Neal Milner: The Pandemic Holidays - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Author

Neal Milner

Neal Milner is a former political science professor at the University of Hawaii where he taught for 40 years. He is a political analyst for KITV and is a regular contributor to Hawaii Public Radio's "The Conversation." His most recent book is The Gift of Underpants. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views.


Santa is quarantined. Going from one house to the other all over the world, he’s a super spreader.

So, this Christmas, no sleigh. No ho ho hos. No toys for all the girls and boys.

Claus is used to social isolation. Where he lives, the only thing between him and Nome is 2,000 miles of frozen tundra and an ABC store.

But once a year, it’s Katie, bar the door. Doing so much good, all that cheer.

Plus, some quality time away from Mrs. Claus. Which, rest assured, they both want and need.

Just one day a year can save a marriage. You all know this.

But this year, no mutually agreed upon separation. No Simonizing the sled.

Or swooping through the starry night sky, the winter wind dramatically tousling his hair and beard.

No late night, you-could-die-for homemade cookies at 117 Lilac Lane, Beaconsfield, Iowa. (Third roof from the corner.)

And the reindeer, they only get paid when they work, which is one day a year. No work on Christmas Eve means no wages.

For food, they now find themselves having to busk for lichen on some out-of-season caribou path.

Then, to make matters even worse, Rudolph’s nose light goes out.

Can you believe this?

And the closest charger is an Iditarod away.

“For Pete sake, Rudy,” Blitzen says. “You’re a board-certified sleigh-guide and you couldn’t remember to bring a spare?”

Rudolph has no answer.

Meanwhile, the polar bears, who have been jealously stalking these tender, meaty B-level celebrities for years, lick their chops and creep forward in the total darkness.

Miracles: Hanukkah

The eighth Night of Hanukkah. Eight lights in the menorah. Chanukah is the Jewish Festival of Lights

Hanukkah, the holiday about the Miracle of Light, becomes a workaround, courtesy of Zoom.

Starting with the opening blessing of the candles:

(Holding a lit candle) “Blessed art Thou …”

“I can’t hear you.”

“You’re on mute.”

“You can’t tell him he’s on mute because he’s on mute. Wiggle at him.”


“I told you he can’t …”

“Oh Lord our God, King of …”

“I can’t see who’s here. Is Estelle here? Estelle?”

“Put it on gallery view.”


“The button, the third button. Push that button.”

“King of the universe …”

“Oy, careful sweetie.  The candle is going to melt in your hand.”


“… who-has-sanctified-us-with-His-commandments-and-commanded-us-to-kindle-the-Chanukah-light.”

“How late am I?”

“Who’s that?”

“Put the damn thing on gallery view!”

“It’s Estelle.”

“Oh, hi, Estelle.”

“Sorry.  I had trouble connecting.”

“You used the password?”

“It didn’t work, it didn’t work. Then it did.”

“I had the same trouble. So, what I did, I …”

“Do you mind starting over?”

Miracles: Vaccines

Image of Hand holds Coronavirus Covid-19 Vaccine glass bottle.

What the drug companies have done with the COVID-19 vaccine is truly miraculous.

But you know what would be a bigger miracle? If they took all of their disgusting drug ads off TV.

The news itself is bad enough. I don’t want to feel like my den is an examination room and I need to watch David Muir in my underpants.

I don’t need to know about diabetes, stage 4 lung cancer, dementia, thin blood, fat blood.


My A1-C.

Plenty of time to learn about them when I get them.

And that drug ad tagline, “If you can’t afford your medication, Astra Zeneca may be able to help.”


My A1-C has rocketed to a Z9-Z. All I have left in my wallet is a mutilated $10 American Express Travelers check left over from a 1977 high school band trip.

Rail will get done before I get my COVID-19 relief money.

And they may be able to help?


Let’s not forget about that other winter holiday. Kwanzaa.

Kwanzaa is easy to forget because white people have no idea what it’s about.

Is Kwanzaa the name of a person from the African Republic of Kwanz? Is it the name of an African American celebrity so famous that she goes only by her first name?

Like Oprah. Prince.

Or LeBron.

And if Oprah married LeBron, would she take his name?

Two LeBrons. How would that affect the Lakers’ roster moves?

Gift Suggestions

As holiday gifts, send those Lone Ranger masks that only covered his eyes.

“Who’s that masked man?” What kind of stupid question is that?

The Yucca Flats town folk couldn’t identify him because they couldn’t see his lashes?

Look lower, you hayseeds! You can see his entire face! It’s completely exposed!

And that’s what makes that mask the perfect gift.

"Sacramento, California, USA - June 8, 2012: A 2009 USA postage stamp with a photo of Clayton Moore as the title character of the classic 1949-1957 TV Western drama series, The Lone Ranger. Moore is standing next to his character's white stallion, Silver."

A perfect gift for all those politicians who waffled and flimflammed about masks.

Until things got totally out of hand.

Then all of a sudden, “wear a mask this, wear a mask that.” Blah blah blah.

As if Madam Curie invented masks just yesterday.

A half-mask for a half-assed response.

COVID-19 Black Friday

Used to be, Black Friday would only be the one day after Thanksgiving when the stores would open early and usher in the Christmas spirit by turning their showrooms into WWF octagons.

Now, because of COVID-19, every day is Friday.

Commercially, that’s fine with me. As far as I’m concerned, you could call it Black Blintzes if it would help businesses survive.

But expansion of Fridays can disrupt basic religious beliefs and customs.

With Christians, it might work. Good Friday is already a Friday.

But Easter Sunday on a Friday, that just seems wrong. If nothing else, it threatens the Story of the Resurrection.

Masked customers stroll by the holiday decorations at Ala Moana Center during COVID-19 pandemic.

All of a sudden, Sunday school kids across the world are learning a compressed timetable. Crucifixion and Risen on the same day.

Palm Friday, Ash Friday, Maundy Friday. You’d need an entirely new encyclical.

And for Jews, Friday night is the beginning of our Sabbath, the most sacred days in the Jewish calendar.

It starts by lighting candles. Everything Jewish starts with candles.

Every day is Friday, so candles every night? The wick market will become like the disinfectant market.

Observant Jews can’t drive on the Sabbath. Does that mean from now on they can only go to matinees?

And what kind of Jewish seniors swing dance parties can you have at 2 o’clock in the afternoon?

Two big things I’m looking forward to when we are back to normal:

Visiting my family.

And telling them that my flight arrives on a Monday.

The True Miracle Workers

A very special blessing to you EMTs.

Such courage, such devotion. May God bless you for your unselfishness and bravery.

Now, if you will permit me a favor. I’d like to borrow your white ambulance shirt and those black work pants with all the zippers.

So that I can jump the vaccine line.

Read this next:

Modifying Safe Travels Program Could Allay Health, Economic Fears

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About the Author

Neal Milner

Neal Milner is a former political science professor at the University of Hawaii where he taught for 40 years. He is a political analyst for KITV and is a regular contributor to Hawaii Public Radio's "The Conversation." His most recent book is The Gift of Underpants. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views.

Latest Comments (0)

This was a great piece!  This has been quite a year and it’s always good to insert humor in the situation to ease our pain.  Thank you.Dave Del Rosario 

DAVEDELROSARIO · 2 years ago

Fun article. Thanks for telling it like it is.  

time4truth · 2 years ago

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