All I want for Christmas is Normal. The old normal, the reliable, ordinary, expected, regular normal. In a year when normal has been re-invented genuinely more times than hot dinners out, I just want a bit of predictability and a normal Christmas to end this very abnormal year.
I’ve lost count of which new normal we are currently in, after warnings of life getting a bit tough to full Lockdown in March, the first new normal of part-time schools beginning and non-essential shops reopening with socially distanced queues outside in June to the next new normal of “Eat Out to Help Out” and the fun of choosing face mask designs to match summer outfits August, to the next next new normal of children starting new schools with limited transition programmes and the endless lists of controls to keep staff and pupils safe, before next next next normal of London moving into Tier2, then Lockdown 2.0, then out, and so on. Prior to each change the constant chatter on the media, social media, amongst family and friends about what it might be, what the consequences of what might be might be and the implications of what those consequences of what might be might be might be. Uhhhh.
Aside from national versions there are the individual households subdivisions of normal, one child in quarantine after a member of their bubble is confirmed positive, then back to the current national normal, the whole family isolating while one has symptoms then out again after a negative test result, repeatedly. If son x has virtual lessons from 8:30am then son y will need to be out of their shared bedroom earlier, and son z will need to have lunch earlier so Dad can use the laptop etc. In this house we’ve had three changes to our current normal in the last few days and I’ve just had to cancel my birthday plans, made optimistically with two separate tables booked to abide by the rule of six (does that even still exist??)
2020 is so the opposite of normal even neighbours in London are now on speaking terms, offering to help each other after years of avoiding eye contact.
Aside from remembering what set of rules it is each day and remembering to always have hand sanitiser and facemask when you dare to leave the house, it is just exhausting. Mentally exhausting, emotionally. Necessary and right, but just so draining to constantly be changing plans, routines, expectations all the time. How can I complain? It’s an inconvenience, compared to those who have lost loved ones due to Covid-19 or other causes this year, whose families and homes will never return to normal. No new new new new new normal with any vaccine will bring their old normal back.
After a year where we’ve all had to make huge changes over and over, and where tens of thousands of families grieve, hundreds of thousands of key workers are wearied we all just want a NORMAL Christmas.
Snotty children with no front teeth in Nativity plays with 23 donkeys, 5 inn-keepers and a totally random animal as families look on with such joy.
Hot, noisy shops, with the same songs on constant repeat, pungent perfume testers competing in our bunged up nostrils, crammed with people with too many bags barging past as we all try and search for that special gift for Great Auntie what-not.
Running out of sellotape.
Eating your own bodyweight of mince pies whilst trying to slim down for the work party.
The traffic jams everywhere, the endless drizzle, then working out how to attend five carol services, drinks, and meals out on four consecutive nights whilst decorating the house and still functioning as a polite human.
The grumpy teenagers refusing to watch their old favourite Christmas films.
The anticipated arguments about who curls up in the best armchair or who gets the last pig-in-blanket.
The panic for gluten-free vegan stuffing recipes, and the stress of not getting it near and very non-vegan raw turkey…… (Ok, so maybe not everything will be missed!)
Each household has their own traditions so each normal Christmas varies, but we just want to be with those we love, preferably without a double-glazed window between us. We want to sit down indoors out of the rain and dark, preferably on a plump sofa not a park bench. We want to eat mountains of our much loved seasonal favourites after months of Joe Wicks. We want to sing aloud without masks, carols and cheesy old pop songs, and dance within 2 metres of others. We want to see our older or shielded loved ones in person, not on Zoom, we want the ordinary, usual, regular and predictable Christmas.
Yet in so many ways we can’t have it this year. The microscopic virus is reckless, indiscriminate, damaging and potentially deadly. What we want could be so harmful to those we love the most. So what do we do?? Even with current government plans for more relaxed rules there could be no work parties, no crowds in shops, no big get-togethers or huge group dinners out. No bumping into the people you only ever see at Christmas events year after year. In a time when there has been so much to fear what do we do?
We hold onto what Christmas really is. We hold onto the newborn baby, wrapped in cloth, placed in a feeding trough. Mary and Joseph traveling far from their home for the census, unable to find a room in an inn, frightened and in pain, giving birth on a straw-covered floor amidst the animals. Later they need to flee to Egypt with their child to protect his life from Herod. The shepherds, the bottom of the socio-economic pile, usually dismissed and looked down on as unskilled workers by the rest of society. The wise men studying the stars, following the science. Any of these sound familiar this year? Barely anything of the first Christmas was very normal, ordinary, predictable or expected. It was definitely not how God’s people expected the arrival of their promised warrior king. In a year when much has changed for us and a Christmas when so much will be different, we remember Christ, son of God born in human form to grow up and shed his blood for us.
Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever; before Covid-19, during and after. Maybe, with less distractions 2020 could be the most normal Christmas we have.
- Beth Bowden, Church Member