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From online Santas to Zoom family dinners: How the world is adapting to its first Covid-19 Christmas

HONG KONG — Most people have accepted Christmas will be different in 2020 thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. But around the world, some are finding a way to generate festive cheer.

A man dressed as Santa Claus wears a protective face mask during an annual meeting of a rent-a-Santa Claus and Angel service at the former Berlin-Tempelhof airfield, amid the Covid-19 outbreak in Berlin, Germany on Dec 5, 2020.

A man dressed as Santa Claus wears a protective face mask during an annual meeting of a rent-a-Santa Claus and Angel service at the former Berlin-Tempelhof airfield, amid the Covid-19 outbreak in Berlin, Germany on Dec 5, 2020.

HONG KONG — Most people have accepted Christmas will be different in 2020 thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. But around the world, some are finding a way to generate festive cheer.

In Hong Kong, shopping malls have pulled out the stops with elaborate Christmas installations and lights even as the city battles a fourth wave of Covid-19 infections.

In China, holiday events in major cities will go ahead as usual. Expect to see a Christmas-themed mass pillow fight on Christmas Eve in Shanghai, and a concert of holiday classics the same day, billed as an "evening of peace".

Ms Stephane de Montgros, of the Riviera Events agency, says: "We have been extremely fortunate in China with the pandemic largely contained and life pretty much back to normal."

However, with China's international borders still closed, foreigners won't be returning home to celebrate Christmas with their families and friends, he says.

Instead, they will celebrate with their "local families" — their close circle of friends in China. "It will be a combination of hosting dinners at home and going out," he says.

The holiday season in China will be normal in another way too: Authorities in many parts of the country will ban the celebration of Christmas, casting it as a Western tradition, as they continue a campaign to Sinicise religion.

In New Jersey in the US, The McCarter Theatre Centre has adapted one Christmas tradition, offering curated boxes to allow families to perform the classic Charles Dickens tale A Christmas Carol at home.

In Greece, a candle maker has created a candle in the shape of Santa Claus wearing a protective face mask. And event planners suggest holding Christmas parties via Zoom — with a festive dress code.

The Mall of America in Minnesota launched an online Santa experience, having rejected a proposal to put Santa Claus behind a glass panel to respect social-distancing rules.

Elsewhere, Brussels in Belgium cancelled its Winter Wonders market, complete with a skating rink and more than 200 chalets, and countries across Europe have announced restrictions on how many guests can sit around the Christmas dinner table.

People in Poland, for example, are limited to spending Christmas only with their immediate family members.

Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, an epidemiologist and the World Health Organisation's Covid-19 technical lead, said all Christmas gatherings held a degree of risk.

"This is incredibly difficult because, especially during the holidays, especially during birthdays, especially during these family celebrations, we really want to be with family," she said.

"But in some situations, the difficult decision not to have that family gathering is the safest bet."

She added: "Even if you can't celebrate together this year, you can find ways to celebrate when this is all over." SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST

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Covid-19 Christmas holiday celebration

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