In a normal year, Christmas Eve is the time to huddle with family and loved ones, sharing warmth, love, and gifts.
2020 has been a year where all things have been different and year-end celebrations are no exception.
Not only have we not seen people herding for Christmas shopping, but most of the world is advised to refrain from gathering and to observe strict prevention measures as COVID-19 is not the gift we want to spread this holiday season.
Here in South Korea, authorities have imposed a nationwide ban on gatherings larger than four into the new year ski resorts and national parks are closed.
COVID-19 may have stole the holiday spirits off the streets and public places, but the world prepares to celebrate Christmas in unique ways this year.
Christmas magic is still around to bring heartwarming stories.
Today we have our correspondent Kim Doyeon in the studio to share some of these stories of how the warmth is being spread.
Good to see you, Doyeon.
Good to see you as well. Conn-young.
How is this holiday season different for you this year?
Well, as the government suggests I'll have to stay home with the family and try to avoid seeing friends.
But I think I'm on the lucky side considering everything.
2020 will remain an unforgettable year as people's lives and livelihoods were turned upside down we spent the entire year adapting and adjusting to this COVID-era and it is still ongoing.
Still at the frontline of this battle against coronavirus are health care workers They won't get to spend the holidays with their families this year?
That's right. The country is under a third wave and the number of patients is surging.
It's the holiday season, but medical staff won't able to spend it with the family at home.
That being said, people across Korea have shown appreciation.
Let's take a look.
2020 has been an especially tough year for front-line medical workers.
And many doctors and nurses taking care of coronavirus patients will not be able to spend the holidays with their families this year.
People across the country have been making efforts to show their gratitude for these front-line workers.
A welfare center in the city of Incheon have sent 650 care packages with handmade products to the medical staff in the city.
"When I saw the news of our healthcare workers, I saw that they were doing the best they can so I came up with the idea of sending them care packages made by our senior citizen workers.
The packages were put together with care and were full to the brim with products including natural soap, cookies, and coffee.
In the southeastern city of Daegu, 800 students participated in the 'Thank You Again for Today' campaign run by Daegu Association of Social Welfare Centers.
"I think the medical workers will really miss their families when they can't be together because of COVID-19. I miss my family even when I'm away for just three or four days."
"I saw in a documentary that the medical workers have a tough time dealing with the sweat and heat under the protective suits. But despite all that difficulty, they still take care of patients so I wrote my thank you letter thinking that I was writing to our nation's heroes."
From young students to senior citizens, citizens want to show their appreciation for the hard work and sacrifice of medical workers.
The country currently is going through a third wave of infections, and at a crucial time like this, so much can be done to boost medical staff's morale.
On top of the medical facilities and their workers that have worked non-stop this year, 150 additional screening centers have been set up around the Seoul area to further fight the oubreak. Just today, these temporary screening centers have tested over 58-thousand patients.
How is the holiday spirit and appreciation being taken out to these screening centers?
Well, many will not be spending the holidays with the family either.
From day one, these testing centers have been working tirelessly to make sure no infected patient is overlooked.
And inconsideration of all their efforts, there has been a show of appreciation let's take a look.
Since the virus first reached South Korea's shores, testing and tracing have been the key to the fight against the virus.
While it has almost been a year since the fight began, the battle is anything but over, and with a third wave of COVID-19 hitting the country, many of those working at COVID-19 screening centers won't be celebrating the holidays with their loved ones.
"The screening centers of the nation's capital are extending their hours through the night-time and holidays, and the amount of suspicious cases being tested nationwide reached around 59,000 yesterday."
For this, the government has made efforts to show appreciation for the screening center staff.
The Ministry of SMEs and Startups sent care packages to 4 screening centers in Seoul that were located in the regions with the most infected patients.
Included in the care packages were Santa masks, mugs, and 80 snacks that citizens had voted best for Christmas presents.
Santa masks KF-94's with Santa's face printed on them were delivered to other care centers as well.
A total of 4,000 masks will be delivered to 66 screening centers.
This was part of their 2020 Merry K-Mas Live Market a series of events prepared to help small businesses hit by COVID-19.
The money for the packages came from a prize the ministry received from the Ministry of the Interior and Safety for practicing good labor atmosphere.
The SMEs Minister said front-line medical workers are the Santas in our community as they spent almost a whole year protecting citizens.
While those at screening centers won't be able to celebrate the holiday season with their family, these efforts to show them some appreciation will help them feel some of the Christmas spirit.
As mentioned the screening centers will continue to be open to continue testing for suspected cases.
Once again, the medical staff that work there have been the key to K-Quarantine. Hopefully we get through this third wave as soon as possible with everyone's participation.
Christmas has always been a time of sharing and caring with those less fortunate than ourselves. This year, I presume there are many restrictions and limitations to such events?
That's right. Although going into the special virus prevention period, many of the volunteering events are canceled until January 3rd.
I was lucky to join one of the more popular ones before the measures were tightened
On a weekday, in the freezing weather 12 individuals gear up.
They are volunteers here to distribute coal briquettes to low-income, elderly households that use them to heat up their homes.
The volunteers hold two briquettes at a time with each weighing 3.6 kilograms and start moving the coals from the nearest parking lot to each house.
This time, five different homes will get two hundred coal briquettes each taking around two hours to finish the delivery.
Many low-income senior citizens rely on this help.
However, this year due to COVID-19, the number of volunteers and deliveries has been cut significantly compared to last year.
"Stacked here are 200 charcoal briquettes delivered today to one of the households. While the stack seems large, these briquettes won’t even last a month."
A recipient of the coal says she will have to buy additional briquettes which cost a bit more than 60 U.S. cents apiece, but considering she goes through six to eight a day it's a huge burden for her.
But she says she's thankful regardless as everyone is going through tough times.
"I thank them for coming by every year and volunteering. This is how the old ones will stay warm in the winter."
One of the volunteers says he signed up without thinking much about it, but now realizes how essential this operation is for the elderly.
"They were heavier than I thought, so I'm glad I could help them."
The organization behind the initiative currently has to rely on volunteers that sign up individually as many of the usual group events have been canceled this year due to COVID-19.
"We care a lot about safety and virus prevention as there are many elders here. So when volunteers come, they can safely spend meaningful time here together."
While they say naughty children get coal from Santa for Christmas, there are some of us who will *want some coal this year.
How about for the rest of us? We need to adhere to government guidelines for prevention measures, but can we keep the Christmas spirit alive, especially for those that may be spending it home alone?
Right the usual events are canceled streets are empty while usually people enjoy seeing the lights visiting Christmas markets.
Religious groups are trying cope with the situation by arranging things COVID-19 style such as online events.
At Myeongdong Cathedral, South Korea's biggest Catholic church, performances are canceled this year, as are Christmas markets.
And mass this year is online.
Among the other changes, the Christmas nativity scene has been put outside of the main chapel to prevent people from gathering indoors.
The Archdiocese of Seoul is putting a show online called "Myeongdong Lights Up the Winter 2020," which started at 6 PM, Korea time, and is being streamed live on YouTube from the Catholic Peace Broadcasting Corporation.
The program includes performances of carols, a talk show, an auction and appearances by celebrities.
Things are much the same in other countries too.
Germany has closed its Christmas markets where stands would normally be selling mulled wine and other treats.
This year's holiday season might not be as jolly as in the past, but Santa has a special message for everyone.
"We have all lived through really different and difficult times I now wish everyone a very happy and peaceful Christmas. Stay safe and healthy. Remember to follow all important recommendations and instructions."
Clearly, for Santa Claus it could be dangerous to go from house to house at his age, but, I'm sure he hasn't forgotten about us.
And as he said, let's follow the important recommendations and instructions.