Why we need Christmas more than ever – and how to save it from Covid-19

Santa – seen here arriving in Thirsk a few years ago – is not letting covid stop him.

I’ve spent years writing about Yorkshire’s Christmas traditions. But this Christmas will be one like no other – because we have Covid-19 – and it’s easy to feel that Christmas is cancelled. We want parties, entertainments, the house crowded with family and friends. We have pubs closed, gatherings restricted, and travel prohibited.

Christmas can survive

But we need Christmas more than ever.  And Christmas can survive this. Christmas has lived through invasions, plague, Oliver Cromwell’s attempts to stamp it out, and devastating world wars.  So, we can do this.  We can preserve Christmas.   All we need is creativity.

The creativity of Christmas preparations are a big part of its enjoyment.  The anticipation of swapping recipes, shopping, planning what to wear and keeping children happily occupied gluing cotton wool and glitter to homemade decorations all help to make Christmas. We can use that creativity to work out new ways of celebrating.

The Tree is the centrepiece of celebrations – and has a noble heritage as a symbol of eternal life.

A Creative, Covid-aware Christmas

While we all need our Christmas festivities, it would be a shame for a covid infection to spoil the New Year. Especially if that infection damaged a vulnerable loved one.  I’ve chatted with friends, and googled, to come up with a few ideas to celebrate in this different year.

Ideas for a Covid-aware Christmas

  • Make handcrafted, personalised gifts, and post them to loved ones.
  • Telephone those who don’t have internet.  Try extending the call by playing a game over the phone, such as ‘I spy‘.    It would be great way of remembering what’s in a house we can’t visit.
Creating laughter by dressing as opposites has a long history in midwinter, even pre-dating the name Christmas.
  • Build the party mood at online (aka zoom) parties with silliness.  The Romans did it by dressing up as social opposites: master/slave, man/woman. With the fancy dress in view, get the games going. As well as video games, try traditional real-world favourites.  Charades, quizzes, and guessing games such as Pictionary and Hangman work on zoom. Or try Consequences: have each person in turn add a sentence to a shaggy dog tale and hear it become more outrageous with each turn.
  • Wear your fleece pj’s under your Christmas jumper and get outside.  Meet the neighbours and have hot drinks for hand warmers.
  • One friend rendezvous-ed with another for mince pies and a flask of hot coffee in the park. 
  • Another gathered six friends into her garden and alternated courses of a picnic lunch with an obstacle course around the garden.  The exercise kept everyone warm, and obstacles such as weight lifting watering cans and limbo dancing under a badminton net raised a laugh.
  • In my home village, we had a distributed Christmas lights switch-on. Everyone walked around on the same night to admire a very cheering show of outside lights.
  • In Askrigg, residents light an advent window. Every evening, there’s a new one to see.

Absent Friends

You may feel you have too few people around your table for a full Christmas dinner.  Try roasting a turkey breast – or a chicken breast – with all the trimmings.  Or head over to Delia Smith’s Christmas in a Crisis, for a supremely creative, easy to cook Christmas meal.

Deeper meaning of Christmas

Christmas is important to cheer us through a hard winter. But it also has deeper meaning, and that is why it has survived so many crises.

Christmas comes at the darkest time of the year – but light is to come.

Christmas marks the shortest day of the year, a time of darkness and of death.  The trees have lost their leaves, plants have died down, animals are in hibernation.  It is a time to remember the departed.  Stonehenge, where Britons gathered thousands of years ago for the midwinter feast, was also a graveyard.

The Nativity is a powerful story of the birth of hope.

But it’s not only a time of darkness.  Christmas is also the birth of new hope – personified in the Christian story of the birth of baby Jesus.  The sun changes from declining to strengthening.  Days will become brighter, the darkness shorter.  A new year, with new life, beckons. 

So, when you mourn the empty places around your Christmas table, reflect that in keeping Christmas, we are each a link in a chain stretching back into time immemorial, remembering all our loved ones, and celebrating the birth of new hope.

Christmas celebrates the turn of the year, and the hope of new life to come.

Merry Christmas – and a Happy New Year.

About Helen Johnson

Freelance writer specialising in Yorkshire's history and heritage.

Comments are closed.