A Christmas without restrictions

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Not to rain on anyone’s Wham-ageddon parade, but ‘Last Christmas’ seems to have a different meaning for me this year. The government had agreed to lift restrictions and, even though I knew it wasn’t the most concrete of plans, I gave the thought of seeing my family my heart. The very next day, they gave it away. So, this year, I’d like to be saved from tears, and I think we’re all trying to make it that little bit more special. 

My family isn’t much for convention, but Christmas is one thing we keep sacred. Not for any religious sanctity, but because it’s a time where all the fragments of our family work in harmony. Sufficed to say I’ve had the tremendous fortune of never really looking back at a ‘Last Christmas’ with any sort of pain attached. 

The key to what made last year’s story such a tremendous train wreck is that my older sister, who was living at home at the time, is a doctor. She’d been stuck in A&E since the pandemic started, working in both the Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 wards. Having spent over ten months in the same area of the same hospital, she had been safe and healthy. I think you can see where this is going. 

Christmas felt like it had been cancelled

On 22nd December, she joked that she couldn’t smell the orange gin that we were drinking. If you’ve ever had flavoured gin, you’ll understand why this joke lost its humour very quickly. Dramatic music begins, a family nervously awaits and an LFT result comes back positive. Luckily, the rest of my family tested negative; it was isolation time for my sister, and a call to my grandmother to let her know she could no longer come over on Christmas eve. Then, for some reason, I went back to essay writing. 

I don’t know about you, but isolation wasn’t the only thing that made the holiday period difficult. Over lockdown, I had been particularly tough on myself academically. With all my extra-curriculars and social activities on hold, I threw myself into work. As a stressed finalist, every task seemed like the most important one in the world, and taking more than a day off for Christmas felt irresponsible. 

Christmas felt like it had been cancelled. Everything was already messed up, so I thought why care? I was wrong. If last Christmas taught me anything, it was to not take the holiday for granted. I let go of how much it means to me. Being from an immigrant family, and a child of divorce, tradition just isn’t something we have much of, except for at Christmas time. 

If last Christmas taught me anything, it was to not take the holiday for granted

Almost every year follows a similar plan. On Christmas Eve, my grandmother throws an extravagant party where, at midnight, my sisters and I open one gift (that was my favourite part as a kid). Christmas morning is spent at my mother’s house opening gifts and eating brunch – once upon a time, this was accompanied by hot cocoa, more often than not now, it’s leftover Champagne. My elder sister and I travel on Christmas day to spend the evening and Boxing Day with our father, and we alternate New Year’s celebrations. 

No matter how much things had changed, the feeling of that formula was present every Christmas. Whether it’s the copious amount of day drinking, the fact that my mother roasts ten times more chestnuts than we could ever eat or the fact that we often find ourselves eating nachos as we argue while decorating the tree – that’s what Christmas felt like every year of my life. Until last year. 

A Christmas without restrictions for me isn’t just about the number of people we can have in our house; it’s about regaining the sense of joy and childhood wonderment that I lost last year. To stop prioritising work when I should be celebrating, and to remember that we’re all playing make-believe on a space rock. If I want to play charades or eat three slices of yule log then that’s okay, because why the heck wouldn’t it be? 

If I want to play charades or eat three slices of yule log then that’s okay, because why the heck wouldn’t it be?

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know seeing the world – seeing Durham – have even half as much life as it once did has reminded me how much I love mine, and how much I let go over lockdown because it felt ‘non-essential’. I’m aware this is turning into an emotional, fluffy piece, but that’s what happens when you write about the holidays.

Whatever your plans are, whatever your experience was last year, and whatever you celebrate, I hope it’s merry and bright. Even when things seem tough, that’s what we deserve. 

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