‘Christmas is cancelled for millions’, reads one headline.
‘Christmas sacrificed to protect the vulnerable’ , screams another.
As the many part of the UK are have been thrust into a tier 4 lockdown, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the big man has finally retired his reindeer and packed away his sleigh.
And yes, there’s no denying that for many of us, this is a massive blow – not least if you’re now forced to spend a traditional time of togetherness alone. I also appreciate that forced separation from loved ones is hugely detrimental to mental health. And I’m certainly not forgetting those struggling to get by financially or anyone who has lost a loved one to this awful disease..
But if you have the chance to be with someone; if the prospect of a scaled back Christmas isn’t driving you to a truly dark place, then hear me out..
This year’s Christmas may be different, but it’s certainly not cancelled. So much if it boils down to perspective - and that's something you can choose to shift.
For many of us, this festive season provides a real opportunity to go back to basics.
Over the years, I’ve seen the ‘benefits’ of Christmas wear people down..
For my fellow introverts, the increased pressure to socialise can be exhausting. The overindulgence can make you ill. For people working in certain industries, such as retail, hospitality or law enforcement, the festive season represents physical exhaustion and sadly, an increased potential for abuse. What about those negotiating family plans and the sensitivities of who-goes-where for when? Then there’s the hideous travel with hours stuck in traffic jams or on rail replacement bus services. And we mustn’t forget the endless pressure to spend, spend, spend. (Often to levels we can ill afford.)
Well, here’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to do things differently, I mean really differently.
Now’s the time for our kids to really understand the spirit of Christmas. Why can’t we see loved ones? Because we’re working together to keep each other safe. This is bigger than our individual needs, this is about community and tolerance.
I’ve often bemoaned the commercialisation of Christmas and I know I’m not alone.
There’s a real opportunity to make this Christmas about much more than ‘stuff’ for kids, when so many households are struggling to stay afloat. I’m going to admit to overdoing the presents in the past, but this year we have reined it in and set expectation. The kids will have something to play with, something to wear, something to read and something to share – and you know what? We’ve been pleasantly shocked at how little they have actually asked for as a result.
Not so long ago, I wrote a blog on ‘emotional labour’. It’s the feeling of keeping 100 plates spinning at once – the mental challenge of knowing everything that needs doing, sorting or organising for multiple people. Surprise, surprise, but emotional labour tends to burden women more than men. And Christmas is a major culprit for ramping up that unwelcome feeling.
If you’re the one who does the shopping, sorts the presents, writes the cards, cooks the dinner and just makes Christmas ‘happen’, this may be the year to give yourself a mental break.
The mindless buying
Last Christmas I got into a flap shortly before visiting friends. ‘Damn it!’ I thought. ‘I haven’t bought their children presents.’ Cue one episode of panic buying and I had spent yet more moolah on gifts and tat that nobody truly appreciated. I am certain I’m not alone.
How about those Boxing Day shopping trips to grab a ‘bargain’ that spends the next 12 months stuffed in the back of a cupboard?
This year, those frantic shopping trips have been cut short. They’ll be less opportunity to linger in the aisles buying crap you neither want or need.
Hands up if you spend your days off at Christmas schlepping about visiting friends and distant family? Are you one of those who accepts countless invitations even though you’d just like to hunker down in front of the telly? Maybe you spend your day cooking and running about after everyone else desperately trying to ensure their Christmas is perfect?
Not this year. This year is yours.
Christmas is known for presents, food, good will – and the infamous festive family rows. (There’s a reason why the first working Monday of January is labelled ‘divorce day’ by lawyers.) Over-bearing relatives, hyper children, the effects of feeling put-upon and thoughtless behaviour, often all mixed with a tipple or two, can quickly spiral into explosive territory.
Often the thoughts of a harmonious family Christmas far surpass the reality. This year, however, there’s a chance that the reality of a scaled down, intimate Christmas could surpass expectation - if you’re open to the possibility, of course.
Yes, Christmas is a time for togetherness and making memories, but by the time you get to my age, those memories tend to blur into one. (Apart from the year we all got gastroenteritis, which is sadly ingrained in my brain for all eternity.)
But this year, it’s different. This Christmas is the closing ceremony for year the world went bat-shit crazy, and it seems almost fitting that this festive season fizzles out rather than bangs.
But it’s certainly not cancelled.
This is the Christmas we can spend slobbing about, pleasing ourselves and going right back to basics. This is the Christmas our kids will discuss with their kids.
This is the Christmas you’ll definitely remember, but for what reason? Well that’s bit’s down to you.
Are you a member of my fabulous free community? If not head over for some festive cheer.