A festive contemplation in COVID times
Who knew that Roy Wood’s seminal Christmas wish would come true in such a catastrophic and potentially biblical manner.
For many of us, the idea of every day being Christmas has turned from a whimsical thought to a surreal reality in many ways (that is of course unless you are Andy Park, or Mr Christmas as he is better known who has celebrated Christmas every day since July 1993.).
Bar the reindeer, tinsel, cards, stockings, endless Xmas movies (though there is a channel dedicated to feel-good Christmas movies up on BT right now), decorated trees, piles of gifts (mostly pointless) and endless opportunities for schmaltzy music and carols, almost every other aspect of the Christmas holiday is alive and kicking in our homes right now.
[Apart from the bit that says ‘stick with it, have another drink, for tomorrow you will be released back into the world and back to your busy busy lives and usual playmates’.]
Much like Christmas the house is full of a somewhat surprising and plentiful selection of food and drink (far too much of it in some households – you know who you are Panic Buying Hoarders).
But unlike Christmas, this seems to be less to do with tins of Celebrations, Quality Street, Ferrero Rocher, Mint Crisps, Bailey’s and a shed load of beer, wine and gin, and more to do with lentils, rice, tinned products, fruit squash and some really really dull cheese.
The absence of alcohol might be a no-no for some at Christmas. Not much dinging of your festive dong happening without it.
But in the lockdown, perhaps less rather than more booze is a good thing. Alcohol is the rocket fuel of domestic abuse and disquiet. It is one of the greatest sources of domestic melt down and familial collapse at Christmas time. So perhaps there’s one Christmas ritual we can bin in our COVID version of Christmas.
Much like Christmas, the lockdown brings an enforced intimacy that most of us just aren’t used to enduring bar high days and holidays.
Like Christmas, people we are closely related to but whom we usually pass like ships in the night have turned into those three ships that keep repeatedly sailing into our space – and for some it’s getting very tense and irritating.
The upside is that there are loads and loads of self help guides and tips online usually reserved for how to stay sane in the silly season of Christmas lockdown. We just need to remake them for a COVID world.
Another upside is that much the same as Christmas, we get to fall into a languor of lazy time consumption – burning hours with screen-age delicacies and feasts for the eyes and senses – filled to bloating with box sets, movies old and new, and favourite TV re-runs and comedy specials. Joyous. And given the tenure of this lockdown, we are going to need a LOT of box sets.
We have been smashed into the Immediate Now of a Christmas Day existence and it doesn’t look like ending anytime soon. And we’re having to navigate it without some of the big Christmas upsides.
Take ‘thronging’ – that noisy joy-filled thing that everyone does at Christmas.
Everyone’s at it – from your nearest and dearest rellies, like Auntie Jean and Nanna, making merry (three sheets to the wind on Sandeman’s sherry), all the way up to the heavenly choir all about us (who may or may not be singing a shite version of Last Christmas having got bored of endless Hosana-ing on high).
In the first few days the opportunity to throw in your festive lot with a crowd of people you may or may not know and having a hoot was in danger of heading south.
And then some smart throng-addicts in digital land suggested that all of that super whizz-bang technology usually reserved for ‘driving the business forwards/white-boarding/connecting/ideation/disruption and all of that other self-conscious Silicon-Valley guff might better serve 12 people with their own beer, wine, fags and any other format of roadside assistance they desire getting together and making a noise, doing quizzes and generally getting drunk and making an arse of themselves.
What’s more, unlike the Christmas version, after these Lockdown Parties there’s no likelihood of waking up in a different room to your underwear with someone whose name you can’t remember.
Zoom and house-party…come on down.
Christmas is also a time of fierce engineering and endeavour – when wondrous edifices appear everywhere as if by magic. Temples to Christmas Cheer. Christmas Markets and Winter Wonderlands just seem to pop up everywhere. Feats of engineering both small and large, temples and arenas of feel good.
The difference for us is that the wonder in COVID times comes from witnessing the pop-up hospitals of hundreds and thousands of beds being erected to care for the ill. Less ‘feel good’, more ‘get better’. But they are still a wonder. And a testament to human ingenuity and application in the face of something overwhelming.
And frankly, much like Christmas, let’s hear it for Goodwill on Earth to All however it may present itself.
Like Christmas, we may not like the enforced idea of needing to think of others in need at a time when we have both more than others and also the company and security of our families, love them or hate them, to go through the lock down with.
The elderly and the vulnerable need protecting and taking care of.
And regardless of what you might think and how you might be feeling, that is what is happening. Human kindness is the top trait being demonstrated by people right now is a redemption in itself.
Humanity 1. Cynicism 0.
So Roy, it may not be quite what you imagined, but the Christmas Everyday we are now experiencing – though patently a deathly time and full of much pain and sadness – is also an opportunity for humanity to redeem ourselves. And humans for the most part are acting in an exemplary manner – finding the diamonds in the rub of enforced intimacy, thinking of others and taking stock of themselves.
All we might hope is that, when all of this is over, and it will one day be over, the realisations that this enforced period of self inquiry have brought prove to be the one lifelong gift we give ourselves. Wrapped in recycled gift paper, and a reused silk bow and ribbon perhaps.
And perhaps, in much the same way Wizzard’s legendary Christmas No.1, rings out every year – every year hence, we’ll dig out that gift, celebrate the joy of it, and use it to remind ourselves of who we are and what we are at our best, and the true feeling of being alive together.