PHOTOS BY JEREMY VYN / THE SPUTNIK PHOTOGRAPHY
The holiday season is a time where joy tinkles through the air, happiness radiates from family and friends, and laughter makes you jiggle like a bowl full of jelly.
Winter is when families and friends go skating, look at Christmas lights, hear carols ringing and drink hot chocolate while holding hands with a loved one.
A typical tradition to this holiday season for many residents of Brantford is skating at Harmony Square, the heart of the downtown area.
The rink, located at 80 Dalhousie St., has been home to many families and groups of friends over the years. Skating season will begin in the first to second week in December, weather permitting. The rink will be open from 10:00a.m. to 10:00p.m., seven days a week, and will invite everyone to come for fun and spread their holiday cheer.
While Harmony Square will be open for skating this year, it will be open under new conditions due to the pandemic. To follow with provincial guidelines, all participants must be wearing masks, and must be practicing social distancing while skating.
“The concern is social distancing and how we are going to reinforce that, we still have to work on whether we’re fencing off the area, how many people we are permitting at a time, attendance and moderating what’s going on at the rink,” said supervisor of parks maintenance, Graham Pluck.
Skaters will be left to guide themselves while practicing public safety, but they are expected to keep their masks on and distance far from other skaters. A supervisor will be looking over the rink to ensure everyone is adhering to guidelines and following safety rules in case participants begin to neglect these protocols.
Only certain amounts of people will be allowed to skate at the rink in accordance with provincial guidelines. If there is an overflow of people wanting to skate, a set time frame will be available for participants to pick from and sign up for. Predetermined time slots of either 15 or 30 minutes will be made available, and skaters will be able to use the ice during their individual period.
Due to the size of the rink, there may be less people on the ice than what is allowed in a government approved outside gathering in order to ensure public safety is guaranteed in such a small space.
While skating at the square is allowed for the time being, provincial guidelines will be a contributing factor to the ice rink remaining open throughout the season.
Christmas shopping is also a concern this year. While most malls or shopping centres are usually crowded during the holiday season, additional anxiety is placed on large gatherings during the pandemic.
Students who may not have time to shop early due to busy school schedules are stripped from normality, facing difficult decisions with their holiday shopping, and may just have to embrace their creative side.
Photo by Jeremy Vyn / The Sputnik Photography
“I have not started shopping yet, I usually don’t start until three days before Christmas, I hadn’t really considered that the whole pandemic could be a problem,” said third year game design student, Grady Tarlin.
“I might have to do homemade gifts for everyone,” he said.
Other students are more concerned about shopping in crowded malls, and the effects it might have on their home lives.
“I’m very concerned with it, there’s too many people gathering. We’re going to be spreading more of the virus if we’re all together, it’s a very crowded space,” said Emmanuel Aguilar, fourth year criminology student, “I just want to see my grandparents and keep them safe.”
Photos with Santa will not be taking place at the mall this year, or at Glenhyrst Gardens in Brantford, located at 20 Ava Rd. While the lack of jolly “ho-ho-ho’s” and Santa’s chair set up beside the fireplace may be a disappointment, it is for the benefit of public safety.
Although Santa usually visits every Thursday evening during the holiday season, COVID-19 has made it unsafe for the visits to be made. However, the gallery of Christmas art, made by local school children with over 200 pieces, will still be open for viewing, with a restricted number of attendees during a time period. Masks will also be worn while inside the building, and social distancing practices will be followed.
Outside in the gardens where lights will be strung, the public is invited to drive through the gardens and look at the beautiful light displays that will be available from Dec. 4 to Jan. 1, nightly from 6:00p.m. to 9:00p.m. Music plays during the evening, giving the experience an extra festive feel.
While this is mainly a drive-through event, free of charge, participants are also able to walk around outside in the gardens and get an up-close look at the lights. Masks will not be mandatory, but they are strongly advised to protect those around you. Social distancing rules will be in place in the gardens.
Donation bins at Glenhyrst are still available to drop off food or other items that may go towards people in need. This holiday year will look very different from those of the past, but the festive season, laughter and love doesn’t change.