The Christmas countdown in a year like no other

Christmas is an interesting time of year, and discussing the countdown to Christmas is a sure fire way to get some discussion going. Usually I start thinking about Christmas, like where I might be spending it and what gifts I’m going to get for people, once bonfire night is out of the way. Christmas activities such as decorating and listening to festive songs are only acceptable once I’ve turned the calendar over to December. I know I’m not alone in this thinking, and I know there are also many people who spend an awful lot longer getting excited about this festive holiday. However, this year things seem to be very different.

Whilst we’re all still waiting to find out what is actually going to be possible at Christmas this year, many people are already embracing the festive season. I think Christmas has been mentioned at least once every day in the past two weeks at work, and I’ve already seen lots of people putting up their decorations. This is much sooner than in previous years but I don’t begrudge anyone anything which is going to make them happier at the moment. If putting up a tree during lockdown is going to help you through it then it’s something you should definitely do.

Since I made the transition from a child who believes in Santa, to an adult who wishes I still did, I’ve found the countdown to Christmas much more exciting than the day itself. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy Christmas and the opportunity to see family, eat nice food and get some extended time off work, but it’s not quite the same as the build up. The year that I traveled to New Zealand and Australia was the year that I became most aware of this. When the weather is getting warmer (and you’re not used to it at that time of year) it’s really hard to build the excitement in the same way. One of the strangest experiences I’ve had is walking around Brisbane Christmas Market in shorts and a t-shirt whilst children are watching Frozen from a swimming pool. Surreal! And I surprised myself when the first thing we did on our arrival back to the UK was buy hot chocolates and gingerbread muffins.

I’m aware that many of the small traditions I’ve built myself over the past few years will not be able to happen this year but I’m going to do my best to enjoy what I still can because this winter might be pretty miserable otherwise. I think what I’ll miss the most is Christmas Markets. I’ve been lucky enough to go to an abundance of Christmas Markets abroad over the past few years and there’s nothing which makes me want to embrace the festive season more. If you want to feel festive, there’s no better place to be than a cold city in continental Europe where the smell of sausages, hot cheese and spiced wine fills the air. Last year we stayed closer to home and went to Bath Christmas Market for the day instead which was still wonderful. We bought presents and new decorations, drank mulled wine and went ice skating. This year at the start of December we’ll be waiting to see what new restrictions are put in place, rather than counting down to a fun trip.

So there are no Christmas markets this year, we’re won’t be hosting a Christmas party this year and ice skating looks like it might be out as well. It’s dark and wet outside, so how are we going to keep spirits up and spread festive cheer? My colleagues, particularly those with children, have had some lovely ideas such as an advent of different activities or small gifts to open throughout the month to spread the fun out for longer. I particularly like the idea of an advent of activities so will be giving this some serious thought over the next week before the countdown officially begins. There are already some things which I know will make it to my list…

Getting creative with gift-giving

This year it’s potentially going to be harder than ever to go Christmas shopping, but although I’ve said it (and then failed) for the past few years, this year I am determined not to buy gifts from Amazon. Instead, I’m considering charity donations, supporting independent businesses, or even making my own gifts (if I’m organised enough and get started soon). Gift-giving is something I’ve given quite a lot of thought recently and as everything else will be different this year anyway, it’s a good year to shake things up.

Festive food and drink

I love festive food and drink. It’s a time when all sorts of things you would never usually eat start to make an appearance – from pigs in blankets to sugared almonds. I found earlier in the year that one of the things I enjoyed most about lockdown was food, so I’ll be embracing it as much as I can. We bought our first bottle of mulled wine today and we’ve already been nibbling through some cheese and crackers. Making gingerbread is an activity I can make last all day and I know we’ve got a tin of chocolates stashed away already. The one good thing about not having a work Christmas party this year means that Christmas will be the first day I have a full Christmas dinner this year (I swear there was one December I’d already had three or four before the big day) and that means I can enjoy it all the more.

Festive films

Embarrassing as it may be to admit, I’ve come to love the assortment of cheesy Christmas films and rom-coms which Netflix has taken to sharing at this time of year. Great films most of them are not, but they’re good fun to watch snuggled up under a blanket. This year I’ve even written myself a list! And we ordered a copy of our favourite Christmas film nice and early so that no matter what happens this year, we know we’ll be able to watch it.

Christmas clothes

I can’t be the only one who has a couple of outfits relegated to the back of my wardrobe until December. The so called ‘Christmas jumpers’ I have aren’t even that Christmassy so I’m determined to get some more use out of them this year. Also just because I can’t go anywhere in it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be able to embrace my few sparkly dresses either – I’m sure they’ll look perfect teamed with my slippers… I think it’s likely I’ll buy myself some festive pyjamas (for while I’m watching all those films!) and James has even started showing interest in getting a onesie.

Let there be light!

I can’t imagine that our street is the only one which has decided to make a special effort this year to look light, bright and cheerful. Fairy lights always make December feel a little more magical so I’m delighted to see that people are already stringing them up in their gardens.We’ve bought bottle lights and have a number of gin bottles filled with them around the flat, and I’m eyeing up places to put candles so we can have a lovely warm glow in the evenings.

How are you counting down to Christmas this year? I’d love to hear your suggestions!

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