Wednesday, 23 December 2020

Festive Felicitations!!!


Covid Christmas. Hmmm. It doesn’t sound especially jolly, does it? Although, strangely, Christmas Corona almost does. Anyway… at the time of writing nobody has told us just how festive our festive season is going to be this year, but it doesn’t look like too many people will be photocopying their hindquarters at the office party, or bellowing Good King Wenceslas in the street, or sharing a turkey with persons outside their bubble. Or the slightly extended version thereof, which we might call a Christmas bauble. 

Younger parents will have to deal with switched-on tots worrying about Santa, who is surely older (and rather more rotund) than the grandparents they’re not allowed to see, but for the rest of us there may be less to worry about than usual. A lot more cause for concern generally, yes, but not perhaps in terms of the actual ho-ho-ho-down itself. Think for a moment about the causes of Yuletide stress. These will differ from household to household but with marked similarities. How to feed sixteen people when you only have seven forks. How to keep Brexity Uncle Brian and Greenpeace Gran sober and separate. Where to buy ground almonds or lard. What to do when all the Christmas trees have gone and it’s only the 15th for heaven’s sake!

Actually the last one will, if anything, be more of a problem this year, as people seize on the opportunity to brighten up their all-too-familiar front rooms. By the time you read this, in fact, I predict there won’t be a spruce on the loose anywhere in Bristol, and the fairy lights will be long gone. If the proliferation of lockdown rainbows is anything to go by, this Christmas will see the city transformed into a window wonderland of manically decorated, fiercely lit trees.

Most of the other stuff we worry about is, in the end, to do with logistics. And logistics is about people. You’re used to catering for four. Suddenly it’s fourteen. You’re used to the foibles of your nearest and dearest. Bob doesn’t like sprouts. Roberta will only eat sprouts. Bob insists on Christmas music. Roberta can’t hear herself think! So you somehow have to cultivate a sprouty, but non-sprouty, festive but peaceful vibe. Which is fine, only you’ve got your sister’s family coming along, with their teen who believes Christmas is a capitalist plot, and the new puppy who can chew through a Bag for Life in seconds to get at the chocolate hidden within, and is bound to end up being rushed to doggy A&E for charcoal tablets (if you have a pooch you’ll know).

This year there will be other, perhaps more complicated logistics. Instead of trying to fit twenty people in the house at the same time you’ll see them in Covid-safe dribs and drabs, and after one Christmas dinner with this relative and another with that, it may begin to feel a little like Groundhog Day. But for the kind of people who enjoyed the peace and quiet of lockdown, I think this year’s stripped-down festivities will have a kind of appeal. There won’t be the usual pressure to socialise frenetically at a time of year when you may feel more like hibernating. There will be less night life, and perhaps more day life, which is kind of how it’s been all year. 

I don’t know about you, but during 2020 I’ve been acutely aware of the changing seasons, watching buds opening during the first lockdown and leaves falling during the second. We tend to be fairly relaxed about Christmas at but we’re usually still too busy to get outside much at a time of year which is, in its own way, as magical as Midsummer. So I’m determined to see Covid Christmas as an opportunity, a rare chance to enjoy our Twelve Days outdoors, with a thermos of mulled cider and a minced pie or two.  

I wrote this for my column in the December 2020 edition of The Bristol Magazine.