As he announced the unpopular second lockdown in England, Prime Minister, Boris Johnson said that it was “his ambition for people to be with their families for Christmas” and he had “every confidence” that the lockdown would mean the UK could have as “normal a Christmas as possible. “

Then the gloomsters and doomsters on SAGE waded in with their dire warnings – there was no point having a merry Christmas and then burying friends and relations in January and February as a consequence. “My personal view is we’re putting far too much emphasis on having a near-normal Christmas,” claimed Professor Hayward, one of the SAGE gloomsters.

Never mind the ‘cleansed’ lyrics to Fairytale of New York, interesting opportunities to re-write our traditional Christmas hits beckon – “I’m dreaming of a normal Christmas, with every Christmas card I write”; “It won’t be normal this Christmas, without you to hold” ……

So what is ‘normal’ And is it worth it? The pandemic has cancelled or diminished so many of our annual seasonal celebrations this year, starting with Easter and working through Eid, Rosh Hashanah and Diwali, not to mention all those summer fairs and music concerts. And it won’t be ‘normal’, not by a long way; There’ll be no cheerfully crowded Christmas Markets, here or in many European countries, with most cancelled or gone ‘virtual’. Office Christmas parties and discos? The school Nativity play? Father Christmas will still be ho, ho hoing in some shopping centres, when they re-open – from behind a screen. The annual pantomime is a vital income generator for many theatres; the panto dames staged a colourful protest in London’s theatreland earlier this autumn, to no avail. If there’s a ‘drive in’ panto near you do book your place – our theatres have had a terrible year thanks to the dreaded virus, they deserve all the support we can give them.

Normal is as normal does – your normal may be safer than mine and mine safer than the next person’s. If you haven’t got the message by now, the virus spreads, as most do, from close contact and – you might be forgiven for not appreciating this, as our ‘learned advisers’, from the WHO to those gloomy Government scientists, have been slow to inform us, there is airborne transmission. Just like that other Christmas lurgi – winter vomiting disease or norovirus. This means that if a ‘normal’ Christmas is with your young nuclear family, starts with hanging up the stockings on Christmas Eve, followed by a family meal, maybe joined by grandparents on Christmas Day, then you are unlikely risk catching or spreading Covid-19. Even larger family gatherings are not necessarily the superspreading events feared by the SAGE pearl clutchers. It all depends on the participants’ previous activities, it’s a question of risk assessment really. Just avoid that other time old Christmas tradition of at least one family member turning up with a stinking cold and soldiering through on liberal doses of cold remedy and hot toddy. That’s one risk too far now.

What if, like me, you normally spend Christmas Eve – and New Year’s Eve – in a crowded pub with much hugging and merriment at the witching hour? Close contact? stuffy indoor venue? well that ticks all the wrong boxes doesn’t it? Even Government advice – belatedly- is to open windows and let air circulate at home when you have visitors. The partying and pub crawls are the ‘normal’ of those unencumbered by family responsibilities; mostly the younger family members and not a few oldies, whose children have grown up. Is it so much to ask that this year, hopefully just for this once, you give this kind of ‘normal’ a miss?

How long does what seems like family tradition last, before children grow up and move away, the heart and soul of your family Christmas dies – or divorces your relative and remarries? In 2013 my soldier son was in Afghanistan. It wasn’t a normal Christmas for him in Camp Bastion but I’m sure it was merry. It wasn’t normal for us either, our daughter invited us all to Edinburgh, producing a perfect Christmas dinner in the galley kitchen of her rented flat. “Come early to enjoy the Christmas Market”, she urged. We caught, in torrential rain, what turned out to be the last plane out of Gatwick North. The flooding had already stopped the trains out of Kings Cross. Back home plenty of others didn’t have a ‘normal’ Christmas either – they weren’t as lucky as us, their homes were flooded.

So embrace different instead of ‘normal’ this year; you might even enjoy it more. And the mistletoe? “On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me – a dose of Covid-19”. “ Sealed with a kiss.”

Support the farmers selling mistletoe, hang a huge bunch above the lintel, like they do in Cracow but save your kisses for after the pandemic.

Helena Windsor

Microbiologist and UKIP Health Spokesman

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