Well, despite a brief summer window of optimism that it would all be over by the autumn (now delayed until next summer when, hopefully, the miracle vaccines will be proving their efficacy) here we are tottering towards our very first New Normal Christmas: a cheery three household bubble gathered around the laden seasonal table wondering how they are going to explain to Aunty Ethel why she has been excluded; no drunken games of Twister; pulling your own cracker… The extended family as a liability. Even if the rules are relaxed, who in their right mind is going to invite granny over, knowing that what she just might take home with her, could be the very last ‘gift’ she ever receives? Not even the Christmas Day armour of sweet British sherry and egg-nog can offer sufficient protection.
The threat of post-Christmas ‘payback’ means that seasonal consumable stockpiles are likely to consist less of candied fruits, nuts and brandy butter, and more of toilet rolls, candles and flour. This year’s must-have stocking fillers? Possibly a family-sized bag of twirly* pasta, a personalized hand-sanitizer pump and a bag of any soft confection that does not pose a threat to ill-maintained lockdown teeth.
The sparkly, pre-Christmas twinkle of city centre shopping might return, but will there be footfall to justify it? Can you imagine shoppers flocking into our current High Streets of boarded up buildings and whitewashed shop windows? The usual Christmas Markets were all cancelled months ago – the gluhwein pans stowed away for another year and the cheap red wine poured down the sink where it belongs. Carols, should they be sung at all, will fall more into the province of barber shop quartet than church choir. There will be little chance of celebrating The Real Meaning of Christmas with socially distanced pews and not a single voice raised in joyous thanksgiving. I fear that Jesus may find himself even more sidelined than normal amongst the new concerns of mince pie shortages, supermarket home deliveries that consider ten Brillo Pads as a suitable replacement for an oven-ready goose, and ‘who needs a new bra and pants set, when you haven’t been out of your pyjamas for nine months?’ I fear that madness beckons.
I suspect that our children will probably bear it all with greater fortitude: imagine a whole Christmas Day without being slobbered over by an ancient and hirsute aunt whom they normally encounter only once a year, when they have been penned in with little chance of escape. Nothing in the world is quite as good news to a child as not having to hug adults. And there will be positive gains to those of pre-school age in the ever-longer Christmas run-up. Can you imagine what self-respecting adult would currently allow their child to be plonked upon the knee of an unsanitary, red-suited super-spreader for whom, with the best will in the world, a mask would prove ineffective. What, I wonder, would be the ‘R-rate’ of a single ‘Ho-ho-ho’? Imagine, no more having to pretend that you actually believe that the man in the cheap polyester Santa suit and white nylon beard, who smells of a gentle collation of Benson & Hedges, Johnny Walker and urine is the real Father Christmas. No more having to pretend that you believe there is a real Father Christmas. As long as Amazon do not cock up delivery, all will be right.
I may, of course, have got this all completely wrong. Christmas might just continue much as it ever did**. Granny will upset Aunty Norma by criticising the quality of her mincemeat, Grandad will melt a hole in the new sofa with his pipe and Uncle Derek will throw up on the cat. When you clear them all out at midnight you will swear that, whatever happens, you are never doing that again, even though you know that you will, just as soon as you are allowed. Nobody wants a New Normal Christmas when the Old Normal has so very much going for it…
*I appreciate that this is probably not the correct Italian terminology, but I bet you know exactly what I mean.
**In the UK we will find out what is to be allowed this Thursday – and possibly the January price we have to pay for our five-day communal debauch.