On my return a couple of days ago I expected to come back to no food on the shelves, no petrol at the pumps and certainly no possibility of having a good Christmas.
Fat chance. Christmas will be more than good this year. It will be fantastic, whether we eat beans on toast or decorate a twig. In fact, I predict for most of us it could possibly be the best Christmas many of us have had in a long time. Unless we have forgotten last year already? It seems many have.
Well here is a reminder in case you are in panic mode. Plans for family get-togethers were cancelled at the last minute (or we were given just one day at the most). By Boxing Day we were not allowed to travel in and out of much of the country. There was no meeting with friends in the pub or in our homes. No Christmas carol services, in fact no singing at all anywhere. Matt Hancock (remember him?) announced Christmas “will be very different to the Christmas we yearn for”. And it was. It was downright miserable for many.
Oh, and while we are moaning, they are only just emerging this week from lockdown number four in Sydney with international travel still out of the question.
Elsewhere across the globe our newest granddaughter had been born earlier in December in New York and there was absolutely no possibility of being able to see her. There were deserted shops. Santa Claus took a year off from his grottos and we might have had petrol but there was nowhere to go. Care homes were out of bounds for most visitors. Funerals, and there had been many, were still only for a handful of people. Hospital visiting was out of the question. And more importantly there was no hope and no end in sight. The vaccine roll out hadn’t begun. In fact there wasn’t even a vaccine.
So can we all just get a grip and count our blessings, instead of fretting about turkeys. If last year has taught us anything it is that there is more to Christmas than the trimmings. And that includes the blessed pigs in blankets.
As one toy store boss suggested, we should be planning early as millions of toys are stuck in China unable to be delivered. I say good. There is too much tat bought at Christmas anyway and certainly too much plastic heading our way from that particular neck of the woods. So can we just stop panicking and remember there is more to Christmas.
So here is my easy fix for the festive season 2021. If you can’t get a turkey, get a chicken. If you can’t get a chicken then get some salmon. If you can’t get pigs in blankets, make some sausage meat stuffing, or just open a packet of Paxo as our mums used to. If vegetables are in short supply stick to those you can get. And if you can’t get a Christmas pudding, make a trifle. We won’t starve.
If you are worried about presents then check out local craftspeople and buy less, buy local and buy quality. And if we can’t import enough Christmas trees, take a trip to a local forestry commission and get one grown here, preferably with roots for next year. If that’s not an option then do what I am doing and go foraging with the family to make garlands and door wreaths with what is out there for free.
Let your little ones be in charge of the decorations and stop worrying about this year’s perfect on trend colour scheme. Just dig out last year’s and decorate them with gay abandon. They will love it and so will you.
In other words, going back to the Christmases of old, when calling in on your neighbour with a card and a box of chocolates was a gesture not counted in how much it cost but by how much you cared. Sit round the table and be happy to be back together.
Remember those who are no longer here because of this horrific pandemic. Think of others less fortunate than ourselves of which there are many. Watch The Sound of Music on the telly and enjoy the joy of being together. Because that is what Christmas is about. We have moaned for decades about it becoming too commercial. Now is the time to do something about it and get back to its real meaning.
I totally feel for the farmers who are worried about rotting veg in the fields and livestock who may have to be culled. And when that issue is resolved, as it will be, we can support them by buying local and buying seasonal. But shortages in the labour market are not all down to Brexit. It is the same in America and in Portugal where I have just been. And if we didn’t waste so much, or even buy so much, the world would be a better place. And so would the environment.
So let us take this time in the run up to Christmas to take stock. And when I say stock I don’t mean what is available on the supermarket shelves. I certainly don’t mean shoving a turkey in the freezer or panic buying more plastic toys to be discarded within a few days, just in case the latest fad isn’t available come the big day.
None of us have come through the pandemic unscathed. And we promised ourselves when things got back to normal we would never forget the most important lesson of all, that things are just things and a kind word, a hug, and good family and friends are the greatest gift of all, whatever day it is.