Christmas: how was it for you?

25th December, after tea, has a certain ambiance…

Was it ‘cancelled?’ 

Last year–2019 –it seemed like the world or at least larger part of it than before had begun to take the problem of climate change more seriously.

But, maybe not?  Maybe the publicity given to Greta Thunberg was mere publicity? Journalistic hype based around the appeal of a story? Helped along, even, by a PR company?  The story of a neurodivergent teenager and her solo mission to bring her message to the eyes and ears of the wider world: has great appeal. Whether that is the sad truth, a lot of people believed in her message. It chimed with a growing awareness by younger people that all is not perfect in this world of natural disasters, war, and terrorism.

And another sign of the times, Extinction Rebellion, disrupted town centres with lively demonstrations. They dressed up in scary costumes. They glued themselves to things. They were like a 21st century version of the Suffragettes. Several retired ladies from my art class travelled to London to take part, hoping that they might get arrested for the cause. 

We even wondered if the uncertain future of our planet could be moving up the agenda of world leaders?

But significantly and sadly, (and remember, we’re thinking about whether Christmas was cancelled), scientists in relevant areas had already warned about a worldwide pestilence – indeed pandemics, not one but many. These would become very likely unless the world’s lifestyle changed. Back in January this year I noticed a very small article to one side of the BBC News website: a new virus had emerged in China. Immediately my mind presented me a memory: those warnings. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised that world leaders and politicians had chosen to ignore the warnings rather than prepare for such a worldwide natural disaster? Even as crazy Australian wildfires, beginning in June 2019, were still raging – and continued until May 2020 – demonstrating again that something isn’t quite right on the planet?

At least one politician even tried, as the virus struck our island nation (we hadn’t been ready, so we hadn’t made sure to close borders) tried to suggest that the plague would be gone “by Christmas”. Possibly he was experimenting with the idea that if you say something won’t interfere with something else, it won’t?  After all, nobody wants their traditional Christmas cancelled…  

But can Christmas be cancelled? Applying logic, family visits, roast turkey, Christmas Specials, Christmas trees, carols (from King’s /the school/the parish church), jumpers, puddings, Christingles, cribs, cards, and presents – these can be cancelled. We’d miss them – or many of them – at least one or two of them… We might be glad to miss the jumpers, or the puddings or the Specials. We wouldn’t miss spending an evening writing the cards. We might or mightn’t miss seeing family members (some seem less see-able than others…)  We’d miss the dream. We need it. We play it over in our minds. It’s perfect. It’s reassuring. It breaks up the dark, cold, winter. We’d even miss stress, frantic shopping, checking everything’s perfect, and the let-down when it’s not… Christmas, the annual family get-together,  has become a must-have.

As expected pleasures were potentially ‘snatched away’, not doing things exactly as usual threw many of us into disappointment and confusion. The idea that it mightn’t, this year, be wise to do all the traditional things, including crowded travelling from one place to another, getting squashed together at the todders’ Crib Service, and all that shopping, wasn’t just anathema, it was devastation.

So, if family meet-up can’t happen as usual, is our investment only in acting out the traditions?  What necessity have we bought into?  We’ve learned to expect predictability, but for many species life is fragile and unpredictable, and for many people survival is fragile and unpredictable. Evolution suggests a solution: adaptation to surrounding circumstances. Survival, the emotional survival of Christmas as we know it, may mean giving up ‘as we know it’, and defying ‘cancelled’ by embracing our own creative solutions… This can prove tremendously positive, once accepted, since untied from the traditional must-haves we’re free to do something with December 25th which suits us far better. 

What suits you? Given the weather, your circumstances, your tastes, chose something relaxing and restorative to do, to eat, to achieve… ‘Christmas’ is based on celebrating the birth of Christ, ‘the light (that) shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.’  That is, the darkness of the present time. Neither will it be altered by not being celebrated in the traditional way, on the traditional day. Christmas itself can’t be ‘cancelled’ any more than our birth-days can be (even though 25/12 isn’t a known date, only a church tradition)!

We could say the devastation this year wasn’t about losing Christmas: it was fear about losing the traditions of celebrating on 25/12. Maybe we need to loosen their hold on us? We don’t need to abandon them: the fun and the family stuff – just to know that whenever and wherever, we can gather and celebrate, the day and the specific traditions are moveable or adaptable when necessary.

Maybe we need to make sure we don’t allow another pandemic to overtake us? Maybe we need to make more effort  not to lose the planet? Because that would cancel everything…

Just a thought.

Traditional Crib

For a little Christmas story, go to the Hodge (Mari Howard) website, where you can read about Alice’s first carol service at

To read more about Alice and her family, try the books: Baby, Baby and The Labyrinth Year – find them at

8 thoughts on “Christmas: how was it for you?

  1. Debbie Young December 28, 2020 / 3:16 pm

    Very interesting and thoughtful piece, Clare. Although missing the things we traditionally do at Christmas, we found the enforced isolation actually enhanced one of the less obvious pleasures of Christmastime – the opportunity for reflection on the year nearing its end, introspection about one’s own life and purpose and goals, and looking ahead to the fresh beginnings brought by a new year. After months of feeling stressed out (and being diagnosed over the phone by the dentist as grinding my teeth as an outlet for stress), I’m feeling calmer than I have done since the pandemic emerged – and my nagging toothache has completely disappeared. (Just hoping I’m not jinxing it by saying that here!) So this Christmas has been special in unexpected ways, but I’m hoping we’ll be able to embrace all the usual chaotic joy and joyful chaos of a traditional Christmas this time next year!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Griselda Heppel December 28, 2020 / 4:25 pm

    Interesting analysis of what matters most about Christmas. I actually think that if Boris had had the courage to ban Christmas celebrations altogether, it wouldn’t have ruined people’s lives. When you know that everyone’s in the same boat, no one having parties and family get-togethers, it doesn’t feel so bad. It might even cheer up those on their own who find all the traditional Christmas frenzy deeply depressing!

    Do you know, I have for the past few years thought how much better and more exciting it would be if Christmas came round every 2 years. Gulp. The ultimate Be Careful What You Wish For.

    Liked by 1 person

    • MariHoward December 28, 2020 / 5:03 pm

      Yes! Can understand your feelings about a bi-annual event… and have read on FB several ‘friends’ who have, like us, enjoyed Christmas despite not seeing family… (think of this – people have complained about isolating or lockdown shared with family – but isn’t Christmas just that? Esp. if it rains?…!


  3. Pam Lazos December 29, 2020 / 6:01 pm

    Christmas was great, Mari, slow, relaxing, just the immediate family with zoom calls to those we couldn’t see in person. We’re soon out of the woods. A new day is dawning.

    Liked by 1 person

    • MariHoward December 29, 2020 / 8:06 pm

      Here (UK) there’s just one mess after another – wondering if we’ll ever be out of it – and of course there’s “Brexit” which they’d far rather be dealing with – and which is horrible as well! Happy New Year, anyway, and thanks for reading my blog!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Pam Lazos December 30, 2020 / 12:05 pm

        I have wondered why they just don’t vote again since no on seems to want brexit 🙄but what do I know, Mari?😂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. MariHoward December 30, 2020 / 5:30 pm

    I fear that they do not wish us to vote again – because they don’t want to know the answer…that’s what makes it even more awful… we’ll be an isolated little country rather than part of the nearby community – which is where we should belong.


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