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Why I’m dreaming of next Christmas

A display of Christmas lights in an almost deserted South Molton Street, in London - Credit: SOPA Images/LightRocket via Gett

So as I type this it’s the morning of December 1, and I’ve just done something I always do on this day each year; put my earphones in, hit up the Christmas songs playlist for the first time and hit ‘shuffle’.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I operate a strict embargo system where Christmas stuff is concerned: no Christmas stuff until December, and then only Christmas stuff until the 25th. It’s as much to prevent pre-Christmas burnout as anything else: I’m a big gooey man-baby where all things Yule are concerned; while it might be tempting to crack out the Christmas tunes as soon as Halloween’s over (like the high street stores do) I like to keep December special.

I’ve found it especially hard to stick to that rule this year, and I sense I’m not alone. A few Christmas trees have been up on our street for a couple of weeks already, and over the course of such human interaction as has actually been possible this last month (ie. almost entirely online) I’ve been hearing friends express a sense of eagerness, even desperation, to get on with getting excited about Christmas. At least, the feeling seems to be, there can be some small outburst of joy at the end of this pitiless bin-fire of a year.

Even if, of course, that outburst has to be somewhat smaller in scale than many of us would like. My Christmas playlist has just thrown up Frank Sinatra’s version of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, and in particular the lines “Through the years we all will be together/If the fates allow” provoked a bitter chuckle. Yeah, sorry to have to lay this on you Frank, but I’m afraid the fates have kind of dumped all over that one on this occasion.

There is lots of debate over the government’s sudden relaxation of lockdown into its tiered systems, and what people are allowed and not allowed to do over the festive period itself. I am not going to get involved. Whatever sensible plans you’d already drawn up for how you were going to spend Christmas (or not), stick to those.

We’ve been dealing with this virus for eight straight months now and we know how it works (apart from those of us who are away with the virus-denying conspiracy pixies, but let’s face it, they’re not reading this): we know the risks, we know how the virus is transmitted, we know what it does and who’s most vulnerable.

My plans haven’t changed. And this, quite frankly, sucks, because it’ll be the first time in all my 50 years that I haven’t had a big family get-together on Christmas Day. The generational make-up has evolved over the decades, but there’s always been a big gang around the table. Not this year, and that’s going to be tough, but nowhere near as tough as the (possible) alternative.

I was going to say that I’d love nothing else than to be with my 80-year-old mum this Christmas, but that’s not true. The thing I’d love more than to be with my 80-year-old mum this Christmas is for my 81-year-old mum to still be around for next Christmas, and I’m not willing to do anything that makes that even 1% less likely.

So whether we’re ‘allowed’ to get together with our extended families isn’t the point. The question we all have to ask ourselves is; is it wise to get together with our extended families and are we willing to take responsibility for the consequences if we do…?

The playlist has just moved on to Slade’s Merry Xmas Everybody; the song that evokes the ‘Big Family Christmas’ memories of my childhood better than any other. I’m going to miss seeing everyone this year but it’s worth it to keep them safe. And we’re going to need every ounce of strength and resilience to get through the ‘Happy New Year’ our leaders are cooking up for us…..