“I’ve made the decision not to travel home for Christmas”: How to get through an unfamiliar December
Christmas will look a little different this year for many, writes Louise Slyth, but why not take it as an opportunity to start new traditions.
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year”, so the song goes. The month of December can be a blessing or a curse. For some of us, all those fairy lights serve to do is illuminate the chasm between what we wish our lives to be, and the reality of what they are – Disney and Instagram have a lot to answer for.
I normally love Christmas and all its trimmings: a full diary, an excuse to buy a party dress, extra shopping, putting up the tree, and the obligatory mulled wine “tasting”. Truthfully, I only now look back and realise what a charmed life it has been.
I suspect that this year, Christmas will fall short of the dream for most of us. It will look quite different to anything we will have seen before. Many of us will not be able to celebrate with our loved ones. Some families will have an empty chair at their table this year, and we certainly won’t have the kinds of large gatherings or get-togethers we have become accustomed to. We may find that lavish gifts are less appropriate this year too.
Covid 19 has wreaked so much havoc on our lives, but for me, the cruellest thing is that we have been kept apart from our loved ones. I haven’t seen my family in Scotland since February, and this week I’ve made the painful decision not to travel back for Christmas. I think the personal sacrifice to follow the travel guidelines is worth it to protect my family and those most at risk.
The last verse of Judy Garland’s 1944 song “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” feels particularly poignant this year.
Someday soon we all will be together
If the fates allow
Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now
I hope with all my heart that next year will be better, but how do we muddle through until then?
Firstly, acknowledge that it’s not going to be the same this year. We will all make the best of things, but not expecting too much of yourself and your family will ease the pressure. It’s quite possible we will have to make some tough decisions about who we can spend Christmas day with, and we may need to be more judicious with our social plans. Go into this with no expectations other than to be kind to yourself and your loved ones, starting with their health.
This year gives us a chance to consider if we want to gift in the same way. We might decide that homemade presents are more frugal and thoughtful, and making them will pass the dark nights. I’m not suggesting a sock bunny here… but what about a beautiful hand-knitted jumper, home-made chocolates, a personalised photo album or a family tree?
If your circle of friends normally exchanges gifts, you might consider Kris Kringle instead, or perhaps club together and make a more substantial donation to a local charity? Even though times are tough, there is always someone worse off than you, and helping others is the true spirit of Christmas after all.
If Christmas dinner this year is going to be different, why not embrace the change and try cooking something out of the ordinary? This site has lots of inspiration from across the globe, with handy links to recipes.
The weeks leading up to Christmas are usually full of the fizz and glamour of invitations, parties and twelve pubs. Yes, we all have Zoom fatigue by now, but thank the technology gods you at least have a viable alternative with which to host virtual get-togethers. We must accept the fact that for this year at least, the parties are on ice.
The festive period is all about tradition. I’m going to try to create a new one this year, something that’s within my sphere of control. Maybe I’ll bake Christmas cookies and leave them for my neighbours, make my own Christmas cards, or perhaps create my own signature Christmas cocktail. There are lots of things we can still do from our homes to keep the season bright.
Whilst I’m always looking for the positive, I’m not going to lie – the month of December this year will not hold the same glittering joy it usually does. Truth be told, all I want for Christmas is my family. Oh, and if it’s not too much trouble Santa, a rush on that vaccine would be lovely…
Read more: ‘Celebrating Christmas shouldn’t be at the detriment of your mental health’
Read more: Tips to survive Christmas when you’re pregnant
Read more: 2020 will be the year of small festive gatherings: here’s how we’re embracing a new kind of Christmas
Understanding where you come from is important to many but...
It’s an exhausting cycle of fear, guilt and shame. The pandemic has seen my monster eating disorder return
The pandemic has deeply disrupted daily life across the world and exacerbated many mental health problems as a result. Here, Michelle Heffernan, writes honestly about her experience with disordered eating
Trans writer Soula Emmanuel writes about her experience of becoming "ammunition in a culture war".
Life after loss: “I declared openly which of the seven stages of grief I was experiencing. Only I lied. Inside, I was in fact falling apart.”
When it became far more important for me to maintain...
Adam Alderson is an adventurer. He’s travelled to Russia and...
In the IMAGE 2020/ 2021 Annual, out now. Melanie Morris...