Home window displays
The tree went up and has more lights and decorations on than ever. But others will have to admire it through the window, which brings us to one of our favourite new traditions – windowscaping. While door wreaths have become bigger and better in recent times, this year more attention is turning to our windows, which are being garlanded and adorned with the kind of illuminated tableaux to rival any department store display.
Back in Lockdown 1, we realised that windows were the, er, windows of, if not our souls, then our homes. Soon NHS rainbows, hearts and teddies filled them, connecting us to our neighbours and delighting small children. Once more, Scandinavia provides ways to get through winter. The idea of the living Advent calendar comes from Stockholm, where it’s traditional for a different door or window to be opened each night for an assembled neighbourhood audience. Our newly strengthened communities are banding together to emulate this, with each house in a street or area being assigned a day of Advent and their unique window revealed throughout December. Unlike the preternaturally organised Scandis, ours are being arranged via passive aggressive WhatsApp groups, but you can’t have everything.
Merry Corona-Christmas cards
If we can’t be with friends and family, we can still send them cards. And there’s a slew of them that have opted not to ignore Covid, but to joke about it. Baby there’s Covid outside, Sanitizers coming to Town, Jingle Bells Covid Smells are just some of the slogans already winging their way to your letterbox.
Save them – one day they’ll be collector’s items, or at least a souvenir of this very weird time. Especially as you never started that diary you promised to keep.
Neighbours as the new family
As those Public Health grinches have pointed out, nobody wants to give Granny Covid for Christmas, especially with vaccination so tantalisingly near. Mixing generations is dicey and mixing tiers is forbidden, while a masked flight followed by quarantine makes going abroad unappealing. If we can’t see our dearest, then we’re settling for seeing our nearest – neighbours have become the new family.
In spring, our neighbours became the only people we saw in real life. And, this Christmas, they’re all staying put, too. Thanks to the ritual of banging of saucepans on a Thursday evening and our new-found friendliness, we’re now happy to have drinks on the street, pass around mince pies and hand sanitiser, and for our children to show off their presents to each other on Christmas Day.
Turkeys are stuffed
There’s a good reason why we eat turkey only once a year. Its whole raison d’être is that it feeds large groups, who drink to ignore its dry tastelessness. Since Christmas dinner is going to be scaled down this year, there’s no reason to get out the big bird. This is the time to experiment with alternatives – half of families surveyed by Sainsbury’s say they’re eschewing turkey in favour of other options, with steak and chips the most popular.
Christmas cockerels are bigger than chickens but smaller than a turkey, with the choice between a whole bird or just the tasty crown. My husband is gunning for goose, which is delicious but scrawny, while like many parents we’ve also got Extinction Rebellion-esque plant-based teens to cater for.
And if it has to be turkey, Prue Leith has suggested buying a mere drumstick, which allegedly feeds two, with leftovers. Just remember to marinate it, she says, with soy and honey.
Carpe diem nativitatis shopping
Or seize-the-Christmas-Day spirit of consumerism. The Bank of England economist Andy Haldane has estimated that UK families have built up £100 billion of excess savings by not going out, commuting or holidaying in 2020. This needs to be spent at Christmas. It’s therefore our patriotic duty to shop to revive the economy; Shell Out to Help Out if you will.
If we can’t give our families our presence, we’ll damn well give them good presents, with an estimated 10 per cent extra being spent on gifts this year. Many have been horrified at images of a heaving Regent Street, but with little else to do, is it any wonder that people are turning to shopping as a leisure activity once more? With masks, restrictions on numbers and hand gel at every turn, it feels like a relatively safe hobby. If not, there is always online shopping, which even the very best indies are getting quite good at.
Back in February, few of us were familiar with Zoom or Microsoft Teams but Covid has accelerated the long-foretold video-conferencing revolution.
Christmas of yore: trying to stay sober enough to phone missing relatives after lunch. Christmas 2020: you can livestream every last moment if you want, or concentrate the whole “have you called your brother in the States/aunt in Somerset/cousin in Scotland, yet?” into one efficient multi-headed Zoom-up once you’ve changed into your Christmas party outfit. Even better, the basic plan means there’s a 40-minute cut-off.
Getting excited about Christmas Day TV
Normally we groan about all the repeats and old films, and ignore them in favour of a non-festive Netflix binge watch. But over the past nine months we’ve gorged on every last drama, documentary or comedy streamed across the many platforms we now pay for. We’ve watched so much that it feels like we’ve reverted to the old days of three terrestrial channels and there’s nothing on.
Yippee, then, for a slew of new things being released for Christmas Day. There’s Bridgerton on Netflix, billed as Jane Austen meets Gossip Girl and promising a luxe-soapy American take on Regency England. There’s the traditional Call the Midwife special and a dark reimagining of Black Narcissus.
Reality show fans have the unchallenging comforts of Britain’s Got Talent and a best-of compilation called Strictly: The Christmas Countdown. After a year of separate programmes in separate rooms, families might even enjoy the retro thrill of sitting together to watch something at the same time as others across the land. Just imagine.
Read more: Christmas TV guide for 2020
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