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Thermals will be essential, there has been talk of ski clothes, and one family member has sourced “a sort of outdoor sleeping bag-blanket thing” that will doubtless prove invaluable. When Pauline Ackroyd and her family get together on Christmas day, they do not intend to let the Leeds December weather interrupt a family meal that they have been tentatively planning for months.
Ackroyd’s husband Ian had a bone marrow transplant in August, and while one adult daughter moved back home during the last lockdown, the couple have only seen their other two children and adored seven-year-old granddaughter outdoors since spring. “So Christmas was really quite important.”
Above all, they are determined not to take any risks, and will still cancel if need be. On reflection, however, “We’re going for it. We’re going to put the gazebo up, light the chiminea, put loads of lights up, and we’re just going to get wrapped up and eat Christmas dinner in the garden.”
With strict lockdown restrictions now enveloping much of the UK, and politicians and doctors issuing doomy warnings not to exercise even the limited freedoms that have been allowed over Christmas, many families across Britain have been having similar tough conversations about how – or whether – they should get together on 25 December.
Many will be crossing their fingers and carrying on with family plans as usual, with an eye to what is permitted in their area. For others, however, this year’s festive celebrations will be smaller and simpler, and potentially require some ingenuity.
Fergus Smith, a professional genealogist from Edinburgh, has also had a very challenging year, having been shielding since March to protect his elderly mother Maureen, who lives with him. In order to see his 14-year-old daughter Maja, who lives with her mother several miles away, Smith took up cycling during lockdown.
“In the process, I noticed on the cycle paths there were lots of berries – so I started foraging.” He collected blackberries, rowanberries, hawthorn and elderberries, and, at his mother’s suggestion, went on long odysseys around the city hunting for sloes. Early autumn was spent making preserves, ice creams and sloe gin.
“I’ve been advised that it’s best to leave it for longer, but, hell! Given the year we’ve all had, we’re gonna crack open a bottle on Christmas Day.” After a cycle ride to see his daughter, he plans to toast the season over the garden wall with neighbours who have been especially kind over lockdown.
For the Macdonald family, originally from Aberdeen, family get-togethers have required a bit of creative thinking for some time. Kate Macdonald’s elderly parents are still based in Scotland, but her brother and his family are in New York, her sister in western Australia, while she and her husband live in Bath with one of their two adult daughters.
Childhood Christmases always centred around board games, a family obsession that has continued. Macdonald, a publisher, met her husband through board gaming, and they play weekly with her brother and his partner on an online platform – Alhambra and Concordia are particular favourites. On Christmas Day, they intend to get everyone involved.
“About three months ago, my mum asked me what this Zoom was and how it worked,” she says. “It came out that her branch of the Embroiderers’ Guild was doing a Zoom meeting for the first time and she really wanted to be in it.”
Having got her mum up to speed, she plans to repeat the tutorial for her dad ahead of Christmas Day. “So my sister will be on Zoom at 9pm her time, and my brother will be on it at 9am his time, which means my mum and my dad and me will be on Zoom at two o’clock UK time.” Family traditions aside, she suspects there will be less gaming than usual.
“We could try a small quiz. But I suspect it will end up being just chatting. Once we start talking, we just keep going.”
In Milton Keynes, Matthew Alden-Farrow is facing his first Christmas apart from his parents, sister and grandmother, and will spend the day instead at home with his partner.
The family had planned all to get together as normal, working out carefully that they were permitted, under the three-households rule. But as ministers this week urged families to scale back, they decided together to rethink their plans.
“Mum, bless her, has already ordered all the stuff for Christmas dinner and that’s being delivered shortly,” says Alden-Farrow, who works for a railway company. “So she is going to cook the turkey, and then leave a parcel of the cooked turkey and some other bits and bobs on the doorstep. And then separately, my sister and I will go around to the house, collect our parcels, come back, and then over Zoom, we’re going to have dinner together.
“It’s not going to be the same, of course it won’t. But we all felt it was important, if we couldn’t be together because it wasn’t safe to be together, we could get a bit creative with it.”
He is responsible for his own roast potatoes and vegetables – parsnips, carrots and cabbage are on the menu so far. “It’s going to be interesting cooking my first Christmas dinner, even if it’s not the turkey and all the trimmings. I’m quite looking forward to being the person in charge in the kitchen for a change.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: ‘We’re going for it’: creative ways to celebrate Christmas during Covid | Coronavirus