Written by Kayleigh Dray
Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.
“It will probably just be booze and board games, with a few Zoom calls.”
The coronavirus pandemic has changed so many things this year, not least of all our Christmas plans.
Here, 14 people from around the country explain how their own holiday traditions have been impacted by Covid-19, what they will be doing instead and how they’re feeling in the run-up to the big day itself.
“Covid has already affected so many experiences I had as a new mum”
Jessica says: “After giving birth to my first child in August I was really looking forward to spending my baby boy Marley’s first Christmas at my mum’s in Sussex and forgetting about this turbulent year. We had everything planned out, and my partner – who works in the city – had permission to work from home for the week before Christmas so we could isolate and keep my mother safe.
“My mum had ordered the food, as well as the cutest little Father Christmas outfit for Marley to her home, and we were planning to drive down from London on the 23 of December. When Boris Johnson made the announcement that those in Tier 4 couldn’t leave their zone we were shopping for last minute bits and I was absolutely gutted.
“After a slightly emotional call to my mum we decided not to make a last-minute dash.”
She finishes: “Covid had already affected so many experiences I had as a new mum and this felt like a chance to create a nice first memory and look forward to 2021. Now we will be spending it as the three of us at home, and will do a frantic last minute food shop.
“I think the main thing for me was the indecisiveness – if we had time to plan and knew what was happening earlier on it wouldn’t have felt like such a disappointment.”
“I will be celebrating Christmas online with our family living in different parts of the world.”
Viva says: “I’m originally from the Philippines, and I’ve been living in the UK for four years now while I work on my business, Love Viva Cakes and Crafts. The last time I visited my home country was two years ago during Christmas time, and of course I miss my family and friends back home.
“But I don’t plan to go home anytime soon during this time of Covid: I wouldn’t like to risk my life or the lives of those I love most.”
She continues: “Originally, we thought we’d be spending the holidays organising and running Christmas FUNtastic Fairs in Gloucester. But, due to the pandemic, we’ve moved them to virtual fairs instead.
“And while my husband and I thought of going on a holiday and traveling to some place we haven’t gone together before, we will instead get to celebrate at home for the first time in four years.
“In a way it feels cosy, even if we are away from both our families. The world has been through a lot this year, and we’re saving time and cash by not travelling and paying for pricey accommodation, Christmas meals and entertainment. It always feels good to save money, time, and effort.”
Viva finishes: “To make Christmas Day special, we will still be celebrating with our family living in different parts of the world, but we’ll be doing it virtually through Facebook and Zoom. We will also be having homemade cooking for our Christmas meals.
“We are really looking forward to it!”
“I am blessed to be able to be with close family on Christmas Day this year”
Rachel says: “I am very lucky that I can take my work anywhere with me, all I need is my laptop and an internet connection, so I’ll be able to work at my family home over Christmas and celebrate around my shifts. Of course, I’ll have to stay off the Christmas tipple, but I’ll still be able to sit with a hot chocolate whilst working from my childhood bedroom.
“This year is the first Christmas for my niece who was born in May. We weren’t able to see her for months due to travel restrictions. But, as soon as we were allowed, we drove up to Birmingham to gaze at her through my brother’s living room window in our masks! Hopefully I’ll get to spend some time bouncing her on my knee in-between shifts.”
She continues: “I am blessed to be able to be with close family on Christmas day this year, I know it’s a privilege that unfortunately not everyone will have. To be completely honest, what will be the most different about Christmas this year is not being able to be physically together with my team during the festive period.
“Coronavirus has had a devastating effect on the cancer community and everyone at Macmillan Cancer Support, where I work as part of the Online Community team, has been working so hard this year to try to support those affected by cancer. It’s going to be really hard not to be able to lean on colleagues during those Christmas shifts.”
Rachel finishes: “I know it’s cliché but it’s the little things that really add up, like your teammate sliding a mince pie across the desk during a difficult shift. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but they say it takes a village to raise a child, it sometimes takes a whole office to support someone through a hard shift.”
“There’s sure to be a Disney movie to keep us all entertained”
Vaishali says: “Christmas 2020 will be a completely unique experience – not just for me, but for the whole world. And I am determined to make my Christmas experience every bit as bright, exciting, and memorable as previous Christmases. It will require a mindset that is focused on creative thinking and what can be done rather than the problems and what I cannot do.
““While I will be spending Christmas Day on my own as my father, brother and sister-in-law live abroad and my mother is isolating and unable to travel up to London, we have planned a virtual meal together on video. With our homes festooned with decorations, our festive clothes and hats on and Christmas crackers ready to pop, we’ll be exchanging stories of past Christmases, sharing favourite memories and photographs while sipping on the bubbly.”
She continues: “There will be virtual parties – work related and with friends, and of course, many WhatsApp messages and calls with relatives and friends from around the world, all of us determined to spread the Christmas cheer. For the office party (I manage three different businesses – Creative-ID, Ananya Cards, and Culturally Minded – as well as a global remote team), I have arranged a virtual calligraphy class.
“It is unfortunate that we cannot meet in person or attend any of our clients’ Christmas parties, but we hope to make up for this by having celebrations in 2021.”
Vaishali finishes: “The 26 and 27 December will be spent at my cousin’s home with my two young nephews, who are great fun to be with. There’s sure to be a Disney movie to keep us all entertained. As we need to be in small groups, this is what we have decided the best to do.
“Having spent a virtual Diwali with my family, I am more grateful than ever for the technology that exists today that has played such a major role in our lives during the seemingly endless days, weeks and months of the pandemic. It has truly come to our rescue and made the pain of isolation bearable.”
“Health comes first”
Caroline says: “I’ll be spending Christmas with my mum and partner at home. We had planned to visit my aunt and cousin, and most excitingly her young sons, so it’s disappointing to miss out on that family time.”
She finishes: “My mum was especially upset as she fell ill last autumn so has now spent over a year stuck indoors and was craving normality and interaction. But health comes first, so we’ll spend this Christmas talking to lots of family over Zoom and hoping we can do it in person next year.”
“We’re skipping the roast dinner”
Hester says: “I’m trying to make this Christmas as magical as possible after a truly challenging year! We are going all out with decorations but deciding to not have a traditional Christmas lunch as it’s hasn’t been a ‘normal’ year.”
She adds: “We are planning on having a giant curry with all the extras!”
“It all feels more emotional this year”
Kylie says: “We are having a back-to-basics small Christmas. We knew this would happen prior to Tier 4 because my family are spread all over the country and I am living with my vulnerable dad.
“We have a support bubble with my 91-year-old grandad so we are very lucky that we can have him with us.”
She continues: “Normally we have a huge family Christmas with everyone at our house and loads of mismatched tables and chairs but this year will feel like back when we were kids.”
Kylie finishes: “Even though it’s not the same I feel very lucky to be with my parents, sisters and grandad. For some reason it all feels more emotional this year and you take the little things for granted less.
“Last Christmas I felt like a social pariah for still being single and living with my parents but it’s something I’m actually grateful for this year.”
“I would usually be working at a toy store, but not this year”
Sam says: “I work in a toy store so work would normally be pretty manic and I’d certainly be working both Christmas Eve and Boxing Day. The rest of the time would be spent with our extended families. Ever since I was a kid, we’d have huge family get-togethers and I’d like my son Leon, 3 to have the same experience. Last year my dad spent Christmas in hospital getting a cancer diagnosis, so this year we would have made the most of being together.
“Now, for the first time in six years, I have Christmas Eve and Boxing Day off. It’s lovely to have this time to spend with my wife Vic and Leon, but it’s slightly overshadowed by my worries that I’ll still have a job to return to in January. Lockdown has been brutal for small local shops like the one I work in.”
He continues: “We’ve had to try and explain to Leon as best we can that he won’t see his grandparents. With my dad being so compromised we have to be extra careful. So it will be just the three of us. Financially this year’s been hard so Leon won’t get much to open. But, thanks to Home-Start through the John Lewis ‘Give A Little Love’ campaign, he will get to enjoy the contents of Home-Start’s Family Wobble Box. It’s full of games and toys we’ll be playing with on Christmas Day.
“I feel stressed and on some days I feel quite low, which worries me. Not seeing my family is tough, especially Dad. I’m convinced having Home-Start’s support has saved me from spiralling into depression. I’m also grateful to be back at work. Customers are showing their commitment to shopping local, which helps enormously.”
Sam finishes: “Everything that’s happened this year has made me think about family. I’ve actually spoken to my brother and sister on the phone far more than I ever have before. We’ve all made an extra special effort to check-in with each other.
“I think the distance has made us all realise how much we love each other, and how important it is to take the time to keep in touch.”
“It will probably just be booze and board games, with a few Zoom calls”
Jazmin says: “I didn’t realise how stressed I was about Christmas until I finally found a plan to look forward to.
“The anxiety and upset of going back and forth with my mum and grandparents over the right thing to do this year was heartbreaking. But when Tier 4 was announced, even though it was helpful to have the decision not to go to my grandparents taken out of my hands, I had no idea how to handle the expectations of my friends and boyfriend who are also stuck in London.”
She continues: “After some careful negotiation, we’ve settled on having a friendsmas in our houseshare, and I’ll get to see my boyfriend on Christmas Day thanks to the bubble rules.”
Jazmin finishes: “I expect my Christmas will largely just be booze and board games with a few Zoom calls to loved ones interspersed throughout the day – making it strange enough to be a Christmas I’m sure I’ll always remember, but with enough familiarity to (hopefully) make it as enjoyable as previous years.”
“We are acutely aware this may be Mum’s last year with us”
Kelly says: “This year has been a crazy one for our family. We’ve experienced the loss of too many family members, all whilst continuing to navigate caring for my mum, who is in the late stages of Huntington’s disease.
“This Christmas will feel quite different. Whereas the house is usually filled with visitors coming and going, it will likely be just my sister and I caring for my mum on Christmas Day at home with our dad. We are still undecided whether our families should join us or stay at home, but without the freedom for hugs and close contact, with two young children it looks quite possible they will end up remaining at home.”
She continues: “We are acutely aware this may be Mum’s last year with us, so we are doing our best to focus on the memories we are able to make for her and with her as we navigate this strange time in our lives.
“We’ve always collected moments (I document mine in a journal – The Bee’s Knees Journal – created to help others navigate the peaks and troughs of day to day life) and will spend the day like any normal day but with Christmas songs.
“Hopefully, if we manage to find the time, there will be a quick ‘shove it in the oven’ Christmas dinner, too.”
Kelly finishes: “Despite the struggle we’ve felt this year, I have felt constantly reminded how important my family is to me, and how loved we can make each other feel even when things aren’t easy. This was demonstrated excellently by my fiancé when I arrived home to a surprise Christmas transformation on the house; something he did because he just wanted to make me smile.
“It’s reminded me that having someone to love and someone who loves us is really so much more than we ever realised. I hope that everyone finds a way to remind someone how much they love them this year.”
“I went to some pretty extreme lengths to see my partner…”
Rosanna says: “My partner lives in the USA and I live in London. Due to Covid we’ve had a very tough time being separated by travel bans, but it was really important to me that we manage to spend the holidays together.
“I had to fly to Turkey to be outside of the UK and Schengen Area for two weeks before I could land in San Francisco and reunite with him.”
She continues: “We are now under total lockdown here until January due to Covid rates spiking so we won’t be able to see anyone else. But, despite this, I couldn’t be happier to finally be with him.
“I will really miss my friends and family this Christmas but after the year we’ve had, I am just so grateful to be together.
“Instead of partying we will be cooking feasts for ourselves and hosting our own mini wine tastings and online festive gatherings to still make every day an event. Decorating the tree together was the biggest treat as we’ve never done it before!”
Rosanna finishes: “It will be a very different Christmas for me but I still think it will be the best one I’ve ever had!”
“Our Christmas holiday was cancelled, but we’re not complaining”
Ruth says: “My husband and I normally spend Christmas Day and Boxing Day with our blended family. This includes our parents, their partners and children and grandchildren, grandparents, siblings and two young nieces.
“Imagine the characters in the movie Four Christmases and that’s how Jordan and I spend the festive season as we travel around to see everyone.”
She continues: “We are devastated to miss out on Christmas with our family, but are more than happy to give up this Christmas with them for many more in the future. Our parents are in bubbles to provide childcare to our siblings so will have a relatively normal Christmas, just without us. It makes us happy to know that the wonderful children in our lives will experience some sense of normality in 2020.”
“We expected to be going solo this Christmas,” Ruth adds. “So knowing we wouldn’t be able to spend Christmas with our large family this year, and unable to pick between multiple parents, we decided to book an off-grid geodesic dome in Northumberland, 40 minutes from our home. It was recently included in Airbnb’s 10 most wish-listed UK homes since the lockdown began. It’s normally sold out. I’m not quite sure how my husband managed to book it.
“Unfortunately, though, the booking was cancelled a few weeks ago due to the spike in Covid-19 cases. So we’ll spend Christmas at home together and make sure to head to the beach and explore more of Northumberland with the time we would have spent at the pod.”
Ruth finishes: “We can’t complain really. So many people have it so much worse than us.”
“I think we’ll stay in our PJs all day, relax and play games.”
Amy says: “Last Christmas was hard. I’d recently had my fourth child and felt very low. I was determined this Christmas would be better. I was looking forward to moving the elves around the house, putting up the decorations and inviting people into our home. I hadn’t factored in a global pandemic.
“My husband and I are from large families so Christmas is usually a whirlwind of hosting and visiting. It’s lovely to see our kids play with their cousins, as well as spend time with their grandparents, aunties and uncles.
“Every year the kids get a Christmas Eve box filled with PJs and hot chocolate, and I always buy a new Christmas DVD for us to watch together. The kids would typically have a stack of presents under the tree that would take at least half a day to get through. We’re careful not to spoil them, but as well as gifts from us they’d also get lots from our families. Once the kids unwrapped the first bundle of gifts, I’d head to the kitchen to stuff the turkey.”
She continues: “This year’s lockdown has left my family with very little income, though. My husband is a self-employed personal trainer, so he’s had weeks of no wages. As Christmas Day gets nearer, I feel my anxiety rising about how we can afford it. I certainly won’t be stuffing a turkey this year, that’s for sure.
“Normally I put a little bit away in the months leading up to Christmas for gifts. This year all our money has gone on bills, leaving very little left. During this time, I’m so grateful for the support we’ve received from Home-Start so that we could buy essential groceries – it’s made such a difference.
“I’ve been creative with gifts and managed to get the kids some great presents from Facebook Marketplace. They won’t be getting anywhere near as much as usual, but this is a good opportunity for them to take stock of what we do have.”
Amy finishes: “We’re sad not to spend Christmas with our extended families, but I’m grateful we are together. Rather than spend lots of time in the kitchen, I think we’ll stay in our PJs all day, relax and play games.
“When all this is over we’ve promised ourselves we’ll get together with everyone for a big party.”
“It will be a weird Christmas, but there is not much we can do…”
Cecile says: “We were originally planning to go to France to spend it with my family, have a catch up, and enjoy some good French food!
“Given the circumstances, though, we will stay in the UK. It’s impossible to book anything where my parents are. No hotels are open and we don’t want to quarantine for two weeks once we are back.
“Plus, I can’t even see my family properly: my nan is in a retirement place and she is not allowed to be out with her family for Christmas. We would only be able to see her for 20 minutes at most, and only then via a pre-booked appointment.”
She continues: “So, yes, we will spend Christmas at home. I can’t say I am really happy about it. I have not physically seen my family for over a year now and it is a bit depressing, to be honest. But even if I could get to France, it would not be a real Christmas due to all the restrictions.
“We have cancelled our plans, hoping that by Easter or later on next year, we will be able to see my family properly and travel without restrictions attached. Fingers crossed!
Cecile finishes: “It will be a weird Christmas! But there is not much we can do. Although on Boxing Day I have booked for us to go to Leeds Castle – as it is still open – to enjoy a walk in the outdoors. So we will go and see the lights together, at least!”
“We will hopefully be seeing snow this Christmas”
Helen says: “We live near the Cairngorms National Park in the Scottish Highlands, which is renowned as the snowiest location in the UK, with an average of 66 days of snow per year.
“Since moving here in 2002, we have spent many a white Christmas amid snow-covered rooftops, fluffy white mountains and frozen lochs. In winter, the Highlands are transformed into a majestic wonderland, complete with reindeers and frosty landscapes.
“When our children were younger, they usually spent Christmas Day afternoon sledging with friends.”
She continues: “This Christmas, we were hoping to reunite with our extended Plymouth family but our festive reunion has been scrapped due to the tightened coronavirus restrictions. Usually, if we don’t spend Christmas together, we catch up earlier in December, or we spend Hogmanay together, all of which is out of the question this year.
“It is disappointing but we will FaceTime on Christmas Day, share photos on Facebook and Instagram, and gather around the fire for a festive Zoom quiz, with Rudolph jumpers and hot toddies to warm us after a difficult year.”
Helen finishes: “Here’s hoping 2021 is a better year for everyone.”
With special thanks to Macmillan Cancer Support and Home-Start.
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