited colored lights from the ’50s. Our front windows are elegantly bedecked with lighted snowflakes, which reminds us of the MAGA snowflakes still in a meltdown about Trump’s defeat. We need holiday spirit this year. There’s a dark winter ahead of us. We need light. We need merry. We need Bing Crosby.

Stephen Griffith, 58, Gay, Md., Access Specialist: Yes. All the decorations help. It seems this year in particular the holiday is about helping others, not about what people are giving me.

Garry Gsquare, 69, Gay, S.C., Retired: Yes, as much as safely possible. The Christmas decorations and lights are all up. I’ll be hosting Christmas dinner for a good friend who I have remained close to through 2020.

Dan H, 55, Gay, Md., Loading Dock Worker: I’m very glad the holidays are here. This year has been rough.

Eric Halley, 46, Gay, D.C., Analyst: The holiday spirit? That would depend on how you define it. Peace and goodwill to all? Joy at the birth of the Messiah? Holidays don’t hold a special place for me, however I try to live a life that focuses on keeping close ties with my “chosen family.” We talk weekly, we check in, we meet for drinks and meals (pre-COVID, now it’s just Zoom or Teams), and are there for one another. The commercialization (Christmas decor up before Thanksgiving) and the need to show love and affection through material means in the holiday spirit demonstrates how broken society is. So long story short, yeah. Every day. Especially now that the Tangerine Palpatine is on his way outta town. (Shout out to Andrew Duffer.)

Kelly Hanson, 29, Bisexual, Md., Project Specialist: I always feel the spirit, and pandemic restrictions haven’t affected that. I miss going to some events and visiting family, of course, but nothing will ever prevent cute holiday-themed decor, music, movies, and activities from making me smile.

Brandon Harrison, 32, Gay, Tx., Product Design: Not as much as usual. Kind of hard to get too much into the spirit when you can’t really see family or friends.

Eric Hirshfield, 51, Gay, D.C., Property Developer: It feels like Xmas has been cancelled. But it’s for the better good and we’ll all be celebrating (new) traditions next year.

David Hollingsworth, 35, Gay, N.C., Student: The holidays haven’t been the same for years. I don’t think that I should celebrate, especially considering that over 300,000 people will never get the chance to ever again. And also, it’s another year without my beloved uncle, who passed away a year ago.

Joseph Izzo, 72, Gay, D.C., Retired Psychotherapist: The holiday spirit has been dampened considerably by the enormous amount of suffering and death throughout the world as a result of the global pandemic; the economic downturn and increases in hunger and homelessness for many people who were just barely above the poverty line. I’m grieving the deaths of some personal friends, none of whom died of COVID. I am still grieving the deaths of Chadwick Boseman, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Alex Trebek, and Dr. Richard Simon.

The ray of light in this dark cloud has been the confirmation that Donald Trump will no longer be President in 30 days and this country will once again have adult public servants leading us forward. I look forward to the return of sanity, empathy, and a governance that’s for the good of all our citizens and not just the right-wing fringe.

David Johns, 38, Same gender loving, D.C., Executive Director of the National Black Justice Coalition: It’s a different feeling this holiday season. I’m thankful for shelter and sanity. I’m also aware of how much sadness and suffering so many have experienced this year. It’s been an incredibly long year. I know so many holding so much pain and grief. My prayer is that everyone is able to enjoy a moment of respite and feel restored by the healing power of love.

Justin Kaley, 21, Bisexual, Va., Student: In a different sort of way. Spending quarantine with a big family has definitely renewed my appreciation for them. Oddly, this is the opposite of what many would expect! In that sense, this will certainly be a more memorable holiday.

John Klenert, 70, Gay, D.C., Retired: At best I would say mixed. Glad that this year is approaching an end. At times it felt like we were members of Dante’s Inferno. Advent/Christmas/Hanukkah is about light, and knowing that the vaccines are here shows us the light at the end of the tunnel.

Patsy Lynch, 67, Lesbian, Md., Photographer: Given the long-term affects of COVID, my feelings about the holidays are more muted. I am thrilled that we are finally going to have a pair of adults elected to deal with the pressing issues facing America. I am thrilled that the LGBTQ community is getting representation (after the confirmation hearings) at Cabinet levels and most important, I am grateful for the people in my life — they have been my bedrock during these trying times.

Leandra Lynn, 33, Bisexual, Va., Customer Service Manager: It’s definitely a different holiday spirit than usual. I really miss all of my loved ones and it’s making me put a lot more work into making thoughtful gifts. I always enjoyed gift giving, but the fact that I haven’t seen some of my friends in months makes me want to give them something extra special.

David Mariner, 49, Gay, De., Executive Director of Camp Rehoboth: My husband and I are more into the holidays than ever! This past year has given us all an opportunity to reflect on what is most important in life. The holidays are about holding your family and friends close, and I feel that more than ever this Christmas. I am grateful for my tribe that sticks by me, and though most of us will be apart this year, my heart is full and my holiday spirits are high.

Brett Parson, 52, Gay, D.C., Retired Police Officer: I am feeling the holiday spirit, but very differently this year. 2020 has exposed the best and worst our community, nation, and world has to offer. I am participating in many of the same traditions from years past, but many are online, and if in person involve far fewer people, social distancing, and masks. Also, the absence of live music makes the season seem hollow.

Alex Pierson, 30, Gay, Wa., Attorney: I feel some of the holiday spirit in 2020. The lack of physical togetherness underscores the largest missing component of holiday spirit for me.

Jon Rybka, 47, Gay, D.C., Unemployed: No, not at all. I wanted to really get into the spirit of the holiday and even put the tree up, but two days later I was in the ER and have been in hospital ever since.

Steven Shappell, 60, Gay. Va., Government Employee: Not feeling it. Missing being with extended family. Miss patronizing area gay bars and businesses. Tired of not being able to travel.

Jim Slattery, 51, Gay, D.C., Correspondence Officer: Yes and no. In the desire to be better in touch with family and friends after a very challenging year, especially those who don’t use social media, I sent Christmas cards for the first time in years. I’ve sent just about 50 and I’m still writing more. On the flip side, there are so many traditional decorations staying boxed up this year because I just don’t have the energy to go all out. Exceptions are the outdoor balcony lights, the decades old ceramic tree my late aunt made me, the RBG ornament I bought shortly after she passed, and Kathy Griffin’s Fuck Trump ornament that sits out year round in a martini glass in our liquor cabinet. Ho, ho, ho!

Ryan Spahn, 40, Gay, N.Y., Actor-Writer-Director: Yes and no. I am grateful for my health and for the health of my family. My mother and I came down with COVID in the Fall. We survived. Thousands haven’t. We were the lucky ones. This holiday season is deeply bittersweet.

Hancie Stokes, 25, Queer, D.C., Communications Manager: I think I’ve forced myself to feel the holiday spirit even more this year since it will be so different. At the same time, this year has been a good reminder of what the holidays are really about. I like to think that choosing not to see family this year is giving the gift of more holidays together in the future. We are saying, “I love you enough not to put your health at risk.”

Rod Thomas (Bright Light x2), 38, Gay, N.Y., Musician: I actually am. I’m very excited for a break from work which I feel I can actually do this year. While I can’t do anything usual like see friends properly or go for festive drinks, it’s nice to unwind. Plus it snowed in New York City, which made everything look amazing.

Pixie Windsor, 60, Bisexual, D.C., Owner of Miss Pixie’s Furnishings & Whatnot: I am! I am feeling optimistic with a COVID vaccine on the horizon and the upcoming change in the White House. The shop has been busy and folks have been generally positive. Of course, we are all waiting for this year to be over, too! It has been a tough year for many people but I think we all have learned a lot about ourselves and our tolerance for our differences and disparities.

Bob Witeck, 69, Gay, Va., Public Relations: I always feel the powerful spirit of the holidays, and especially now when I’m spending so much more time at home and with my husband. We find it relatively calm and still, with fewer demands and obligations, and instead focused even more on family and close friends. In short order, even though winter’s arrival means shorter daylight hours, it also means the days soon will grow longer and brighter immediately after Christmas which will be a mood lifter for everyone. I’m feeling so hopeful about 2021, and the holidays help make that real.

Robert York, 52, Gay, Va., Director of Development: Trying to as much as possible. The holidays are different this year with so many things happening and not happening to address the pandemic. It didn’t have to be this way. The holiday spirit is alive with a family of friends but also knowing that many are facing this holiday season without family members due to COVID.

Merle Yost, 62, Gay, Ca., Psychotherapist, author, workshop leader: No. It has been both the longest and shortest year of my life. Mostly, I just want 2020 over and I am not sure there is much to celebrate other than just survival this past year.

Zar, 34, LGBTQ Adjacent, Md., Creative Director of Team Rayceen Productions: I’m not religious or generally into annual traditions; I find it all tedious and monotonous. But this year, I’m particularly not feeling the holiday spirit because if Thanksgiving was any indication, all the winter holidays are going to inspire people to travel for various gatherings and it will be a superspreader event which may lead to the collapse of the U.S. healthcare system. I anticipate the U.S. to hit 500k deaths sooner than expected. I’ll save the holiday cheer for next year — or maybe 2023.

How are you planning to celebrate the holidays this year?

Jewel Addy: My family, who has been quarantining, is planning to pick me, who has also been quarantining, up from D.C. and make the drive back up to NJ. I’ll be back down in D.C. for a mostly solo and safe New Year’s.

David Amoroso: At home with my roommate.

Mark Anderson, 66, Gay, Md., Retired: Christmas will be low key with my Partner and my Mom, who lives next door. New Years will be low key as well, as my 30th Anniversary of getting sober is the 30th of December!

John Aravosis: I have zero plans, which definitely kind of sucks. I like to bake, so I’m making lots of fattening things for myself, but other than that, it’s not going to be the best holiday ever. Having said that, I got my 10-pound dog a Santa outfit that she’ll be sporting on Christmas Day, so I am definitely looking forward to that!

Jonathan Bardzik: My husband Jason and I have been isolating so that I can go visit my parents for Christmas. It will be the first time I have seen them in person since we shut down back in March. Though the meals will be smaller, this year we will cook our family’s traditional Polish Christmas Eve dinner and a Christmas day will serve up fresh ingredients I bring home from D.C.’s farmers markets. New Years Eve we will spend with the two other couples in our COVID pod, affectionately called our quaranteam. Having this community has been a blessing this year and is the perfect way to ring in 2021.

Brandon Bayton: I’m keeping it simple. I’m adhering to the CDC guidelines and will be flying solo for the holidays. As I’m immunocompromised, I take extra precautions to stay safe and my friends and family respect that. I plan to sleep in and will fix a special non-traditional meal — Lamb Shank with roasted Brussel sprouts, garlic potatoes, and cheesecake. I’ll open my presents. Then I’ll enjoy my most anticipated present — Wonder Woman 1984 on HBOMax.

Rea Carey: We will make our annual seafood feast on Christmas Eve and connect with the rest of our extended family on Zoom. I’ll also make my mom’s egg casserole for Christmas morning. Bringing the tastes, smells and sounds of the holidays will bring familiar comfort in a completely unfamiliar year. I always find New Year’s Eve to be the hardest night of the year to stay awake until midnight. But, this year I’ll make an extra effort to stay awake to kick 2020 in the ass out the door, and welcome 2021!

Matthew Caws: For the sake of not traveling as much, and starting our own family traditions, last Christmas was the first that I spent in my own house. This year, we might have traveled, but it will be small again. We’ll be festive, celebratory, calling extended family, and early to bed.

Charlotte Clymer: I’m staying home this year, of course, and I’ll be enjoying the holidays with very close friends who have been properly tested and quarantined. I’ll be looking forward to next year when I can be together with all the people I love again.

Derrick Strawberry Cox: I definitely plan on celebrating both Christmas and New Year’s even if they are on Zoom calls!

Paula Dyan: Quietly at home with a hot toddy and joint. I enjoy my company.

Audrey Fix Schaefer: Cooking too much. Eating too much. Enjoying my (and maybe someone else’s) share of tequila.

Russwin Francisco: My family traditionally would get together on Christmas Eve. We would cook, bake, sing carols, put the finishing touches on the gingerbread town, and at midnight, we opened presents. We would end up on a heap in front of the fireplace. Not too early on the next day, Christmas Day, we would begin preparing for a late lunch. There would be turkey, goose or duck, there would be glazed ham regardless, there would be mashed potatoes and stuffing and gravy and all the trimmings. This year, my husband and I are having chicken and dumplings. I am still glazing a ham and dropping off half of it at my mom’s on Christmas Day. We are looking forward to watching Wonder Woman 1984 on our big screen TV. No set plans for New Year’s eve. I don’t think we are eating out. Inside dining has been suspended in the District. I’m up for champagne by a fire pit if there’s one in the city.

Christian Gallegos-Alarcon, 24, Gay, Ca., Park Ranger: I will have a small dinner with my family on Christmas and go backpacking over the new year.

David Greer: We plan to celebrate not being on I-95 in stop-n-go traffic for 8 hours. Instead, like most holidays, we will anesthetize ourselves with sugar cookies and bourbon with a splash of egg nog. This will lead to a fever dream of sugar plum fairies dancing on the island of misfit toys while Scrooge is relentlessly tapping us on Grindr. In reality, I’ll run a virtual 10K in the morning, high five myself at the finish line, then spend the rest of the day on the permanently dented couch for yet another Netflix marathon.

Eric Halley: Since there won’t be a real rollout of the COVID vaccine for at least another six months, staying home and staying safe. I think there will be bourbon Teams meetings with my extended family up in New York City that will result in some interesting remote karaoke.

David Johns: I’m celebrating this holiday season at home with my puppy, Baldwin.

Leandra Lynn: I’m not doing much. I’m going to make cookies and stay home. This is going to be the first New Year’s at home in a long time.

Kevin J Maurice, 58, Gay, Or., Wildlife Biologist: Lasagna and champagne Christmas Eve, ham and champagne Christmas Day. Prime rib on New Year’s. This whole pandemic has been boozy, and not sure why that would change now. Joined two online wine clubs. Awash in reds and sparkling stuff.

Brett Parson: As a member of the Jewish faith, Christmas is not a big day religiously, but has always been a day of service to others, as well as a fun day to watch others celebrate with family. I volunteer to work each Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, so those who observe the holiday can spend it with family. This year will be no different, as I will volunteer to work for a member of the [police] department who was scheduled to work, but would prefer to spend the holiday with their family. Of course, no Christmas Day would be complete without my traditional dinner from Tony Cheng’s Chinese Restaurant.

Jon Rybka: If I am lucky I’ll be able to spend Christmas with my boyfriend and my dog. (I may get out of hospital by Wednesday.) New Years was always the DC Eagle for the past 4 1/3 years but this year it will be just me, the dog and the boyfriend…fingers crossed.

Ryan Spahn: My partner and I bought a small pink Christmas tree, and we plan to plop down in front of it with our dog and cat.

Hancie Stokes: Christmas will be spent curled up by the fire with my partner in our apartment. We got a little tree, have hung our stockings and are planning an elaborate Christmas brunch for the two of us. For New Year’s, I love the idea of still getting dressed to the nines and popping a bottle of champagne even if the “party” only has two guests.

Rod Thomas: Christmas cooking with one friend as we both have been testing for COVID and testing negative frequently, and in a pod all year. NYE is likely alone at home and I really don’t mind.

Glenn Williams, 45, Gay, Md., Writer: Good question. What will even be open?

Bob Witeck: We are taking the exceptional step to host a live Zoom gathering and a magic act performance for all of our family — with perhaps 75 people joining us.

Zar: I will spend all holidays exactly how I’ve spent almost all of them in my adult life: at home, by myself. Perhaps for New Year’s I will take inventory of the libations bar and safer sex bar items left over from the ninth season The Ask Rayceen Show which have been collecting dust since the Season Premiere in March. Never have 10,000 condoms and so much liquor been so safely stored than with me. However, I am on Tinder now, so maybe I might find that special guy for a NYE toast via video chat.

What is your favorite holiday memory from years past?

John Aravosis: Making Christmas cookies with my nieces and nephews. My mom has an old recipe from the early ’60s, and these wonderful tin cut outs, and we make cookies that we then decorate with colored sugar, chocolate ants (as we call them), and more. And then they hang from the tree, and actually stay fresh. Now that I’m older, I’m in charge of corralling the nieces and nephews each year to continue the tradition.

Chris Banks: One year I wrapped all my gifts for family and friends in fabric and sewed them all up tight. They were gorgeous and it was funny watching people try to open them.

Jonathan Bardzik: I don’t know that I’d call it a favorite, but if you’ve been at one of my live cooking demos, chances are you’ve heard me talk about the year I set the Christmas dinner table on fire. For real. Just ask my Mom and she will tell you aaaaaaalllll about it.

Gordon Binder: Warm memories to reflect on, New Year’s Eve in from Times Square, bar hopping here in D.C., finding our way home at dawn after celebrating with a good friend who had been performing till midnight; alas, he died of AIDS.

The last white Christmas, many years ago, my husband and I visiting his parents who lived on a creek feeding into Chesapeake Bay as we did every year back then, waking up in the morning to see the landscape covered in snow. His father would gather oysters in the wild, shuck them, and we’d enjoy, he with his gin, me with my bourbon.

Ian Brennan, 54, Ally, Ca., Music Producer: Producing John Waters’ live-comedy Christmas tour for the past nineteen years.

Matthew Caws: Going to Christmas Eve Midnight Caroling service at church in Wilmington, North Carolina, and singing next to my grandmother. It feels strange to say that I’m not a believer, because I believe strongly in love and inherent, though easily damaged, good will, but I’m not a Christian. I went to church though because it made my grandmother happy, and hearing her soft sweet voice sing “Silent Night” along with the rest of the hushed congregation, and joining in, felt magical. I wish concepts could be shared more freely, because I want to mention how those moments felt holy but I don’t want to imply that I believe in an embodiment of God.

Families and friends wanting to spend some quality time together is God. Wanting to share is God. Wanting to sit peacefully and talk is God. I apologize for rambling about this. Maybe I’m trying to say that my favorite holiday memory is feeling, innocently and plainly, that there was something holy about them.

Charlotte Clymer: The first year I was out of the closet, I received holiday cards addressed to my authentic name, and there’s really no way to describe the joy that brought me. Affirmation is the gift that keeps on giving.

Robert Crocetti: I have several favorite holiday memories. One holiday when I was a child, there was a snow storm that began on Christmas Eve. I remember looking up at the basement watching the snow rise above the top of the window. On Christmas day, I attempted to play in the snow but it was above my head. I tilted over and made my first snow angel!

Alphonso David: My favorite holiday memory is holiday dinner with my sisters and my family. Nothing compares to sitting around a table with people you love.

Audrey Fix Schaefer: This is as corny as it gets, but surprising my kids with a trip to Disneyworld. Except for the food poisoning, it was a big hit! (Stay away from cream-based soups in Florida, people.)

Russwin Francisco: Picture it. Manila. 1971. My grandmother took me to Christmas mass when I was very young, five maybe? We walked to the church. It seemed there was a church on every street corner. The narrow roads were teeming with activity. There were peddlers of all sorts of food, fruits, flowers, toys. Children were playing, singing carols. The mass was about an hour. It was in Spanish. The little church was decked with jasmine and tropical flowers. I felt intoxicated by the fragrance. On the way home, my grandmother bought a bag of freshly baked pandesal, salty crusty rolls with buttery soft middles. I ate one. The world was perfect.

Christian Gallegos-Alarcon: Going from Joshua Tree National Park to a rave with friends when I was in college.

Brandon Harrison: When I was 8 years old, I was desperately wanting to play the first “3D” Sega Genesis game: Sonic 3D Blast. I begged my mom to let me open a gift early, and when she finally relented, I meticulously sized and weighed (at least in my head) each gift I could find with my name on it.

I settled on one, mostly because of the size of the box and requested to open it. She agreed, and I tore into the paper. It was exactly what I was looking for. A big hug and thank you later, I was planted in front of the TV playing the game.

It’s a good memory, not because I got a gift I wanted, but because my mom wanted me to be happy, and was willing to break tradition to see it. The same way she supports me as a gay man. She just wants her kids happy, however they live.

Eric Hirshfield: Whenever Christmas, Hanukkah, and my birthday fall on the same day — Dec 24.

David Johns: As the seasons continue to pass, my mind frequently recalls holiday memories from my childhood. Rituals that included my sister and I being allowed to open one present on Christmas Eve before attempting to stay awake and failing miserably. On Christmas Day we often drove from our home in Los Angeles to meet my aunt and cousin in Palmdale where we would have brunch at IHOP before seeing a movie. I look forward to creating similar memories with the family I am manifesting.

Denny Lyon, 75, Gay, Md., Sales: When I was a teenager, my parents used to let me throw a New Year’s Eve party for all my friends. It happened every year from 7th through 11th grade. I didn’t realize it at the time but this was a huge sacrifice on their part.

David Mariner: When I first moved to Washington, D.C. I sang in the Gay Men’s Chorus for one season, and my parent’s came to see the Christmas Concert. I was a bit nervous about how they would handle their first big “gay” event, but it ended up being wonderful, and I was so grateful and happy to be able to share this part of my life with them. Thank you, GMCW!

Also, when I worked at the DC Center, the employees at HRC had a wonderful holiday tradition of buying presents for the LGBTQ asylum seekers and refugees we worked with. They received a list of what was needed and always put in a lot of work to pick out the right (and much-needed items) like winter coats, shoes, and sweaters. It always made me so happy to be able to hand out those presents. Thank you, HRC!

Ryan Spahn: My sisters and I would sleep in the same room the night before Christmas. We were always too excited to sleep in our own bedrooms. Once we were fast asleep, Mom would use stencils to make fake Santa footprints all around the house. In the morning, we’d wake up to what looked like snow prints from Santa’s boots. We’d run into the family room, and our stepfather would always be dressed up in a costume. Every year, he was something different (Santa, Hippie, Santa Borg, Old Lady, etc.) This tradition lasted over fifteen years and, yes, the pictures are epic.

Hancie Stokes: As an only child, I never got to play Santa for anyone else in my immediate family. But last year, we visited my cousins in Louisiana who were 9 and 5 at the time. It was so much fun hiding the Elf on the Shelf, prepping presents from Santa, and getting to see Christmas through their eyes. Perhaps my most favorite memory was helping my cousin’s dad put together this elaborate marble maze so that it would be all set up when the kids woke up. It took forever, and of course, my little cousin broke it immediately. We both just sat there like, “Santa worked VERY hard on that…”

Rod Thomas: Every Christmas in NYC. Also seeing Mariah Carey’s Christmas show. Iconic.

Pixie Windsor: I have fond memories of riding around looking at Christmas lights. We did it as a family every Christmas Eve. My mom would tell us a little gossip/tidbits about different home owners she knew as we’d go by. It was really one of the least stressful and the most exciting parts of the holiday for me.

Robert York: Being able to spend Christmas 2017 and Thanksgiving 2018 with my Mom before her lung cancer became more aggressive in her final days. Being able to see Mom smile and enjoy the holidays together will always be a memory of joy even when I know she was fighting through the pain and being a warrior in her battle. Thanksgiving 2018 gave our family the opportunity to celebrate three milestone birthdays together. My beautiful grandmother turned 90, my beautiful mother turned 70 and I turned 50. Such a great memory to see my Mom smile with joy at her surprise birthday party at the family farm.

Merle Yost: I am sure there must be some, but damn if I can think of one right now.

What is your favorite holiday song?

David Amoroso: I am afraid that if I name a favorite holiday song, it will be stuck in my head indefinitely.

Mark Anderson: Any by Dolly Parton.

John Aravosis: Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You.”

Jonathan Bardzik: In my 20s I managed one of my family’s garden centers. Each year on Christmas Eve, after the craziness of the holiday season, I would close the store and shut off all of the lights except for the 20 odd Christmas trees and, in the silent store, enjoying a moment of peace, I would play “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” the version from John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together. There is something sad about it, but it is also a celebration of self love and self care.

Robert Beam: “Merry Christmas Darling” by the Carpenters.

Ian Brennan: Anything by the original Chipmunks. Ross Bagdasarian was ahead of his time. He did all of the voices and managed to sneak some avant garde into children’s music.

Rea Carey: The whole Johnny Mathis Christmas album. The holiday season officially started when my mom played his album… non-stop for a month.

Matthew Caws: “Snow is Falling in Manhattan” by the late David Berman/Purple Mountains. It’s not a happy song, and it’s on a tragic album, but it is beautiful, and it doesn’t tell you what to feel. It’s only a holiday song by dint of it being about snow — and having grown up in Manhattan, snow is the physical signal of the holiday season. It will have to do. In my life it has been the aforementioned “Silent Night,” which I think has a miraculous melody and feeling, but one must put aside classics sometimes, so as not to use up their power.

Charlotte Clymer: “Christmas Time is Here” by Vince Guaraldi for A Charlie Brown Christmas — utterly delightful and joyous.

Alphonso David: I wish I could only select one. “O Holy Night (Zan Vevede),” “Ave Maria,” “Someday at Christmas,” “Underneath the Mistletoe,” “Panis Angelicus,” “Natal,” “All I Want for Christmas is You,” among others.

Sandy Fabio, 55, N.J., Retired military: “Christmas Wrapping” by The Waitresses.

Christian Gallegos-Alarcon: “All I Want For Christmas Is You.”

Richard Gamble: White Christmas” (old), “Hallelujah” (new).

Adam Garnek: My favorite holiday song is “Sleigh Ride” [by the Ronettes]. I love listening to the song either on the radio as it has a great orchestration with many extra sounds.

Stephen Griffith: John Lennon’s “So This is Christmas.”

Eric Halley: Since I grew up in Louisiana, an oldie but goodie, “Louisiana Christmas Day” by Aaron Neville. That’s the one you play when you want to whip up some gumbo and you’re stuck stirrin the roux at the stove.

Kelly Hanson: So hard to choose! I don’t know if it’s my all-time favorite, but I’d like to highlight “Valley Winter Song” by Fountains of Wayne. One of the band members, Adam Schlesinger, helped write the song, and he passed away in April from COVID-19 complications. He was a genius and it was a terrible loss. I’ve always loved this song, but it’s hitting harder this year.

Brandon Harrison: “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer.”

John Klenert: Religious: “O Holy Night.” Secular: “Feliz Navidad.”

Leandra Lynn: “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” by Judy Garland. It really hits harder this year.

David Mariner: I love hearing Bing Crosby and David Bowie sing “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy.”

Alex Pierson: “Last Christmas” by Wham!

Jose Romero, 42, Gay, Md., Senior IT Specialist: Don’t judge, but Justin Bieber’s “Mistletoe” is a BOP!!!!

Ryan Spahn: The only holiday song is Mariah’s “All I Want for Christmas.” There are no other holiday songs.

Hancie Stokes: I am a total sucker for Mannheim Steamroller’s “Carol of the Bells.” They have no business going that hard on a Christmas song.

Glenn Williams: Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmas Time.” Thank me later.

What should Santa leave for outgoing President Donald J. Trump?

Jewel Addy: Multiple sentences for his crimes, or a one-way prison ticket.

Mark Anderson: NOTHING, which is what he deserves!

John Aravosis: An indictment.

Chris Banks: Empathy.

Jonathan Bardzik: While I try and avoid wishing people ill, I believe it is important to the future of our country and our government to reclaim moral authority. So I hope Santa brings a Congress, a judiciary, and a Department of Justice that make it clear once again that our behavior has consequences.

Brandon Bayton: A bag of coal, prison bars, and his original Russian passport.

Robert Beam: An eviction notice at Mar-a-Lago and Trump Towers in NYC.

Ian Brennan: Coal. He LOVES it…

Rea Carey: New York State Attorney General Letitia James.

Matthew Caws: Santa should leave Donald J. Trump a special magical mirror that reflects character, and a house-sized box to hold all the regret he would have to feel if he looked in that mirror.

Charlotte Clymer: A ticket to Mars would be a thoughtful gift.

Christian Crowley, 48, Bisexual, D.C., Natural Resource Economist: Let’s not discuss that individual. He should have been ignored 4-plus years ago, and that’s even more true now.

Alphonso David: A lesson in learning humility, respecting the rule of law, and assigning dignity to all people.

Richard Gamble: A revoked Twitter account.

Adam Garnek: Santa should leave the outgoing president a “get out of jail free” card, and a pacifier for being the world’s biggest baby for being a poor loser! Did I say that? Yes, I did! As the words of the president, “I call it as I see it”!

Joseph Izzo: A huge lump of “clean burning” coal that he was going to resuscitate from a moribund fossil fuel industry!

David Johns: My mother taught me if I have nothing nice to say, then save it for my journal.

Tareq Labanieh, 40, Gay, Md., Journalist: A copy of the U.S. Constitution.

Leandra Lynn: I’m more excited about the little gifts Santa’s reindeer will leave him.

Jim Slattery: A book: Jail For Dummies™️.

Bob Witeck: Armloads of criminal indictments.

Robert York: Pretty sure Santa is taking a hard pass on this one for now and forever.

Zar: Whatever it is, I hope he isn’t allowed to have it in his jail cell.

What has this past year made you more grateful for?

Jewel Addy: Radio, loved ones, and technology.

David Amoroso: I definitely feel grateful for my friends and the support of the local community. I saw many people lifting up others at a time when they barely had the energy to take care of themselves.

Mark Anderson: My partner, my Mom, and all my Sober Friends!

John Aravosis: That’s a tough one. It’s been a weird year. I almost feel like my life is on hold. I rarely see friends, I don’t see my family, I don’t do anything outside of my apartment other than walk my dog and go to the grocery store. So it’s almost like being locked in a never-ending cycle of Groundhog Day. I don’t want to be all Debbie Downer, but I’m not sure COVID has made me more grateful for anything. Maybe it’s made me more grateful for Democrats.

Jonathan Bardzik: The people in my life, the opportunities I have had and luck. For me personally this year has brought much good. A busy but more focused schedule, a difficult but transformative change for my business, and more time with my husband and our COVID pod of good friends who we have gotten even closer with.

The health and stability we have enjoyed this year have been influenced by my husband, and ultimately me, being able to work remotely, by having a home that offered us enough space to find time apart and the financial stability to stay calm in the early days of the shut down. I recognize what a privilege this has been and how lucky I am that I had a business that I could pivot. So many others have worked just as hard this year for mere survival or to lose their businesses. That good fortune is not lost on me and I am truly grateful for it.

Michael Biedzinski: All of my Zumba students and their support. Going from 7 to 8 classes weekly to none in March was hard. I’m back teaching three weekly, but with the restrictions, the class sizes have gone from 30-plus to single digits.

Gordon Binder: The relationship I’ve had with my husband, 48 years together, married when we could, and the companionship, intimacy, friendship, common interests, and complementary skills as we navigate our lives.

Ian Brennan: Remembering to be more grateful more often every day.

Matthew Caws: In my small world, this year has made me more grateful for my partner. She helps make hard times easier. In the big world, I am grateful for the energy and drive of youth, for their caring so much about fairness and for their bravery in standing up for it.

Charlotte Clymer: Community. It’s made me reflect on how much I’ve taken community for granted and made me savor those moments when I can be with those I love.

Paula Dyan: Being alive. Having a liveable retirement fund. Able to afford housing with a housing voucher near a grocery store, coffee shop, and convenience store…all within three blocks. And my friends. Oh! And living with an illness that is not painful (just challenging). I’m blessed.

Audrey Fix Schaefer: Nurses and doctors. They signed up to heal people, not to be martyrs. Everyone who’s a frontline worker who has put their lives on the line.

Russwin Francisco: I am grateful for Biden’s decisive victory. More Americans, especially younger voters, are engaged in campaigns and discourse. For me, that translates into a better system when more voices, ideologies are thrown in the mix. I am also grateful that the vaccine is here. There are still many hurdles, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Lee Gable: My day job at the Kennedy Center. Somehow they have managed to keep me employed and have me working at home. For someone working in a box office, this is something that I would have thought of as impossible.

Eric Halley: This past year has made me grateful for all the past struggle and suffering to make it in this world. When you’re hoofin’ it alone in the world as an HIV positive gay man, you learn to enjoy your time alone. When the shutdowns started, I made the game plan to keep myself busy. Rather than boo-hooing the things I couldn’t do, I focused on what I could do. So many people were not prepared for this and it has impacted them both physically and mentally. Gonna be a real shitstorm when global warming really hits and we won’t be able to go out in the sunlight any more.

Brandon Harrison: To still be employed, housed, and fed. The little things that should be human rights.

Joseph Izzo: Having survived a COVID-19 infection from March 10th to April 5th without being hospitalized. I’m grateful to be alive when so many of my age (72) or younger didn’t survive.

David Johns: This year has allowed me to be more grateful for stillness and silence.

Leandra Lynn: This year has made me very grateful for technology. I have a compromised immune system, and I’m able to stay home the vast majority of the time. I can get groceries delivered. I can work from home. I can still keep in touch with friends. All of this would have been so much harder 20 years ago.

Alex Pierson: I’ll start with teachers, medical professionals, poll workers, postal workers, scientists, journalists, transportation professionals, and all other essential workers I have not mentioned.

Jose Romero: Family, health, a job, social media (to keep me entertained and informed).

Jim Slattery: Despite the forced isolation of the pandemic, it’s brought so many of us closer together. You learn both who you can count on, who needs help and support, and sadly, you discover those in your life who believe the utter bullshit coming out of the current presidential administration. The random phone calls, texts, cards, they are surprising, wonderful, and very much needed. And I hope we remember to keep reaching out to folks when this is all behind us. You know, before March, many of us isolated behind our social media accounts and that was our only interaction with folks. I am most grateful for my husband Ethan and his back rubs.

Rod Thomas: People who give a fuck about others.

Glenn Williams: Pornhub… Thanks a lot, New York Times!

Pixie Windsor: This year has made me grateful for all my friends and all the support I have in my life. Every day, folks come into my shop or call and support me emotionally or financially. It has been wonderful. Friends have offered to help deliver, clean, make calls, come in just to give me a rest when things get hectic. I am thankful for being able to use everyone’s strengths and knowledge to pivot my business and make it work and get rent and payroll paid. Not everyone is so fortunate. I am grateful for all the business owners I know and their support, suggestions and it has been delightful to support everyone as much as I can by buying local. It has changed how I do things and I hope to continue promoting and being part of local business long after this year is over.

I am extremely lucky to not have been affected personally by COVID, and I feel so deeply for those that have lost family and friends and those who have suffered. I have a new understanding of the struggle to love some people who just really have different thoughts about masking/COVID/ politics. It has been a trying time but I have learned that I have to look for what connects us and what I love about different people in spite of our differences. I have also learned that I just need to let some people go, and not to feel bad about it. It has brought to mind a feeling of the AIDS crisis and how it can either divide people or bring them together and at best get us to all work together for a brighter future.

Bob Witeck: This year has made me most grateful for two things: First, the power of love and resilience in our families and friendships. Second, the reward of uniting our own community and a coalition of activists to capture the White House as we begin undoing the nightmare of the Trump years. That democratic transformation, plus the miracle of medical science to develop life-saving vaccines, will mean the world to us in 2021.

Merle Yost: I am grateful for being older. I do not envy the young and what they are going to have to face. I am most grateful for my family of choice who loves me for who I am, and who sustain me every day of my life, no matter the year.

Zar: I’ve never been so grateful to live alone. Sure, having a husband would be terrific, but I didn’t have to worry about what anyone else brought into my home.

Metro Weekly wishes its readers a very happy and healthy holiday season and New Year. Here’s to a better, brighter, more hopeful year ahead. We’ll see you with a new issue on January 7, 2021.

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