The year is almost over.
“Thank shit for that”, I hear you cry.
Nine months after the UK plunged into the first lockdown, we find ourselves here again. Staring Christmas in the face like some gaudily dressed, well-lit promise of merriment.
This time though, the end of the year couldn’t come soon enough, with the global pandemic still raging on, people saying goodbye to loved ones in the most tragic circumstances, and Donald Trump finally being forced to sashay away from the White House.
The repeated message from Boris Johnson and his cronies over the past six weeks – aided by the UK media – has been one of trying to ‘save Christmas’ at all costs. Plunging us into a second lockdown throughout November in a slapdash effort to ensure we would be free to spend as much money on food, drink and gifts as we liked the moment we were released from our homes.
Christmas, it seems, is the beacon of light to which we all look to lift us out of our depression rather than catapulting us face first into it.
Except of course, for some, it isn’t.
With the government announcement that up to three households would get to mingle between 23rd and 27th December, some people fervently began planning their small Christmas gatherings, booking travel and psyching themselves up for some time in the company of other humans.
Only to have the rug pulled from under them once BoJo went back on his ‘promise’.
On a personal note, I can’t say I was surprised. The message from the ‘boffins’ had always been that winter would be the most difficult hurdle of the pandemic, with cold weather allowing that hardy little COVID bastard to leap from person-to-person at a much speedier pace.
Yet with the broken promise of a few days respite from house arrest, people were understandably angry about the last-minute change of heart, especially those who live alone or had been separated from elderly relatives for months on end.
Twitter was awash with comments from people saying they’d continue to enjoy Christmas as planned; rules be blowed. Photos of crammed train stations and people sleeping rough in airport terminals in a desperate attempt to escape Britain only added to the feeling of dismay and disbelief.
For the past few months, I’ve been having weekly Zoom catch-ups with my friend Suzi (now residing in Tier 4 – formerly known as London). A week before the announcement that the South East would be facing tougher restrictions, and with a gin in hand, we got to chatting about the prospect of a COVID-Christmas.
“To be honest, it’s taken some of the pressure off”, she said.
“When you live alone, there’s always an assumption that if you’re alone at Christmas it’s a bit sad. At least with the pandemic, no-one is going to judge me for not having somewhere to be. I actually have a perfectly good reason for not making plans.”
It was a thought that hadn’t even crossed my mind.
Throughout the pandemic, we have been fed the idea that those who live alone are tragic figures who need all the support we can muster; but is that really the case for everyone?
Of course, there are exceptions. People with debilitating conditions who benefit from the company of others. Elderly care home residents cut off from their families, and others who live alone but have always enjoyed an active social life, and simply miss the company of friends.
But what if we’re putting unnecessary pressure on people to have the ‘perfect Christmas’, when all they want is to be allowed to live their lives the way they want? What if, through no fault of their own – divorce, separation, bereavement – they’re in a situation where the fairy tale Christmas just isn’t a reality?
The fixation on having the perfect Christmas day, including heaps of food and drink and expensive gifts, has left us in a position where we simply can’t picture anything else. This year, of all years, why don’t we try looking at it another way?
You can’t meet with friends and relatives who don’t live with you – but if they haven’t been adversely impacted by COVID, why not be thankful for that and settle for a video call?
Non-essential shops shut? Support an independent business by ordering online.
Parcel not arrived in time? It’ll come eventually and unless it’s life-saving medicine, I’m sure the recipient can live without it.
Supermarkets run out of broccoli? Eat something else – broccoli is a bit shit anyway.
As we all try to put the unending crapulence of 2020 behind us, let’s keep a little perspective and try to be thankful for the shit that has gone right this year. Let’s leave behind the notion that a ‘different’ Christmas means Christmas is dead forever, and try to remember that not everyone’s festive season is a picture-perfect smorgasbord of food, hugs and gifts (even when there isn’t a pandemic on).
Besides – whatever happens – I can guarantee Christmas will come again next year.