Colette Sheridan: Christmas isn't cancelled but it could be mighty glum this year

Christmas won't be cancelled... but it will be tricky with Covid-19, so says Colette Sheridan
Colette Sheridan: Christmas isn't cancelled but it could be mighty glum this year

A VERY DIFFERENT CHRISTMAS: Will we even be bothered Christmas shopping? asks Colette Sheridan. Picture: Eddie O’Hare

AS we try to negotiate life in a Covid-afflicted world, it’s a matter of curiosity (and concern) as to how Christmas is going to work out this year.

Talk about being a party-pooper. Covid-19 doesn’t care that we kind of like to let our hair down in December, go partying, drink too much and generally behave in a highly sociable way; with family, friends — and let’s not forget old acquaintances.

It’s supposed to be the season of goodwill when we leave our worries behind us and embrace the festivities. And while the National Public Health Emergency Team NPHET has said that Christmas (and Halloween) is not cancelled, it’s going to be a tricky one, seeing as grandparents won’t even be allowed embrace their grandkids at this supposedly special time. A time for children and grown-ups who revert to their former giddy selves.

I’m really not looking forward to our Taoiseach and health minister advising us on how to conduct ourselves this Christmas. Can you imagine Micheál or Stephen telling folk how many glasses of wine are allowed so as to prevent people losing all their inhibitions and breaking Covid rules like kissing someone spontaneously?

The 12 pubs of Christmas booze-up has been shunned by all right-thinking people. But that hasn’t stopped hardy revellers from giving the awful tradition of recent years a good lash. It simply won’t be possible this year.

First of all, there’s no guarantee that the pubs will even be open, and secondly, seeing as how nearly every little bit of social interaction involving a snifter or two has to be planned in advance, falling in and out of a string of pubs ain’t going to happen.

That’s no bad thing but don’t you resent the constant diktats about how we should behave?

There’s a necessary (but painful) nanny state advising us on our every move. It’s for our own good. But for many, particularly the young, it’s about as appetising as a spoonful of cod liver oil.

For our young people, Covid feels like a kick in the teeth. After all, being young is all about intense socialising and making new friends and forming romantic relationships and having flings. No wonder the young ones feel short-changed.

Before they know it, they’ll be worrying about mortgages without the mad stuff in between being a fun-seeking student and an upright member of society.

We’re advised to segregate our friends. Yes, choose the ones that are most important to you, according to a man in authority.

Professor Pete Lunn, head of the ESRI’s Behavioural Research Unit, has said: “There’s evidence to suggest that if we have to restrict our social circles, focusing on our highest quality relationships rather than quantity of relationships is good for wellbeing.”

That sounds like the equivalent of leaving people off the Christmas card list. It seems a bit mean. But Covid is a spiteful presence in our lives.

Will we even be bothered going Christmas shopping?

Brown Thomas was ‘late’ in launching its Christmas shops this year — September 17 as opposed to last year’s August launch. But the luxury store is banking on end-of-year spending on everything from a decorative bauble for a tenner to €550 for a Christmas tree.

Christmas shopping in a small city like Cork is traditionally a sociable affair. You inevitably run into people you haven’t seen for ages and decide to go for a quick drink with them. But that kind of carry-on probably won’t be possible this year. That’s because you either have to book a table and order a €9 nosebag in a pub that does food, or chance your arm in a so-called wet pub which may have exceeded its paltry limit for weary shoppers in need of a drink.

The first time round, Covid-19, while tragic for those who lost people to the virus, had a certain novelty about it. We got into baking, we exercised more (if only to escape the pressure cooker feeling of being cooped up with family).

We had more time to read, to listen to podcasts and to declutter. Some of us discovered that we quite liked being semi-reclusive.

Others had the dubious pleasure of home schooling their children. That parents did this while also working at their own jobs was nigh on miraculous. Between Zoom meetings and wine o’clock, an awful lot got done.

The streets were quiet during lockdown. Some found this eerie, others loved it. And then, when lockdown lifted, we appreciated things that we used to take for granted, like going to the hairdresser.

But this time round, Covid-19, with its alarming rise in cases, is an absolute drag. It’s a reason to be constantly alert as well as neurotically hygienic. Christmas won’t be the same. But let’s try to crush the virus for all our sakes.

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