From parking lot celebrations to watching services from home, holy day celebrations in December are quite a bit different this year as places of worship adjust to the troubled times.
But that’s what religions have been doing for generations.
Chabad of Goodyear held a “Drive-In Chanukah Spectacular” Dec. 13 in front of Osborne Jewelers in Goodyear.
What was it like to celebrate in a parking lot?
“A success beyond our expectations,” said Rabbi Berel Zaklikofsky.
“People came from all over the Valley to be part of this.”
He said he was honored to be joined by his father-in-law and mother-in-law in lighting the menorah.
Chanukah, or Hanukkah, began Dec. 10 and ended Dec. 18.
The celebration commemorates the rededication during the second century B.C. of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, after Jews rose up against their oppressors.
Compared to taking up arms, donning masks becomes a minor inconvenience.
This week, Christians will celebrate the birth of Jesus. According to the Gospel of Matthew, wise men from the East followed a star to find Jesus: “Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another path.”
Christians are finding new paths to celebrate Christmas 2020.
At St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in north Avondale, just outside Litchfield Park, there’s a strict no-ticket, no-admission policy this Christmas:
“Don’t forget to bring your Christmas Mass reservation tickets when you arrive as they will be required to enter the church,” according to a church announcement.
All Christmas services there are booked for in-person attendance, but there is another way to celebrate—from home.
The church is livestreaming masses on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Similarly, the First Southern Baptist Church of Glendale—which has been celebrating Christmas for nearly 100 years, since 1926—plans to livestream its Christmas services.
Christmas at First Southern “definitely has been changed by the pandemic,” said Aimee Willis, a church administrative assistant.
She said the annual “Christmas Cantata” concert “has been canceled, unfortunately.”
But, she said, the church’s youth group decorated the sanctuary with the 47th annual “Hanging of the Green” event.
First Southern Baptist Church of Glendale has online worship services and bible study available from its website, fsbcg.org.
At Shepherd of the Desert Lutheran Church in Sun City, as at houses of worship around the West Valley, attendance at services has been a rollercoaster.
“In the beginning of the pandemic back in March, some of our services had five people,” said Judy Yates, assistant for ministry.
“Pastor Daniel (Defassio) says, ‘That’s OK—if we have one person there, that’s church.’ But we’re up to 50 to 60 people now.
“We have several people worshipping with us who are not Lutherans—just because we’re open. And that’s OK; we have open communion.”
While the church will celebrate with Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services, another big change was that Desert Lutheran did not have its annual Christmas party.
“Us Lutherans, we eat a lot,” Yates said with a chuckle. “Typically, we have a lot of meals, which we haven’t been able to do.”
Instead of a pre-Christmas feast and “posada” with pinatas, the church held a “Christmas Experience Drive-thru” Sunday, Dec. 20.
Bags of candy and other treats were passed out to kids in cars, Yates said.
“It’s drive-thru only; nobody gets out of their cars,” she stressed.