It’s the shortest day today, which always means there’s light after the darkness
THERE’S BEEN a lorra lorra gnashing and wailing in the UK this week, after the Government did yet another U-turn and cancelled Christmas.
Faced with a highly infectious new coronavirus strain in London and the south east of England, Prime Minister Boris Johnson banned Christmas travel to and from the capital – and restricted festive visiting nationwide to December 25.
While no-one is arguing much with the need for stricter measures, pretty much everybody thinks the timing of Johnson’s announcement stinks.
Just days earlier, he had said it would be “inhuman” to deny Brits a proper Christmas after nine months of worry, sacrifice and hardship.
Yet the announcement did precisely that, coming just as millions were putting presents under the tree for relatives who now won’t be able to open them – and buying Christmas treats that now can’t be shared with loved ones.
Even the Johnson-friendly Sunday Telegraph called the news “a blow to battle-weary Britain’s collective solar plexus.”
“After the most horrendous year, Christmas is all we had to look forward to,” columnist Judith Woods wrote on the paper’s front page.
“Not just the turkey and the trimmings, the mulled wine and mince pies, but the prospect of coming together after a year spent so painfully apart.
“An ultra-draconian lockdown imposed without warning, and at the 11th hour, feels genuinely shocking.”
Cancelled Christmas reduced my son to tears”
In our house, Johnson’s announcement means that my elderly father-in-law now can’t come to London for four days of rich food and good company – his much-anticipated reward for coping on his own all year.
And, at the other end of the age spectrum, news that none of the family would be coming also reduced my 17-year-old son to tears.
Already forced into precautionary self-isolation until Christmas Eve – and having calmly endured the virus stomping all over his A-Level chances and social life this year – Johnson’s announcement was the door-slamming, chin-wobbling, final straw.
But while the PM’s Scrooge act has caused widespread anguish, I personally won’t be crying too hard for Christmas 2020.
Having grown up in a tense family that got notably tenser over the festive period, I’ve long been a Christmas sceptic.
In some ways, BoJo has done me a solid, cancelling Christmas”
I like gifts, bright lights, time off work, and pigging out, but I’m not sure that our perfect modern Christmases are really worth all the stress: the long present lists, the delivery deadlines, (normally) teeming shops and wrapping marathons.
Then, if you’re hosting, there’s the slog of menu planning, grocery buying, sprout peeling, turkey basting and offering 24/7 hospitality at a time when we’re all supposed to be having a rest.
In some ways, BoJo has actually done me a solid, cancelling Christmas: now that so many people can’t come, looking after just the four of us will be a cinch.
And one thing that his announcement can’t do is turn the clock back: today is the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, when we celebrate the fact that our days will be lighter from now on, all the way until midsummer.
Lighter days always inspire hope – yet this spring will also bring the prospect of victory over coronavirus”
Speaking as someone who struggles with Seasonal Affective Disorder from October each year, the knowledge that the light is on its way back is an amazing gift in itself – even if the change is almost imperceptible for a month or so.
But, as well us making millions of us feel better, the coming of the light also has an important symbolic meaning, especially at the end of this notoriously dark year.
Lighter days always inspire hope, somehow – that’s why humans have celebrated the Winter Solstice since Neolithic times.
Yet this spring will also also bring vaccines along with the brightness, and the prospect of a decisive victory over coronavirus.
For me, that makes this year’s solstice more special than ever – and certainly something to raise a glass to, even if your Christmas has been knocked on the head.