This is what Christmas during the pandemic could look like - with tighter restrictions on shopping, parties and pantos
With the countdown to Christmas now very much underway, many of us are starting to wonder how the nation’s favourite holiday will play out, given our current situation.
Like everything else this year, Christmas 2020 will likely look very different to what we’re used to.
With coronavirus infection rates increasing again and local lockdowns coming into force, a normal Christmas seems like a wish that even Santa won’t be able to grant. So what can we expect from the festive season?
At this stage one of only a few things we can say with certainty is that Christmas Day will fall on 25th December - beyond that almost everything else is up in the air.
The big day
If the rule of six is still in place by then, big Christmas Day family get-togethers won’t be on -- or around -- the table this year. In England those six people can be from multiple households, whereas in Scotland the current guidelines stipulate a maximum of six people from two different households.
Either way this could lead to some awkward decisions having to be made about extended family -- although at least there won’t be the usual chair shortages.
Providing you’ve managed to complete a socially-distanced supermarket shop, or placed your home delivery order in plenty of time, the makeup of our Christmas dinners probably won’t be affected by the pandemic.
Britain’s farmers will continue to work hard -- as they have done throughout the pandemic -- to make sure all of our festive favourites are available, from turkey to brussel sprouts. Unless we’re forced into a second lockdown which coincides with a no-deal Brexit, as in the scenario laid out in a leaked document seen by The Sun last month, food shortages are highly unlikely.
One crucial aspect of Christmas Day that will remain unchanged will be what’s on the television, with all the usual movies and TV favourites likely to make an appearance, plus of course the Queen’s Speech at 3pm.
Retailers will no doubt be deeply concerned about reduced footfall in and around the high streets, at what is typically the busiest time of year. But the public might be slightly relieved to not be fighting the crowds to get their Christmas shopping done this year.
But while the pandemic might have left many of us feeling the pinch, that Christmas shopping is still going to get done one way or another, and with an ever growing proportion of us looking to fulfil orders online, the demand for home-deliveries is expected to be sky-high.
A number of delivery firms have already begun mass recruitment drives in anticipation of the festive season, and some online retailers are encouraging shoppers to start their Christmas shopping already in order to avoid missing out: department store John Lewis launched their online Christmas shop in late August, because it’s never too soon, apparently.
Going out to pubs and restaurants
Depending on how you feel about your colleagues, you might be thankful that the government’s current rule of six restrictions will rule out basically all but the most intimate of work Christmas parties this year. While there are venues which will be able to host more than six people in total, groups of more than six will not be able to attend.
Sadly the same rules will apply to all the typical festive get-togethers, meaning ‘Mad Friday’, Christmas Eve, Boxing Day and New Years Eve -- typically some of the busiest party nights of the year -- are going to be much more subdued than usual this festive season.
Those Christmas trips to the pub or restaurants to meet up with old friends and family won’t be the same.
But Britain’s hospitality industry has been adapting to the guidelines and restrictions throughout the pandemic, and despite the limitations they will still be serving one way or another throughout the festive period, offering what the chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association described to the BBC as “the unique and warm atmosphere that only a pub can offer”.
Christmas markets and panto season
While current guidelines do allow for indoor and outdoor performances to go ahead where strict criteria are met in England, theatres in the rest of the UK have not yet reopened.
In terms of Panto though - a Christmastime staple for many families - the chances of crowds of people shouting “he’s behind you!” in any great numbers this year are pretty slim, not least because difficulties in the wider industry have forced a number of pantomime companies to start cancelling shows already.
There’s a similarly bleak outlook for many other major events on the festive calendar, with Edinburgh’s world-famous Hogmanay Street party cancelled this year. At the time of writing the city is still set to host its Christmas market though, unlike many cities across the UK, such as Birmingham and Leeds, where the events have already been cancelled.
A version of this article originally appeared on our sister title, The Scotsman