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One thing I have noticed, peering at people’s lives on Instagram Stories, is that some of us are celebrating Christmas early this year. Nothing too major – a tree here, a dazzle of fairy lights there, a mince pie snuck into a mouth in the actual month of November – but you can feel it building: not an anticipation, exactly, and not the giddiness of Christmases past, but almost a festive sigh: well, there’s not much else to do, is there? Let’s just put up a tree. Normally I would find this behaviour so tacky it would verge on the morally reprehensible, but honestly, it’s 2020. Let people have their tinsel and listen to Wham!.
The way I see it, there are three main reasons for this: boredom (lockdown is boring), a fundamental, bone-deep craving for joy (this year has – whichever way you spin it – been a miserable one), and the bizarrely hysterical relationship this country has with the concept of Christmas. I am a Christmas apologist – I love Christmas, sorry! It slaps! But it is supposed to come in waves, and this time in any normal year we would be deep into the eye-rolling phase of the festivities: the turkey–stuffing sandwiches announced with a fanfare in the various meal deals, the first jingle of Christmas music over the supermarket sound system, the faux snow on the windows, the stacked tubs of Celebrations, an annoyingly cheerful e-invite to an office party being held, inexplicably, on a Tuesday evening. The first phase of Christmas is a groan, but then, slowly, joyously, you warm to it: you hum some Shakin’ Stevens; you eat a small round chocolate wrapped in foil to look like a sprout; you come to, half-cut, at someone else’s dinner table, wearing a pair of reindeer antlers you don’t remember seeing before. Whether you want it to or not, Christmas catches up with you in the end.
I think this goes some way to explaining the doomed logic behind Boris Johnson’s new rules, which essentially equate to: you can have Christmas, all right? Just as long as you all promise to be doubly miserable in January. The plans – to ease lockdown on 2 December and replace it with a beefed-up version of the three tiers, to (it is expected) allow three-household mingling over five days at Christmas, and to vaguely threaten another lockdown in January when infection rates inevitably rise – don’t make any logical sense if you look back at how the virus has treated previous attempts to contain it using bureaucracy. (Remember that week where we were all told to go back in the office, on the vague feeling that coronavirus would refuse to infect people if they were photocopying something or calamitously sending a reply-all email chain to the entire office? Remember that?) But it does make sense if you zoom out and think about Britain as a simmering whirlpool of hatred on the eternal precipice of a civil war. Giving us Christmas for a bit averts that crisis, if only for a week or so before Brexit.
I’ll elaborate, sure. I have long been fascinated by a type of British person I like to call “TV licence dads”, a niche of divorcees who take a particular raging umbrage at the idea of, and act of, paying for the TV licence, and so upload endless hours of grainy body-camera footage of them arguing with various inspectors who come to their door to ask whether they have a licence or not (I like to watch these videos as a sort of self-warning, when I feel myself on the edge of making a bad life decision. Choose badly, the videos threaten, and you will end up like this, raving in legalese you learned from a forum at someone with a van and a clipboard and a hundred better things to do.)
In lockdown, TV licence dads have gone mainstream – they have become vocal anti-maskers, taking wrong-angled selfies of their naked faces in supermarkets; they have joined Twitter just to tell Laurence Fox that his plan to start a political party to reclaim free speech is “a bloody good idea”; they have shared janky Facebook memes that are pre-emptively suspicious about the motives of any big pharma-produced vaccines. Ban us from having Christmas, and immediately half the country will unlock their latent TV licence dad energy, taking Christmas where the government forbids it, posting “come and get it!” photos with a contraband plate of stollen. The other half will paint themselves as the wounded and the holy – people who shield, and refuse to see their family but watch, raging, as those they deem to have inferior moral compasses enjoy Christmas with theirs. Such a scenario would inevitably end with a great big scrap between the Christmas Havers and the Christmas Martyrs in a Next car park during the Boxing Day sale and, come January, lockdown 3.0 becomes absolutely unenforceable to everyone involved. Give the people an inch, the new Christmas Day rules say, to prevent them from taking several festive miles.
This is, of course, all underpinned by the (completely spurious) notion that everything will go back to exactly normal the exact second any of the three promising vaccines becomes available and everyone gets immunised at once, and we all hug and laugh and tongue-kiss in the office and on the train again. Will that “normal” flick on like a switch again next year, and we’ll just forget this ever happened? I’m not so sure, and Christmas this year will be a fairly good barometer. On the Christmas Day you wanted so badly, surrounded by the family you may well be silently infecting, see if you can make it to 4pm without hiding in a bathroom for a half-hour just so you get left alone for a bit, without having an existential moment about whether you’ll still have a job in a few months, without thinking about how you’re going to spend your life in the private-rented sector, without realising that, the supposed anomaly of 2020 aside, your life is slipping through your hands at an increasingly rapid rate. How good was “normal” in the first place? Wrap some socks and practise your best “I didn’t know what to get you” face in anticipation. We’re really not that far from finding out.
Joel Golby is Joel Golby is a writer for the Guardian and Vice, and the author of Brilliant, Brilliant, Brilliant Brilliant Brilliant
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Why are we so desperate for a ‘normal’ awful Christmas? | Christmas