A Different Christmas

It was dawn on Christmas day. The puddles had turned to ice, the muddy swamps were frozen solid, and the grass was covered in a pretty layer of white frost. But instead of being tucked up in a warm bed, we were wrapped in extra layers, sitting atop our local hillfort, waiting for the sun to make its grand entrance on the biggest day of the year. And it was a view worth waiting for. πŸ™‚ As the golden ball peeped above the horizon, the sky was awash with reds and yellows and oranges. Bright and warm and welcoming. And then, amazingly, as we cheered and toasted Christmas 2020 with hot mulled wine, a small herd of deer suddenly galloping across our field! πŸ™‚ It was a magical start to the day. And very different to how we normally celebrate December 25th. Which was exactly what we needed. πŸ™‚

I love Christmas. πŸ™‚ For the past forty years, aside from our year travelling, every festive period has been spent surrounded by family or friends. People we love. Playing games, eating great feasts, watching children opening stockings. Getting drunk, debating over Christmas dinner, enjoying family films. Building toys, playing the piano, eating mountains of chocolate. Christmas jumpers, family arguments, and lots of laughing! With my wonderful family spread around the country, it is the one time of the year when we get to be together. All of us under one roof. And I love it. Absolutely love it.

But when it became evident -back in September- that coronavirus case numbers were rising again; Phil and I sadly accepted that we couldn’t celebrate this Xmas in the normal way. With our nearest and dearest living and working and attending school in society, and being ‘Clinically Extremely Vulnerable’ to the virus due to my Pulmonary Hypertension; it just wasn’t safe to meet. The risk wasn’t worth it. We would need to celebrate alone. And therefore, we would need to do it differently. Replicating our normal celebrations -but for two- would feel wrong. We’d inevitably compare it to previous years. Like a blinking reminder of what we were missing. We needed a ‘different’ Christmas to mark the end of a different year.

So being a planner, I planned. I picked new dishes to cook, organised times to virtually see friends and family, and bought games and puzzles and activities to keep us busy. I picked Christmas sewing projects, found recipes for normally-bought festive favourites, and bought tickets for a virtual theatre performance. We even agreed a new timetable for the 25th! πŸ˜‰

But then, sixteen days before the big day, we welcomed a wonderful -but energetic and needy- little pup into our home. Very quickly we realised that our new Christmas plans would not work with Kepler around! He needed a strict routine to help him settle, which dictated our daily timetable. He would only sleep during the day, if another person was silently in the room with him. He needed constant supervision and attention, so there was no free time for anything fun. And Lottie and him were still sussing each other out, so were being kept apart- meaning Phil and I were forced to be in different rooms too! December passed in a kind of blur, and all thoughts of Christmas were shoved aside. We were just trying to survive each day with this new bundle of energy and mayhem, so couldn’t think ahead to tomorrow, let alone the festive break. We even forgot to open our advent calendars!

But then just before the big day, we had our first breakthroughs. Kepler would now sleep even if we were making a slight noise (as long as we weren’t moving around! πŸ˜› ); so we could do something quietly together. And he and Lottie started making friends; so we could all hang out in the same room. Suddenly the future looked a little calmer and brighter. Suddenly life with Kepler seemed more plausible and manageable. Maybe we could find a way to celebrate Christmas after all.

And we certainly did. It turned out to be a wonderful Christmas break. One of the best. There were frosty family dog walks, Christmas jigsaws and puzzles, festive films snuggled together at night. There were virtual catch-ups with family, ‘Articulate’ games played over Zoom, and whisky tasting with friends. I sewed Christmas crackers, we baked homemade stollen, and we decorated the cake with marzipan dogs! We ate beef wellington and mulled wine and homemade stollen… and oh so much cheese! We were even able to watch ‘A Christmas Carol’ live online after all! And it was wonderful watching Kepler ripping open his presents! For five days we lived in a little bubble of happiness and gratitude and love. Slowly getting to know each other, bonding as a new family, enjoying being together. Calm and cosy and content. Of course, there were many things we missed, many people we missed, many family activities we missed. But celebrating apart was the right thing to do. “We distance ourselves now, so when we meet again, no-one is missing”. There will be many more family Christmases.

And amazingly, wonderfully, thankfully, as I wasn’t using up extra energy coins being with others, and being amongst the excess stimuli and activity; for the first time ever, I was not ill over Christmas. I didn’t need to spend large parts of it in bed, or miss whole days recovering. Instead I felt well and healthy and happy throughout it all. Silver linings.

The coronavirus forced us to celebrate Christmas in a new way. A totally different, but totally us way. Quieter, calmer, and with a lot of time outside. And it turned out we loved it like that. It was one of our happiest and least stressful festive periods! Maybe in the future, we’ll celebrate in a similar way again. But not next year… next year I want to play Articulate face-to-face with my family! And argue and laugh and cuddle! πŸ˜€

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