So it’s not just us. Even Prince William and Kate are struggling to decide what to do for Christmas now that the Queen has cancelled the family gathering at Sandringham. “We are still trying to make plans,” William told students in Cardiff. “It’s difficult to know what to do for the best.” Nothing confirmed, everything up in the air – yes, we know.

This Christmas was always going to be different. We were prepared for that, but what we weren’t anticipating is how hard it would be to decide anything, or how often the plans would change. We thought we’d be relieved just to be able to get together, but then should all of us or would it be better if we stayed away with the kids? And if we do all meet up, where exactly, for how long and is it well ventilated? Those are just the basics we have to agree on and from there the problems just keep piling up.

These are the main ones (in the unlikely event that you’re not already aware of them):

Agreeing on what precautions to take

This requires a lot of talking through, consulting the most vulnerable members of your party, the hosts, the drivers, and then triple checking with the young adults in case they haven’t quite grasped the meaning of “isolating from the 20th” (admittedly a random date). After all that, just when you think you have a cast iron plan, someone will Whatsapp to say “I think I’ll get a lift with someone from work” and you have to go back to the Chris Whitty rules and start all over again. So far the options are:

  • Social distanced lunch in the conservatory with the doors wide open 
  • Nonagenarians only in the TV room with trays and the door open
  • Everyone one chair away from each other (twentysomethings down one end just in case)
  • Plus a Covid test and wearing masks in the car

Still a long way to go.

The case for scaling back Christmas or having the biggest one ever

Shall we just not do presents? That’s one argument. Given the current economic crisis shouldn’t we rein in big time?Ccut back on the fancy booze and goodies, forget about the tree? In the other corner are the Christmasphiles who want two trees, organised carols and all stops out. After the year we’ve had surely – they say – we’re going to stuff a peacock, dress up as Boney M, hire a dried ice machine and put fairy lights in all the trees? Those are the arguments, still ongoing. The fin de siècle blow out or the mindful downsized Christmas plus a donation to charity? No-one can agree on which way to go.

Being obliged to make the Christmas pudding and cake

See above, argument B. This year must be extra special and choc full of effort and home made things. This is also the fault of all that time spent cooking during Lockdown: now we fancy ourselves to be a lot more bakey than we were nine months ago and, even if we don’t, baking and generally doing-from-scratch is the new expectation. This is the Christmas when we will be made to feel guilty for not making our own pastry. Don’t even think about buying the mince pies. Do not go near the ready made Waitrose gravy.

Let’s ring the changes with a goose

Every other year this happens – the breakaway vote for trying something new – and this year the arguments for change are louder. It’s all going to be weird so why not have a film of grease over everything too? Let’s support the turkey farmers and do both! Everyone having an opinion, on top of the usual irritating suggestions about adding chestnuts to the sprouts, is particularly stressful for the already stressed cook who is now having to decorate a homemade stollen.

Fasten your seat belts – it’s going to be a bumpy one.

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