Zoom Christmas? It'll be different but we've had a lot worse – Stephen Jardine

What is the true meaning of Christmas? We are about to find out.

Santa Claus may have to wear a face mask and stay socially distanced but we can still celebrate Christmas (Picture: Bob Edme/AP)

Robbed of all the usual frantic activity, this year we have a stripped back version of the greatest celebration of all. Christmas 2020 is unplugged.

It won’t be what it usually is but is that really such a bad thing? A century ago, the writer Hilaire Belloc bemoaned the fact that Christmas was changing and losing its innocence and since then the gaudy commercialism has only increased exponentially.

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Every year the tree has to be bigger. The gifts have to be more expensive. The credit card bill fallout has to last longer.

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Stepping off that merry-go-round in the face of mass marketing is difficult but this year the decision has been made for us. I suspect a fair few people are breathing a sigh of relief about that. Instead of being dragged to parties and facing an endless drive to visit the in-laws, this year they get to say sorry, we need to save the NHS.

Of course not everyone gets it. My annual award for worst press release of the year goes to Subway who left it late but this week snatched victory with ‘research’ claiming “Subway has identified the most hungover day of the year, dubbed Shattered Saturday”.

It says the chain is today “preparing stores across the country for a spike in orders” claiming we were all on drunken video calls with colleagues last night. Except we weren’t and to somehow try and identify yourself as the home of the hangover in 2020 just looks downright crass.

Instead the real focus is on home. Grocery retail hit record levels in November as people started Christmas food shopping early. Turkey sales are up 36 per cent reflecting the fact that family gatherings will be reduced this year requiring more but smaller birds.

Looking at the damp squib that is Christmas 2020, you might think there is not much to celebrate… but you’d be wrong. We need this festive season more than any other.

It has been a hellish year. Over 4,000 Scots have died from Covid-19 – my father-in-law was one of them. Our world-famous hospitality sector has been dragged down to its knees. Many businesses simply won’t survive the damage done.

But for those of us still standing, we deserve and need this chance to celebrate the gift of life. This Christmas will be different but that doesn’t mean it will be bad. We will talk to our families over Zoom rather than over the table but we’ve had worse.

In 1918 our ancestors saw Christmas cancelled for four years during the First World War. Just as it ended, Spanish flu wiped away any hopes of things getting back to normal. The following generation went through six years of privations during the Second World War. Thanks to rationing, Christmas puddings in 1945 were made with grated carrot and the number one gift that year was a bar of soap.

History shows we’ve faced far harder times before, endured and recovered as we will do again. So let’s be grateful for what we have. Despite everything, we can still eat, drink and be merry safe in the knowledge that at the end of the day, we are dwellers all in time and space. Happy Christmas.

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