For Millions of Jobless, Christmas Is a Season to Endure, Not Celebrate

For Millions of Jobless, Christmas Is a Season to Endure(inˈd(y)o͝or), Not Celebrate

Even with the prospect(ˈpräˌspekt) of new federal(ˈfed(ə)rəl) aid(ād), many Americans face a holiday of tough choices, trying to celebrate while dealing with pressing needs

By Nelson D. Schwartz and Gillian Friedman

Nicole Craig, an unemployed(ˌənəmˈploid) mother of two from Pittsburgh(ˈpitsbərɡ), will have no Christmas gifts for her two children, and the ham(ham) she bought with food stamps will be far less than their usual holiday dinner. Months behind on her rent and utility bills, she has been struggling to afford formula(ˈfôrmyələ) and diapers(ˈdī(ə)pər). But there is one thing she couldn’t give up: a small Christmas tree and the trimmings(ˈtrimiNG) to go with it.

Ms. Craig spent the last $7 in her bank account on tinsel(ˈtinsəl), a symbol of light in the darkness of 2020. “It’s my baby’s first Christmas,” she said. “I wanted him to be able to see a Christmas tree.”

Although Ms. Craig, 42, lost her job as a counselor(ˈkouns(ə)lər) for at-risk youth(yo͞oTH) through no fault of her own, she can’t help blaming herself when she sees Christmas decorations and other reminders of a holiday she can barely celebrate. “I don’t even want to think about it because I feel so bad for my kids,” she said. “It makes me feel like such a failure.”

For Ms. Craig, and millions of other Americans who lost their jobs because of the coronavirus pandemic, this is a holiday season more to weather than to relish(ˈreliSH). With unemployment benefits running out and an unforgiving job market offering few berths(bərTH), this Christmas will be remembered by many for painful sacrifices, not the joy of exchanging gifts and partaking(pärˈtāk) of festive(ˈfestiv) meals with family.