It's an annual rite of the global Irish Diaspora and one of the most important because 'home' and 'Christmas' are two of the most loaded words in Irish life. In fact, for many of us, they're indistinguishable. 

If those two words conjure up sentimental images of glowing hearths and twinkling Christmas trees well you're on the right track, but they also mean the local pub and warm reunions with old friends you have known since childhood. 

These are times for old flames and old friends who knew you long before the world did, so going home for Christmas is a heady annual pilgrimage and it's very hard for Irish people to willingly forgo it. It's like the yardstick you use to measure your own progress and your nations. 

That's why for some of us the answer to the question are you going home for Christmas still appears to be a defiant yes. Like there's any debate about it. Try and stop me.

But for the rest of us, after almost a year of trying to successfully dodge a lethal virus, the answer is not this time. Not this year. The risks are still too great.

Ask yourself, how can Christmas 2020 – or Thanksgiving 2020 for that matter - look or feel like an Irish Christmas at all?

There have been funerals without wakes this year, there have been weddings without any guests, so who wants to spend a Christmas at home when the people that you want to see can't leave theirs?

Look at Irish social media and you'll see the growing confusion in real-time. The government in the six counties and the government in the south can't seem to reach an agreed approach or walk a clear path through the looming holidays.

They may or may not lock down the island soon. You may or may not be welcome to return. Bars and restaurants may or may not open. Travel between counties may or may not be permitted. Who knows? 

Social media is filled with videos of the young and old cheerfully defying lockdown and all the calls to wear a mask or social distance. Presented with irrefutable proof of how congregations spread the virus, they are still willing to risk it all to feel like they felt before the world changed. It's selfish, it's human but it's also madness. 

If you have been debating with yourself over whether to book that flight or buy that ferry ticket now's the time to recognize that the worst is not over yet. Not by a long shot. This is not the year for an annual return.

Why is traveling even a question at this point? Because people have seen the White House staff get infected and recover. They now foolishly assume their own trajectory will be the same.

But they won't have access to the world-class care, doctors, and treatments that the Trump administration did. They probably won't bounce back without severe health complications like they seem to have done either.

This being Ireland, the danger of COVID-19 also won't mean a lot to many people until it claims the life of someone they know and love. 

But ask yourself, is that what it's going to take before you come to your senses about the risks involved? The risks not only to yourself but the ones you represent to others? What if you bring home more than a suitcase full of gifts this holiday season? What if you swell the numbers of the already overloaded emergency services?

2020 has been a year like no other but it's almost at an end. There's a promising vaccine that could the pandemic to an end by the spring. Isn't it just smarter to wait this Christmas out in the hope of a better one next year?

None of us are getting any younger, but shouldn't we give ourselves the best chance to get a little older if we can? 

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