I’ve been on BBC Radio Sussex and BBC Kent in the last two days, talking about our ‘great expectations’ for this coming Christmas. After the Victoria Derbyshire comments about wanting to break the Covid-19 rules at Christmas, the airwaves have been quivering with outrage, defiance and despair.
The thing is, Christmas this year is simply not going to be the same. It’s not going to be like anything we’ve had before… or hopefully will ever have again. By necessity, and for the national health and wealth, we may need to limit our contacts, quite extremely, and have a Christmas like never before.
For many people this seems an utter disaster, as people are, without doubt, creatures of habit. What, no big Christmas round the table with the turkey and crackers? No endless parties, just like the Christmas ads?
In fact, many of us find Christmas, and its hedonistic run-up, and all its complex arrangements, not only excruciating, but exhausting. We try and make up for a whole year of ignoring relatives by going over the top for one or a few days. We exhaust ourselves running around shops and going up and down motorways.
Then there’s all the complexities and negotiations about families, exes, step-children, and add-on partners. Whose place or thine? It can all get very full of resentments, jealousies, and impossible arrangements. Not to mention hangovers and indigestion and a maxed out credit card or three.
So, despite the reason for this year’s stringencies being very glum and sad, we may find a veritable silver lining in the Covid cloud. What if a pared down Chistmas means we only spend time with bubble people we like? What if it means less expenditure on food and gifts, and more time to rest and relax?
What if it bypasses all those meals and meetings with family and even friends which are dutiful rather than pleasurable? And what if it means we actually stay well, rather than spread a virus which is causing disruption and even death on a humungous scale?
We need to lower our expectations, of the fluffy, jolly, frothy Christmas of adland, and simply scale things down to real new life this year. It means our adult-selves need to take over and diminish the child in us that wants it all, NOW. It’s time to have less to have more – more time to rest, replenish, connect.
It may mean we spend less on things we don’t want and spend more time with people we like. And, it might mean we don’t enhance the virus’ exponential attack on us all because we’ve managed to rein ourselves in, like Santa’s little helpers.
This year it makes sense not to abolish Christmas – no way – but to manage our expectations for the greater good.
It may make for a really happier new year, after all.