People are getting more realistic about their options for Christmas 2020, but would you be happy celebrating the festivities with a ‘friendsmas’?
It’s time to talk Christmas.
Once England goes into lockdown tomorrow (5 November), we won’t emerge from it until 2 December, which could be extended if the coronavirus R rate doesn’t slow down. That’s three weeks or under until Christmas Day.
Considering how I usually turn my attention to booking a train ticket home and buying presents for everybody the day after Halloween, this leaves very little time to get my festive plans in order.
Will lockdown be extended to Christmas? Why would I book an expensive train ticket when I don’t know if I’ll be allowed to travel? Will I be allowed to sit around my mum’s table for Christmas lunch? Where should I stay?
And the most recent question I’m asking: is it time to seriously consider a ‘friendsmas’ in London?
Just two weeks ago – when we were under tier two restrictions – I swore that nothing would stop me from getting back to Yorkshire to spend Christmas with my family. My plan was to travel home a couple of weeks before the big day, quarantine in my brother’s flat, then find ways to safely meet up with my mum.
I’ve only ever spent one Christmas away from my mum and regret it to this day. All we do is eat and watch films all day in our PJs, but a Christmas Day without my mum, brothers, sister, dog and the three goldfish is just… no.
After a conversation with a London friend whose family lives in Derby, however, I’m wondering if it’s time to admit defeat this year.
“I’m actually starting to warm to the idea of a ‘friendsmas’,” she said in a matter-of-fact way. “Cooking loads of food together, getting pissed and dancing around in my flat. Christmas isn’t going to be the same at home anyway.”
And that’s when I realised that doing Christmas away from family will probably just be a fact of life for many of us this year.
It’s not how I want to spend the festivities, but when I actually think about it, I feel so lucky to have brilliant nearby friends who I’ve grown even closer to through the pandemic. With both my flatmates planning to fly back to Ireland in December, I’ve already had a couple of kind offers from London pals to join them at their homes.
Perhaps, if I accept it’s just a one-off, a friendsmas is actually an unexpected but lovely idea in an unexpected and awful year.
“I don’t wanna do it,” Stylist’s London-based social media editor, Alyss, responds when I suggest she does a London friendsmas instead of heading home to her family in Ipswich.
“I don’t know if it’s because I’m the youngest and my birthday is four days before Christmas, but the thought of not spending it with my family makes me feel so, so sad.
“I think if it really came down to it though, I would do it, but I’m not ready to give up family traditions just yet.”
“I always spend Christmas Eve and morning at my family home so my sister and I can relive the tradition of a sleepover and opening stockings together,” says digital editor-at-large Kayleigh, who recently moved to Surrey.
“I haven’t a friendsmas before but, hey, if my boyfriend and I end up doing it with our neighbours, so be it!”
But, if groups of friends in the city are keen to hold a friendsmas together, will we even be allowed to meet?
The frustrating thing is that we still don’t know, so organising a friendsmas almost feels as futile as just assuming the usual plan to go home. Boris Johnson has said he wants life to be “closer to normal” by Christmas, but we’ve learned that this government does more U-turns than a bad driver.
While it’s important to try to remain forbearing, it is also incredibly frustrating. But, despite what happens, just knowing that friends are ready to share their Christmases with each is enough to warm any Scrooge’s heart.