While we await full details of our festive fate, one thing’s for sure: this year will be a Christmas like no other.
Whether we’re required to stick to our ‘households’ or are permitted to mix in small numbers, the etiquette questions are numerous. How much Zoom is too much Zoom? If you can invite guests, should you feel obliged to do so? And if you can’t, is it OK to stay in your pyjamas all day?
Here are our five tips for surviving Christmas 2020:
1.) Prepare for all eventualities
This year has been nothing if not unpredictable, so stay calm and adaptable in the face of last-minute changes of plan. Have back-up supplies in the freezer and Deliveroo on speed-dial in case you’re suddenly allowed extra guests, but don’t feel you have to invite your full complement just because you can – it’s fine to keep it low-key if that’s what you’d prefer.
If guests have to cancel at the eleventh hour, whether because they’ve been asked to self-isolate or have got cold feet about a social gathering, be magnanimous despite the inevitable disappointment. You might have bought in shed-loads of smoked salmon, but it’s better that everyone feels safe. Express your regret and send your best wishes – then loosen your belt and prepare to eat two portions of turkey instead of one.
2.) Remember those on their own
A household-only Christmas for you might mean two adults, three children and a cat, but for others it could mean staying at home alone. Before getting down to the absorbing business of lunch and presents, consider neighbours and friends who live alone and give them a call or a socially-distanced door knock – it could make all the difference to their Christmas.
Similarly, if you are able to enjoy a family gathering, be sensitive about sharing endless joyful pictures on social media when others might be shielding or unable to celebrate as they’d wish.
3.) Switch off
Designate some screen-free time on Christmas Day so that you can focus on the day itself. Keep phones out of sight during the main meal – no WhatsApping over Christmas dinner – and as lovely as a big family meal can be, piling into turkey and all the trimmings over Google Meet is perhaps a step too far – there’s no need to watch each other chewing parsnips.
4.) Take it outside
If restrictions allow, take the celebrations outdoors: pack a Christmas picnic hamper for al fresco festivities with friends or family. Remember extra layers, a plastic-backed rug, wellies and a flask of mulled wine or hot chocolate. Even if guidelines change, fresh air is always a great cure for the ‘Twixtmas’ slump between Christmas and New Year.
5.) Don’t neglect Christmas traditions
At a time when nothing is certain, there is comfort in ritual and traditions, so consider your favourite parts of Christmases past and adapt accordingly. Whether that means an all-family game of charades over Zoom or getting dressed up in some sequinned finery despite the fact that you’re staying at home, it will help to make the day as memorable and special as normal. And while digital communication has been a lifeline this year, make time for handwritten Christmas cards and thank you letters, too.