5pm update: No sooner had I pressed ‘publish’ on today’s post came the announcement that Christmas will be limited to only one day of mixing instead of five. The introduction of a tier 4 was also announced. Daughter is in Bedfordshire so falls under the tier 4 restrictions. Fortunately we met briefly at a park this morning to exchange gifts. Elder son is in tier 3 and we and younger son in tier 2. It’s a very difficult time for families.
We can only hope that this year’s restraint will allow us all to be together for Christmases to come.
When I was a small girl my mother told me that thunder was Jesus digging his garden. Staying with the gardening theme, I subsequently told my own children that it was the angels who were tending their plot. Later, when they questioned this notion, I confessed – it was very windy high up in the sky and the clouds were banging together! Just another tall tale that parents tell their children…along with the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and, of course, Father Christmas. Ironic, when we always impress upon children the need for the truth. But who couldn’t relish the magic of witnessing the anticipation, seeing the delight on those little faces when they realise that ‘he’s been’?
Just as each of the seasons have been different this year, and plans have gone awry, so Christmas will not be as we’d hoped. Despite the relaxing of restrictions (utterly crazy in my opinion), we have chosen to take on board the advice to rein in the usual celebrations and have made the reluctant decision to forego family celebrations in exchange for only the most minimal of contact with our children and grandchildren as we meet with individual families in open spaces to give each other our gifts. I feel very sad and a few tears have been shed, but we’ve come this far in surviving the pandemic by being ultra careful and it feels crazy to risk infection with a vaccine on the horizon. You only have to look at the horrific post-thanksgiving spike in covid cases the United States after families had been indoors together, to realise that there is a very real likelihood of the same happening here in the UK. The variety, illogic and complexity of pre-Christmas rules already encourages people to bend them, and I fear that following on from that, the leniency in temporarily suspending them over Christmas will result in plunging us straight back into lockdown. Others’ lack of restraint will put all at a greater risk as infection rates rise and hospitals are overwhelmed. The reasons that we clapped for the NHS seem to have been forgotten.
I shall still go to my friend’s on Christmas Eve (as I have at 3pm for the past thirty years) but we’ve agreed that this year’s visit will involve no more than a short chat from the end of the drive. And I’ll still play Christmas carols that evening as I prepare the vegetables for Christmas Day. I’ll scale down the usual variety of veg for Christmas dinner, and the always-present pear and amaretto trifle will be a smaller version. The planned cherry cheesecake will be made but several portions frozen for later use, and the Boxing Day canapes will give way to a small grazing plate that we’ll share in the evening. There will be more TV and longer periods of reading. Undoubtedly different but we’ll make the best of it.
On a (literally) brighter note, it is clearly not only in my hometown that there are so many more houses with external decorations. For years we have been the only household in our cul-de-sac to have external decorations – just a Christmas tree on the porch, but this year several neighbours have joined us. Around the estate I’ve been astounded by the numbers of prettily lit houses and love to see them (so long as they don’t flash – I don’t like flashing lights). Sales of such lighting apparently rose by 238% in November. I’ll bet the figure is even higher for December. When my children were small we used to drive several miles so that they could look at a particular house (singular) that always had lots of outside lighting – it was considered a pre-Christmas treat!