WKU students reflect on the pandemic’s impact on the holiday season

Vaccines+are+available+throughout+Bowling+Green+at+different+Walgreens+locations%2C+CVS+Pharmacies%2C+and+the+Medical+Center+at+Bowling+Green.+Many+places+allow+people+to+make+appointments+online.

Credit: Debra Murray

Vaccines are available throughout Bowling Green at different Walgreens locations, CVS Pharmacies, and the Medical Center at Bowling Green. Many places allow people to make appointments online.

Debra Murray, Digital News Editor

From dressing up in spooky costumes to caroling, the holiday season has plenty of joy to offer, but for the past two years the pandemic has changed how we celebrate. 

This year – with the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine and life seemingly heading back to normal – there is hope for a more traditional holiday season. Skyscanner, a travel booking site, saw an 800% spike in bookings the day after President Biden announced that vaccinated foreign travelers could enter the United States starting Nov. 8, 2021.

Since Aug. 12, 2021, there have been 608 cases of COVID-19 reported at Western Kentucky University. Of those 608 cases, 546 were students. 

89% of WKU’s campus has self-reported that they are fully or partially vaccinated based on the 8,650 student and faculty/staff submissions as of Nov. 17 2021.

Many WKU students have witnessed the effects of the pandemic from travelling to and from campus or celebrating holidays through a screen.

“I look forward to Thanksgiving every year because it’s a time I get to see so many family members that I don’t get to see as often,” Katelyn Mattingly, a freshman from Mt. Washington, said. “Every Thanksgiving me and my sister drive from house to house going to different parts of our family’s thanksgivings. it normally starts with my mom’s huge family, then my dad’s side, then to one step parents side then to the next step parents side.”

For Mattingly, the holidays are her only opportunity to see certain family members.

“I was really upset during the pandemic because we just did thanksgiving with our immediate family and as much as I love my immediate family it just wasn’t the same as getting to see the cousins that you only get to see twice a year,” Mattingly said.

Other families were able to celebrate in 2020 by managing around the pandemic.

“I’m looking forward to visiting [my] family. We all meet at my grandparents house and eat, play games, watch football, etc.,” Logan Smith, a freshman studying civil engineering from Bowling Green, said. “The pandemic didn’t really impact it too much, although we were very cautious the couple weeks before we went up to visit last year so that way we wouldn’t be sick and would still be able to go.”

Elizabeth Hilbrecht is a junior at WKU who loves the holiday season. This passion started as a child when she would perform Christmas skits.

“Coming from a family of Christmas fanatics, we have many traditions I look forward to such as decorating the tree, baking cookies, and reading about the story of Jesus on Christmas day,” Hilbrecht said. “One of my favorite things to do around Christmas time was to go see the lights at the park while drinking hot cocoa and listening to Christmas music. Luckily since this was always a drive through activity so it was never impacted by the pandemic.”

For Hilbrecht, the biggest impact was no longer seeing her extended family.

“We would always get together for Christmas, play games, have big meals, and exchange gifts, but due to the pandemic we wanted to limit our contact with people, preventing us from seeing some of our family members we would only see at Christmas time,” Hilbrecht said. ”Although the holidays aren’t how they were a few years ago, my family and I still find ways to enjoy our small close-knit gatherings and come up with new traditions.”

Digital News Editor Debra Murray can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @debramurrayy