The holiday season is fast approaching, but gatherings could look different this year due to the coronavirus. Monroe County has released guidance for Halloween, and the CDC is ranking holiday gathering activities based on level of risk.

This hour, we talk with local medical professionals about what we know now regarding the virus and how it spreads, what the big questions might be when the holidays arrive, and how to start talking with family and friends about plans and expectations. Our guests:

  • Elizabeth Murray, D.O., assistant professor of pediatrics, and pediatrician at Golisano Children's Hospital
  • Brenda Tesini, M.D., assistant professor of infectious diseases, and member of the Center for Community Health & Prevention's Emerging Infections Program team at URMC
  • Jennifer Gutowski, RN, associate director of infection prevention at Rochester Regional Health

Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas? Our panel takes an interfaith look at the holiday season, and the ways we communicate with each other.

Panelists representing Christian, Muslim, and Jewish faiths will present their own religious traditions during an upcoming event, but first they discuss those traditions on Connections. We explore how faiths differ and what they have in common. We also discuss the often-invoked "War on Christmas" and the like. Our guests:


Rather than risk a fight at the family dinner table, some people try to steer away from political conversations during the holidays. If you can’t stop that opinionated uncle from airing his latest grievance, though, you should have a game plan for dealing with disagreements. 

Gail Ferraioli is a mediator who works with couples, families and nonprofits. She said learning how to diffuse arguments is crucial. Ferraioli said one of the worst things you can do in an argument is dismiss another person’s opinions. Empathize instead, she said.

What are the best holiday films of all time? What are the worst? Why is Love Actually so polarizing?

We talk about holiday entertainment and what brings so many of us out to see the shows during Christmas week. Our guests:

  • Lester D. Friedman, professor in the media and society program, Hobart and William Smith Colleges
  • Jack Garner, longtime Gannett film critic

Our modern secular Christmas traditions have a surprisingly close link to an ancient Roman holiday. Most of us have never heard of Saturnalia, but it turns out that for hundreds of years, the Romans’ favorite holiday was in December, celebrated with decorations, candles, gift giving, and big holiday parties. There was seasonal music. Some Roman writers complained that Saturnalia season was bleeding into November. It all sounds so familiar! Even Santa Claus has parallels to classic mythology. Here to give us insight on this are:

  • Amy Vail, St. John Fisher professor
  • David White, Baylor University professor

Christmas on the battlefield. 100 years ago next week, the Germans and the British (along with the French and Belgian soldiers) laid down their guns for two days to celebrate Christmas. It happened on a battlefield early in the first world war, with thousands of corpses on that field. They concluded the Christmas service by singing Silent Night together.  30 years later, during World War II, a group of Americans brought Christmas back to a small town in Luxembourg that had been occupied and destroyed by war. The children of that town hadn’t celebrated Christmas in four years. An American (who happens to be from Pittsford) played Santa for the town, and to this day, he remains a celebrity for that Luxembourg village. He’s now 93 years old, and joins us to tell his story. We then play a partial rebroadcast of Walter Cronkite and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performing and reading Silent Night, Holy Night to mark the 1914 event. Christmas on the battlefield. 

Then, we get an update from Innovation Trail Editor Matthew Leonard about the Cuomo administration's decision to not allow hydrofracking in New York State.