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Christmas in lockdown: “I’m going to create new traditions this Christmas, instead of dwelling on old ones”

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Megan Murray
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Social distancing rules mean that no more than six people can meet at one time, indoors or outdoors, which is going to throw a spanner in the works for Christmas. Here, Stylist writer Megan Murray explores the options for a new kind of Christmas.

For many people, Christmas is about tradition. We eat the same meals, drink the same drinks, see the same people every 25 December. 

Whether it’s your nan’s famous Snowball cocktail or always going to your dad’s on Boxing Day, it’s the warm familiarity of these routines which create a cosy nostalgia and make this day so special. 

The government’s latest restrictions on social gatherings have left people asking questions about what families of more than six will do and whether Christmas will be able to go ahead as we would have hoped for.

It’s incredibly sad that families may be split up for the festive period and even as someone without any siblings or a huge family, I’m starting to worry what Christmas day will mean for me. 

My mum often works on the 25 December as she’s a nurse, so I was planning on spending this time with my auntie, uncle and their three children who are the closest thing I have to brothers and sisters.

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They are a family of five, and so adding me should mean we just fit inside the government’s restrictions of a six-person gathering, but there’s a problem. Although the grandparents I share with these cousins will be spending the day together, their paternal grandfather always joins them for Christmas day. This takes our number to seven. 

He’s a lovely man in his 80s, who has been widowed and recently suffered a nasty fall which has left him needing at-home care. Let’s just say, I’m not going to force myself in on the already complicated logistics to demand a “Me or him?”-type decision between inviting me or their grandad for the occasion.

I’m sure many, many families are facing this same problem. They might be only one or two people over the rules, but with strict restrictions in place and the threat of a fine starting at £200 (not to mention dirty looks from the neighbours), what can we all do? Not to mention families in the North East who have been told they can’t mix with anyone outside their household, meaning seeing grandparents, cousins or even siblings and parents is banned.

Well, in my circle of friends, we reckon this could be the year to throw the old version of Christmas to the wall and actually, rejoice in something new.

“I’m thinking of shrugging off my extended family and doing something truly fabulous, just me and my mum. We’ve been looking at gorgeous hotels with a really festive feel and are thinking of treating ourselves to a Christmas day with zero washing up. Our top pick is The Ned in London – imagine coming down to a towering Christmas tree, live music and the best breakfast of your life?” says Bethany Smedley, a fashion buyer living in London.

She continues: “We’re going to get some lovely pyjamas and only buy presents for each other, which is kind of great. It’s always a bit of a drag buying gifts for every random auntie, uncle and cousin that I only see once a year.”

Leo Gilmour, a developer living in the South West agrees: “I don’t want to have a Christmas which tries and fails to live up to what I usually do, I’d rather create some new traditions or do something completely different.”

Gilmour says her ideas span from volunteering with a homeless charity to booking a cosy staycation and spending a few days by herself hiking and reading. “This could be an opportunity for a Christmas which doesn’t blend into the rest, maybe I’ll do something for me, or for others.”

While Jazmin Kopotsha, Stylist’s deputy digital editor has discussed the possibility of a ‘friendmas’ this year, choosing to stay with the housemates who have been her social bubble for the last six months. 

“My housemates and I were sat around chatting about what the next few months are going to look like and naturally landed on Christmas. All four of us are used to having fairly traditional (if that exists anymore) family Christmases but the idea of being ‘stuck’ in our cosy house for the festive period sounded pretty appealing,” she says.

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Kopotsha continues: “A friendmas without the drama of inevitable family politics, responsibility and false ‘thank yous’ for gifts you didn’t ask for but are obliged to receive is a surprisingly pleasing alternative. I’m not sure if it’s just me trying to look on the bright side of possibly not being with my grandparents this year – the idea of which breaks my heart – but there are small joys to be found in forging new fun at a time that’s going to look starkly unfamiliar to many of us.”

I hate to be one of those twee people saying “look on the bright side” when things are feeling very, very gloomy, but maybe this is the perfect opportunity to create some Christmas memories you’ll remember forever for being a little bit different. 

Personally, I love the idea of going somewhere new and truly wintery to experience a Christmas day that isn’t in my local area – think Kate Winslet’s cottage in The Holiday. Yup, I’d settle for a Christmas day away from home if it looked like that. 

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Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a digital journalist for stylist.co.uk, who enjoys writing about London happenings, beautiful places, delicious morsels and generally spreading sparkle wherever she can.