CHICAGO (CBS) — Remember 2019? It may seem like part of a different lifetime, but it was just one year ago.

That year, there was a packed crowd at Millennium Park full of Christmas excitement. This year with the coronavirus pandemic, not so much.

But as CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar reported Thursday night, the tree lighting went ahead anyway.

To put it lightly, this year’s tree lighting was a bit different. Normally, hundreds, if not thousands, fill in around the tree – but this time, the crowds were scarce by design.

Just like everything else the city lighting the tree and celebrating the holidays a bit differently.

And what a difference just one year can make. Last year, there was an exuberant countdown as crowds crammed around the tree, and fireworks were even set off as the tree’s lights were turned on.

This year, there were still people there to witness the lighting. But a strict count helped keep the distance.

“It might not be the same as last year, but we can still be here and enjoy it,” said Katheryn McIntosh.

“Even though it’s not the same event of like turning on the tree and stuff, I think it still helps get people excited for Christmas,” said Kyle Cohan.

“It’s unfortunate, but I think it’s smart to be safe, you know, during these times,” said Denise Trujillo.

A few blocks away at Daley Plaza, the Christkindlmarket is usually a family holiday staple.

Not this year. Daley Plaza is empty – with no mulled wine or schnitzel in sight. The pandemic has moved the market online.

“I understand, but at the same time, it like kind of sucks that everybody is looking for a hint of normalcy and they can’t go anywhere to get it,” said Sydney Coselman.

Macy’s windows are still decorated, but stores remain deserted. The Loop streets are not as filled with window watchers.

“I already swallowed that pill that it’s going to be different,” Trujillo said.

And with theaters closed, the Joffery Ballet’s “Nutcracker” has gone digital. Images from the production are projected nightly on the Merchandise Mart.

“Definitely different,” Cohan said.

So holiday cheer might not be dead, but it’s dim for some

“Things aren’t great,” Trujillo said. “They aren’t the way they should be.”

But not everyone is complaining. The spirit is very much alive for 3-year-old Charm Jackson.

“I like it,” she said.

It’s hard to keep up with all of the changes and closures for the holiday season. Here are a few – the McCormick Tribune Plaza & Ice Rink at Millennium Park is closed this year, but the Maggie Daley Park Ice Skating Ribbon opens on Friday. However, a reservation is required.

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Charlie De Mar