My favourite Christmas tradition is to wake up early whilst the rest of the house sleeps on, shrouded in darkness. I pad downstairs in my dressing gown and slippers and turn on the Christmas tree lights, breathe in its piney scent and watch the lights twinkle lazily, hearing only the reliant ticking of the clock. I love the solitude of these moments: reflecting on the sentimentality of each Christmas decoration and embracing that ‘Christmassy’ anticipation that only comes round once a year.
Usually, these opportunities of peace and quiet are rare across the festive season. The weeks leading up to the big day are a frenzy of spending, searching and ticking off lists. We plan 6-hour car journeys, menus, presents and the dreaded Christmas dinner. There is constant worry: did I send cards to all the right people? Will the turkey feed all 10 of us? What will great Aunt Maud do to offend mum this year?
This rush is always a given – there’s no other choice. The planning and worrying and purchasing is all forgotten on Christmas Day when we’re surrounded by loved ones, wholly absorbed in cheer and warmth (and a few too many glasses of Buck’s Fizz). The following week flies by in a blur of food, alcohol and TV and, before we know it, the holidays are over and January is upon us. We’re in a new year but with slightly larger waistlines and still with the slight remnants of a hangover. Although we know we had a lovely time, we’re also exhausted and don’t feel we had much of a break at all.
But now as I sit on my sofa, watching the lights twinkle and drinking tea, I realise 2020 altered the typical construct of Christmas. It’s just Callum and I at home this year, in Tier 4 – a far cry away from the Christmas we’d planned with Callum’s family coming to stay. The big dinner, family games and long dog walks we’d envisioned were replaced with lots of Christmas films and colouring books. For the first time, my favourite moments of peace and quiet aren’t limited to 07:00 in the morning whilst the rest of the house sleeps on. On the 27th of December, I’m immersed in silence and have the rest of the Christmas break yawning ahead of me with no places to be or even a reason to get out of my pyjamas. Now don’t get me wrong… Christmas away from family has been heart-wrenching, particularly because the distance between us means we’ve not seen each other for at least 6 months. But, I’m a glass-half-full type of person: the perks of modern technology and frequent FaceTimes help us feel not too far away – I still saw my nephew excitedly open his Christmas presents and my parents’ delight when I opened mine.
This year taught me the festive period doesn’t need to be as manic as the rest of the year. Taking time to enjoy the holiday is important. The winter season is all about slowing down, enjoying creature comforts and – like our animal friends – hibernating (although self-isolation has taken that a step too far for many of us). Next year, I hope the pain and sadness Covid-19 brought to the world is long behind us – there’s that optimism creeping in again – and that we combine the rare positives taken from this year with the love of being back with those we care about most.