Katherine Gilks, Projects/Outreach Coordinator

In Orthodox Christianity, the new liturgical year starts September 1. In Judaism, the new year is in September. (For anyone interested, here is Wikipedia's list of New Year dates.

In a more secular sense, autumn is the time of harvests. While we can think of this as an ending, it is also the start of preparing the land for the new season. The autumn harvest is what carries us through the winter and spring. Food grown in the "old year" is what gets us through the new one. Autumn has been a popular season for weddings. 

In modern times, September is the start of the school year and thus a time of new beginnings for young people. Relating to this, while many beaches, waterparks, museums, historical sites, parks, etc. start to shut down or move into "off-season" mode, the majority of businesses and organisations also move into a more regular routine as their employees return from holidays. From a commercial perspective, companies turn from marketing "summer" (something seen as a precious commodity in Canada's temperate climate) to marketing "Christmas" (or at least winter coziness).

September is thus a time of re-establishing routines, but not this year.

If anything, 2020 has been a year of constantly establishing new routines. (I personally dislike the phrase "new normal" because "normal" implies a more lasting change.) Lockdowns, shutdowns, quarantines, and stay-at-home orders led us to create new routines for our lives. We got used to working from home, establishing routines as we did so. Going back to the office for many of us seems bizarre as new routines need to be established or old ones resumed. Going back to school will certainly feel different for everyone involved, especially for students. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to many new routines: masks, one-way arrows, physical distancing, online meetings, hand sanitizer stations, etc. Now it has also led to changes such as new school calendars. 

But the pandemic has unfortunately set humanity back in thinking of the "long future" versus the immediate future. Back in January, I mentioned how I wanted to be more environmentally conscious this year. One of my observations was "for at least two generations, plastic has equalled cleanliness in our minds. We have become accustomed to our plastic straws (so that we do not have to drink from a glass that someone else has used, even though it has been washed) and our plastic-wrapped food. Our shiny new products come covered in plastic so that there is nary a dust speck on them when we take them out of the box." Sadly, our "plastic = clean" minset has led to a decline in non-plastic bag use, a proliferation of disposable/non-biodegradable cups, and a general sense that we need to put environmental sustainability on the back burner because our immediate health is more important. Thankfully, I am noticing more companies are accepting reusable shopping bags again and are trying to find ways to integrate both physical health concerns and environmental sustainability.

Yet COVID-19 brought many other issues to the forefront of our thoughts, namely social inequalities and human rights. This has also led to new routines and changes, especially for an advocacy organisation like Heritage Saskatchewan.

From an organisational perspective, Heritage Saskatchewan has had to adapt to a lot of changes this year. We moved more of our operations online, created new projects, adapted our Heritage Fairs program for the virtual realm, and have made difficult decisions regarding future plans. Like most organisations (and individuals), we have faced the uncertainty of not being able to plan well in advance. Even as we move into new routines, we still are conscious of how little we can plan for 2020-21. Or rather, we can make several alternative and tentative plans, with the hope that at least one of the plans works out. Such is the case, for example, with the Heritage Fairs and Heritage Awards programs for 2021.

We look forward to the new year and the opportunities it will bring us.