Merry Christmas from an Island

2020, Christmas, COVID-19, A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens, Washington Irving, UK, Kent, celebration

I began a Christmas post earlier this month. I decided to abandon it when my daughter was arguing with me at 11 o’clock at night. At that time the kids were still at school, midwinter was creeping close, and Kent was (only) Tier 3.

A general feeling of ‘Bah! Humbug!‘ has been sidling up to me since then … and lingered like a spirit. But save for the aforementioned apparition of my wailing daughter late at night, no other ghosts have appeared.

After a year of confinement in close quarters, many of our family ‘conversations’ are predictable. Innocent openings are followed by rash misinterpretations that whip up to a clashing crescendo, before finding – eventually – a resolution of sorts, leaving its protagonists unsettled, and with a desire to win next time.

I could write the dialogue upside down and inside out. Will Christmas – without extended family and friends to dilute us – be any different?

2020, Christmas, COVID-19, A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens, Washington Irving, UK, Kent, celebration

The scientists have advised us that coronavirus (its new variant(s) included) doesn’t do Christmas. Here in Kent, we have been elevated to Tier 4, and it seems that nobody wants us. As I write, the news worsens all over the UK: further areas fall under Tier 4 restrictions, and a new – ‘highly transmissible’ – variant has showed up all the way from South Africa. Meanwhile truckers have prayed that they will not be stuck in Dover or Manston on Christmas Day. (Here on ‘Plague Island‘ the recent wordplay headlines of “Lost Christmas” and the “Bauble has burst” are in danger of falling flat.)

Concentrated within the familiar four walls of our respective homes, Christmas will be muted this year. Some will be lonely, wishing the day could be fuller, but others may relish the solitude, and even if they don’t, they will try. Many families will simply be grateful to be able to celebrate Christmas together.

While COVID-19 doesn’t do Christmas, we still can, and I am rediscovering Christmas of the past (I doubt I’m alone in this nostalgic retreat). We shall have satsumas-stinking stockings and spice-spiked bread sauce, bad cracker jokes told and Fairytale of New York a-playing. As we toast our loved ones wherever they are, I will remember the silver goblets I drank from when I was young. They emerged from their cabinet once a year and were filled with an inch of wine (in the early years) and then the sweet taste of Babysham (later) – a drink which describes itself as the ‘happiest drink in the world‘.

And every year there was the Christmas Eve walk to the village pub. Roaring fire, pork scratchings and a pint of Pig’s Ear, and whoever could make it was there.

A wise writer friend of mine wrote something along the lines of facing the light if you are finding something difficult. The days are now growing longer (in the Northern Hemisphere), and this week Jupiter and Saturn aligned to give us our very own Christmas Star. I didn’t see it myself, but I knew it was there. And although we cannot celebrate a convivial Christmas with friends and family, kind folk have made doorstep deliveries of sustenance.

When Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol, he intended to encourage the same cheer and goodwill. After six weeks of writing, he prefaced his work with these words:

“I HAVE endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it. Their faithful Friend and Servant, C. D. December, 1843.”


His tale was devoured and the initial print run sold out by Christmas Eve.

Christmas 2020 will be different (as was Thanksgiving and Diwalhi and Hanukkah, and all other secular, cultural, and religious celebrations this year), but the appetite for Dickens’ message is there. We can continue to look outwards, and keep a virtual open door in all kinds of ways. And in the absence the usual Christmas pint, you might also want to take inspiration from this man and craft one for yourself.

In the end, of course, Scrooge saw the light and his “misanthropic ice” melted. And “… it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.”

Take care, stay safe, and Merry Christmas. 🙂

A Christmas Carol

Old Christmas from the Sketch Book of Washington Irving