Here at The Times, we love the annual celebration of Christmas on Green Street.
There is a special air of community and kinship when hundreds of people line the sidewalks in front of our building to watch the parade, then stroll up and down the street to admire the old houses decked out in their holiday finest, culminating with the lighting of a spectacular Christmas tree.
For the past several years we have opened our building to the public, and adults and kids alike have come to visit, drop off letters to Santa, have their pictures made for our Facebook page and watch the printing press as it runs.
It is an exciting, fun experience to which we look forward with excitement each year.
Except this year, we won’t be. And that’s OK.
Times editorial board
Norman Baggs, general manager
Shannon Casas, editor in chief
Gainesville city officials announced that Christmas on Green Street and the annual Jingle Mingle event downtown in November were both being canceled out of concern for the international coronavirus pandemic that continues to dramatically affect countries around the world.
That was the right decision to make, though immediately there were howls of protest from some who would prefer life go on as normal with no concession at all to the disease that has been a factor in the loss of some 200,000 lives in the United States and has severely taxed the nation’s health care system on all fronts.
Given what we know about COVID-19, and what we don’t yet know — as new information about the virus seems to be found on a weekly basis — it would have been grossly irresponsible for the city to encourage the crowds of people that are typical for the holiday season events.
With local health care experts begging the community to avoid crowds, to social distance, to limit the potential for exposure and to take basic sanitary precautions to avoid infection, the city had little choice but to cancel this year’s celebration of the holidays. Other cities should take note and do the same.
Yes, traditional holiday festivities are hugely popular, and they will be popular again when we have some sense of control of COVID-19, but that reality is still likely months away, if not longer.
And as for those who are upset by the decision, enough already with all the “what about” arguments. “What about riots, why aren’t they canceled?” “What about stores, why are they open?” “What about crowds at ballgames” “What about …?”
There is no logic in the “what about” critique; no relevance to the argument.
The Christmas events in Gainesville were government sponsored and promoted. The government has an obligation to the health and welfare of the populace. The downside to canceling such events is disappointment; the downside to not canceling them is potential death. Those scales don’t balance.
The government doesn’t sponsor riots. You can’t equate the two no matter how hard you try.
While the numbers of COVID cases have dropped, we are still a long way from any sort of normalcy related to the disease. Remember that it was only a few weeks ago that Hall County was a “hot spot” drawing national attention. We quickly can be again without continued diligence. Look at what is happening now in Europe, where countries that were making gains in fighting the virus are suddenly again seeing spikes in activity.
There also is a likelihood that holiday gatherings around Thanksgiving and Christmas may well result in an increase in cases that will move the needle in the wrong direction.
If you think we have weathered the storm, talk to local health care providers for a different perspective.
The city is promoting other ideas to celebrate the season in ways that don’t call for crowds of thousands to gather and breathe the same air. A decoration contest for homes and businesses and an effort to “Light up the Town” promise to make the holidays fun around town, despite the loss of traditional favorites.
Who knows, maybe with limited group sizes, quarantines and social distancing, and with fewer frantic shopping trips, manic schedules and seasonal parties, we may, like the Grinch, find a deeper meaning for the holidays in this most challenging of years.
In any case, forced to choose between doing the popular thing and doing the responsible thing, Gainesville leadership has chosen responsibility over popularity, and they deserve the support of the community for doing so.