Christmas 2020 is going to be an odd one for most of us who celebrate it — unless you are lucky enough to live one of the small number of countries who seem to have the Covid-19 pandemic under control.
Here in the UK things are uncertain. Initially, the Conservative government led by the uncertain, flip-flopping Boris Johnson decreed that, for five days, up to three households could mix indoors for Christmas celebrations. It seen as a relief after close to the entire year spent in a mix of national lockdowns, local lockdowns, and confusing fluctuating restrictions.
(I can’t see my parents indoors socially, but they are allowed to provide childcare for my daughter. If I started a business and hired them as employees, though, I could see them on a daily basis.)
Of course, as soon as this was announced questions were raised. The “tiered” system of regional lockdowns had actually done little, over recent months, to stem the flow of new cases, hospitalisations and deaths. Was it really wise to let rip with a week of wild celebrating, particularly when it would involve cross-country travel for many — in some cases travelling from strict “tier 3” lockdown areas to looser “tier 2” or “tier 1” regions (and vice versa)?
On Friday, Johnson bowed to the inevitable — particularly because of the discovery that a new, more virulent strain of the virus had taken hold in some parts of the country. London and parts of the south-east were put into the newly-created “tier 4”, with restrictions broadly similar to the two national lockdowns. Household mixing was done. Chrismas was cancelled. “Tier 4” residents are permitted to see one member of another household outdoors. With a week to go, with food bought, money spent, travel booked and plans made, people were having to hastily rearranged.
For the rest of the country, tiered restrictions remained. Christmas was not quite cancelled, but certainly cut short. Gone were the five days of three households mixing, cut to just one day — Christmas day.
For my family, thankfully, not much has changed. Our planned celebrations were already low key — seeing my sister-in-law on Christmas day itself and my parents either on Christmas Eve or Boxing Day. Now, we’ll just have to squeeze both visits into one day if we can.
I appreciate that, even with that restriction, we have more than others. I have friends in “tier 4” areas who have had to bin their plans at the last minute and are now set for a solitary Zoom Christmas.
That said, I am on tenterhooks anticipating further changes. Already, there are calls from the scientific community for another national lockdown. Thus far the government have resisted doing so — but they did that just before the two previous lockdowns, too.
The bottom line: whatever happens, Christmas is going to suck, at least relative to the ones we are used to. All we can do is try and make the best of it.
My plans? I’d like to make a gingerbread house with my daughter on Christmas Eve. Wake up with her early on the day itself and play with whatever presents most take her fancy. See whatever relatives we can (if any at all), Zoom call those we can’t. In the evening, when she is asleep, watch some probably-terrible Christmas television with my wife, and maybe some more Zoom calls with some “tier 4”-trapped friends.
Low-key. Quiet. Safe (or at least, as safe as we can be).
It won’t be a memorable Christmas (or if it is, it won’t be for the right reasons) and maybe not even a “good” Christmas. But Christmas has always been, at its heart, about celebrating survival. Strip away the presents and the decorations and even the religious stuff and what you have are families, friends, tribes, sitting together on one of the darkest, coldest days of the year and celebrating just getting through another year.
That’s what we’re doing this year. Maybe just with our households or on our own. Or maybe we’re lucky enough to see family safely. Or maybe we’ll just be looking at faces on a laptop screen. Whatever we do, and however we do it, we’ll still be celebrating making it through a tough year — the toughest year many of us have ever known.
Raise a glass to making it through, and hope that Christmas 2020 is the last one like this.