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It’s been emotional: all the many (conflicting) thoughts we have about Christmas this year

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Anna Brech
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With Christmas on the horizon, how are Stylist readers who celebrate it preparing themselves for a lack of travel, traditions – and possibly their loved ones, too? We take a closer look at how people are feeling ahead of the strangest festive season yet. 

If the season of goodwill is emotional at the best of times, the prospect of a Covid Christmas brings with it a whole new wave of feelings. 

Never in the history of Noël has the spirit of the occasion been quite so cut off – literally – from the people at its heart. 

In an age of coronavirus, Christmas, like hugging, becomes yet another thing that we desperately want to do as usual; but at the same time, we know that we probably can’t. 

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To make the situation more complex, we’re all at different points of the Christmas continuum, too. Some are willing to bend the rules (such as they’ll be) to see loved ones – which is relatable if not recommended – while others are worrying about saying no.

With a riot of emotions playing into the picture, we’ve sounded out some Stylist readers for a feel of where we stand right now. Here, with zero judgement, is just a small snapshot of what people are thinking on the countdown to 25 December: 

(Please note rules vary according to local Covid alert levels right now. Check current government guidelines to see what is allowed in terms of travel and group meet-ups in your area. Groups of more than six, indoor or outdoor, are banned across the UK).

Friends at Christmas
People will be preparing for Christmas in different ways this year.

“I’m prepping myself for Christmas alone”

I’ve found myself having half-conversations with people (friends, family and boyfriend in separate chats) about what I’m doing even though I know full well that I’m probably going to spend Christmas on my own. I’m scared to commit and let people down if I decide I don’t feel comfortable travelling. I’ve had the little voice in the back of my head gently prepping me for the shit roast I’m resigning to having at the pub around the corner (if they’re open) and keeping an eye out for supermarket deals on different flavours of Baileys.

One bottle of Baileys later, and the scene is complete

“I’ll be on that train no matter what”

All my family live in Yorkshire and since I live in London, I’ve seen my mum – who I’m very close to – twice since March and didn’t hug her either time. I’m still not going to hug her or stay in her house over Christmas, which I’ve done every year for the last three decades. But I am booking a train ticket tomorrow to go and stay with my brother nearby, so that at least we’re all near each other. 

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My mum lives on her own and there is absolutely no way she would spend Christmas without her kids. For her, Christmas is about being a mum – she loves getting us together and making a fuss. That’s why I’m going to be on that train and bending the rules if needs be to stay with my brother.

Hugging family and friends
Families have been through a lot of separation already this year

“My parents are high-risk: a boozy Zoom call will do”

I usually always go home to Ireland for Christmas and New Year but this year both me and my brother, who live (separately) in London, are very much playing by ear. I’m really not fussed but I reckon as it draws closer, I’ll be sad. I’m not a Christian so the religious element means nothing to me at all but I love the over-indulgence and family time. I told my family we can have that in January, February or March – when it’s safe and I don’t have to self-isolate for a month just to be with them on an arbitrary day. So, I might be pinting in a ‘Spoons on my own on Xmas day, and TBH I’m OK with that if it means my high-risk mum and dad in Ireland are safe. We can do another boozy Zoom call I guess.

Are boozy Zooms the way forward?

“I can already sense the arguments ahead”

I come from a huge family which makes Christmas loud, boozy, complicated – and sometimes, tearful – even during a “normal” year. This time round, I’m gearing myself up for some inevitable rows. We’re all in different places on the virus for a start: so while some of my brothers and sisters have returning uni kids whom they’d never for a second want to expose to my parents, others are willing to take a few risks.

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 There’s already a scheme afoot to disguise that we may a big group in one place: but some siblings are massively against that, for obvious reasons. I just want everyone to get on. The big family element of our usual Christmases can be a bit much: new partners need to be guided in gently, preferably with plenty of gin. But there’s also a part of me that will miss the chaos desperately if it doesn’t go ahead.

Families may be able to gather outdoors this year

“I’m not going to put myself under loads of pressure”

Even during ordinary times, I hate the emotional load that Christmas dumps on women. It’s usually down to us to put that sparkle on things and check that everyone’s happy; it’s exhausting. So I’m looking at this as a good opportunity to sack off all the pressure. Christmas just won’t be the same this year, and as a single mum of three, we’re all going to have to pitch in and make it work without expecting too much. Going to a carol concert is usually the part of Christmas that I love the most. I’m guessing that won’t happen this year but I’d take restrictions over Christmas rather than the misery of a national lockdown in January and February next year.

Christmas without pressure is a wonderful thing

“I usually love Christmas but I’m feeling flat” 

I’m the kind of person who makes Buddy the Elf look unenthusiastic about Christmas – I love it. But while I’d usually be gearing up to planning an intense two week period of Christmas jumper parties, Santa pub crawls, festive dinners and of course the big day itself, I’m feeling absolutely flat this year. So much so, that I’m thinking of skipping out on going back home at all. 

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When I know that I’ll hardly be able to see any of my family and all my hometown friends will be off-limits (which makes me feel so sad because we’ve got eight – yes, eight – new babies in our friendship group having their first Christmas), I just don’t feel bothered at all. Instead, me and my boyfriend are thinking of spending the night in a fancy hotel and going out for a lavish dinner instead. Our families have agreed that the 25 December won’t be the same as usual, so they’re happy for us to give it a miss. Maybe it will be fun trying something new.

A festive hotel? We'll take that

“I’m trying to find sparks of creative joy”

Seeing my wider family just isn’t going to be possible this year: not least because I live abroad. For me, it’s just not worth the health risk to travel back to the UK. It’s really sad but I’m already planning ways to make up for it. I’m going to relax as much as possible with big hearty meals and morning walks with my friends. I’ll do homemade cards and decorations, and go to see the Christmas lights at dusk, when they are most magical. I think Christmas is all in the little things anyway – the frosty dawns, the mulled wine, music all day long – so I’m planning on being a bit indulgent and bringing all those details to life. I’ll still miss my loved ones like mad, but I’m making the best of it.

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“I’m worried about my nan and local businesses”

I’m not too bothered about spending Christmas with my flatmates if I need to (we’re all quite sold on the idea of a Friends-style day of cosy communal celebrations). But I am worried about my 91-year-old nan, who’s in a care home near Bath. Visitors are really, really important to her: she’s way more worried about that than she is the virus itself. But I’m the other way round! I know that she really looks forward to Christmas though, and I worry about the impact of her not being able to celebrate with us all as usual this year.

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All being good, I’m hoping I can travel down to see her just after Christmas and at least have a festive cuppa (or more likely, sherry) together. I’m worried about local businesses, too. I know we hear this every year, but Christmas has become so commercial. I’m hoping that, with Covid, the penny will finally drop that we don’t need to run ourselves ragged with piles of pointless gifts. If the crisis has taught us anything, it’s that local businesses need our love to survive, so I – like many people – will be getting just little presents like candles, calendars or chocolate, and all bought as locally as I can.

Local businesses need our love to survive

“I’m saving money for a blowout holiday”

I’m officially not doing Christmas this year: Covid is just a good excuse. Of course, I want to keep everyone safe but more importantly, it often feels like a bit of an endurance test anyway. The pressure of having to have a good time is huge. I’d rather just skip on all the knackering run-up, and the politics of the day itself. Instead I plan to hit the sofa with my collie, Harry, watch crap TV and get vaguely pissed: which is what I’d do anyway, only with extra people to please. Without sounding like a total Grinch, I’ll also take a swerve on presents. I can’t afford it anyway and I’d prefer to save the money for a blowout holiday somewhere like Bali, or South Africa, once Covid is behind us.

Images: Getty and Unsplash

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Anna Brech

Anna Brech is a freelance journalist and former editor for stylist.co.uk. Her six-year stint on the site saw her develop a vociferous appetite for live Analytics, feminist opinion and good-quality gin in roughly equal measure. She enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content but has a soft spot for books and escapist travel content.