Nov 13, 2020
Health & Lifestyle | Lauranne Heres
This year, we can all agree, has been shit. This is not what we envisioned for ourselves when we were kids. This is not what our parents and grandparents had in mind when they thought about the distant 2020s. This is the stuff of nightmares and movies (looking at you Contagion) and we’re still not exactly sure how we got here in the first place. I mean, the scientists know, and they’ve been warning us about upcoming pandemics for years, but no one listens to them apparently, so there.
This year we’ve had to relearn everything. How to work (from home, in an empty office, in a crowded shop or factory, in a busy hospital, with or without PPE…), how to interact with friends and family (In person? 6 feet away? With or without a mask? Hugging or not? Over Skype, Zoom, Facetime and WhatsApp?), how to shop (alone, with hand-sanitizer and wipes, trying to avoid cash at all costs, constantly steering your trolley away from people, trying not to panic as you see someone with all the water packs and loo roll), how to take care of ourselves.
The latter is the reason why I’m once again putting up my tree in early November this year. Since 2017, a growing number of experts in psychology have confirmed that people who put up their tree earlier are much happier. This is partly due to the growing excitement, but also linked to happy memories associated with decorating a tree. We remember better times when we did this with our grandparents for example, and even certain ornaments can bring back memories of a loved one.
I have to be honest, what I really love about Christmas is the run-up to it. Decorating, finding the right present for someone, wandering around the Christmas market eating Käsekrainer or Goulasch and Spätzle (can you tell I’m half-German?), discovering a new ornament to add to my collection, wrapping things, having a Christmas party with friends, baking cookies, and sitting on the couch watching classics like While You Were Sleeping or Little Women (the ‘94 version obviously).
Actual Christmas inevitably turns out to be a stressful strain on every relationship you hold dear, with elderly relatives commenting on your weight, your job, your partner, or lack of partner etc. Or the hassle of figuring out who to see when, especially if you live abroad and are only home for a week or two and need to cram parents, grandparents, and friends in at all cost. There’s always a fight about something (burnt food, forgot to cook something for the gluten-intolerant/vegan in the family, regifted something you only got them last year, didn’t like their present at all…) and by the 26th, if you haven’t reverted to your moody teenage self to sulk regardless of your age, I won’t believe you.
But this year, many of us will not be able to celebrate like we’re used to. Maybe it’s because we live far away, and travel restrictions are not allowing us to go home. Or we have elderly relatives, and we don’t want to put them at risk, so we’re choosing to stay away to keep them safe. Maybe we’ll be on lockdown and not allowed to visit anyone other than our household. Whatever the reason, this holiday season will be vastly different.
We were supposed to go and see my partner’s family in Texas, unfortunately we won’t be able to go. While the USA is still recording record-high case numbers, the country stays on the UK’s no-go list and flying there against guidelines means you’re not covered by any travel insurance. The US is also imposing a quarantine on people from the UK, so it doesn’t work either way. It’s also looking unlikely that we can go to see my family on the mainland, as my hometown is classed as a “danger zone” by the government and I don’t want to potentially infect my grandmother in Germany because there’s no way to spread out in her tiny home.
So, it looks like it’ll just be us in our new house (and the dog, and the mice) and for this reason I’m prepping for an early decorating bonanza. I’ve got the tree and the ornaments which I’ve been amassing over a period of time (honestly, check out Käthe Wohlfahrt. They have a shop in York, and loads of shops in Germany, and you can order online too) and this year I actually have the ability to decorate the front of the house for all to see, so I got myself a Santa, and some solar-charging lights and IKEA provided me with mini outdoor trees.
I have decorated my bannister with some more lights, and I’ve put a wreath on my door (never had one before, quite excited!). I set up my little decorations around the house, including my Advent pyramid and a bunch of random bits and pieces picked up over the years. I won’t start playing Christmas music until the first of Advent, because otherwise I’ll go mad. But after then, it’s game on.
I will find an Advent calendar to send to my mother, because she always sends me one too. I will send her a little parcel for St. Nicholas, so that she has something to put in her shoes. I will make sure I buy my presents in advance so that I can either mail them myself or have them shipped in plenty of time. I plan on scheduling Christmas video calls where we open each other’s presents at the same time, so that you can see the reaction from the other person. I will write my grandmother a letter so that she doesn’t feel alone.
I’m trying to organise a video-call Christmas party with some friends, where we can wear our jumpers and catch up on gossip while munching on homemade cookies.
So, every day for about two months, when I’ll look at my tree and my awesome outdoor decorations, I’ll feel a little hope that things will get better. I’ll dream about future Christmases which hopefully will be spent together, rather than apart. And who better to bring it home than Judy Garland with her timeless rendition of this song, which I find particularly poignant this year.
Have yourself a merry little Christmas Let your heart be light Next year all our troubles will be Out of sight Have yourself a merry little Christmas Make the yule-tide gay Next year all our troubles will be Miles away Once again as in olden days Happy golden days of yore Faithful friends who are dear to us Will be near to us once more Someday soon, we all will be together If the Fates allow Until then, we'll have to muddle through somehow So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.