Emma Connolly's guide to getting through Christmas

December 8th, 2020 2:53 PM

By Emma Connolly

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This article originally appeared in our SUPPORT WEST CORK, SHOP LOCAL Christmas magazine which is free in this week's Southern Star. Pick up a copy in shops across West Cork now or via our digital edition.


Christmas 2020 will be a bit different and that’s for sure. And while we’re not entirely certain what the terms and conditions will be just yet, we can assume it will feature lots of home time with the family squad. Yes, the folks you’ve already had lots of quality time with since March. The very same. And if that fills you with a certain well, dread, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Emma Connolly has some tips on how to get through a Covid Christmas (relatively) unscathed…

THE novelty of being with family and friends that you haven’t seen all year is hard to beat. So much ground to catch up on, banter and festive repartee. It’s exciting. It really is the most wonderful time of the year, you think to yourself (as you finish off that third hot port). There might be a bit of trying to impress each other, in a good way (mainly). And of course having other people around keeps everyone on their best behaviour as you can’t really say vile things to your nearest and dearest, well, not without a level of awkwardness. It’s all good, yeah? So we won’t have any of that this year. Nope. None of it. We’ll be with those people we’re all fully caught up with (note: I didn’t say sick of). So to inject some much-needed freshness I’m giving everyone at my dinner table advance notice that they’ll have to perform a party piece between courses. The more elaborate the better, and props and costumes are encouraged (mightn’t have enough room for sets, but we can see). It will be FABulous.…

Or not. That’s why, it’s vital to keep realistic expectations throughout the festive season. It’s crucial every year, but even more so in 2020 when things might get a bit ‘intense.’ It’s not about setting the bar low either, but remembering that everything doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s ok if things are just ‘grand’ too. Write this on little post-its and put them around the house if you think it will help with moments where you might lose it. Like when the tree will list perilously to one side regardless of what you do, when your other half asks you what ‘we’ got for his parents, or when the family are urging you to sit down and join them on Christmas Eve when you’re up to your elbows in vegetable peelings. Specifically for those gritted teeth kind of moments.

Even though you’ll most likely just be with your core crew, do still make an effort as otherwise what’s the point in it all (something I ask myself a lot). I admire people who’ll still go for the full make-up, spanx, heels and sequins on Christmas Day. Frankly I couldn’t stand the heat in the kitchen, but I will attempt an elevated lounge wear look (eg my best leggings), and give the good ware and table linen their annual outing. Might leave off the silver service though.

So make it special, but don’t go so far that you feel resentful when no one notices. Because families can be a bit like that – ungrateful. Take it from someone who has been there, no one will appreciate sprouts three ways, or a deconstructed plum pudding that was a week in the making. To ensure the only fuses that blow are on the tree, consider buying your way out of a few corners when it comes to say the custard, the red cabbage (which can take time), perhaps the garlic potatoes (again, time consuming) and say, the stuffing, oh and maybe the gravy. Just remember to dispose of the evidence.

It’s the season for giving, but still only spend only what you feel comfortable with. Sure it’s been ‘quite the year,’ but January is bad enough without horrible credit card bills. If you feel tempted to leave the price tag on something, you’ve probably overdone it. I find a win-win approach is to give gifts you can enjoy yourself eg weekends away; restaurant voucher; a good wine etc.

If you’ve kids in your household, don’t expect too much from them. Some of the most horrible behaviour of the year takes place on Christmas Day. More is definitely less alright when it comes to smallies, think those experts were on to something there. Those Kodak moments you imagined mightn’t happen until St Stephen’s Day. If at all. If you’re prepared for general ingratitude, rejection or indifference, it makes it easier to handle.

Set some boundaries especially when it comes to screen time (maybe just allow eight hours a day) and alcohol (nothing before 2pm) but absolutely none when it comes to cheese consumption and number of consecutive days when you don’t get dressed.

We won’t have pantos or drinks parties or the ‘visiting circuit’ to pass our days this year but as corny as it sounds, make new traditions. Have family game nights (avoid the Game of Life as the average duration is nine hours), make monster jigsaws, or play charades. Crank up the fire pit, sit around, look at the stars and toast marshmallows. I’m trying to think of something cynical to add on here, but this really is what it’s all about.

Have a good old cry if and when you need it. There’s nothing better. If someone you love couldn’t come home this year, if you’ve empty seats at your table for whatever reason, there’s going to be lots of wobbly lip moments, so let it all out. Just maybe don’t do it in front of the kids as it will probably scare them. Actually, maybe do have a meltdown in front of them. You might be told to sit down for 10 minutes and someone might make you a cup of tea.

Turn the heating down. There is probably nothing as inflammatory as an overly-heated house. It’s bad for your skin (probably not as bad as all the wine you’ll drink, but it won’t help), bad for your plants and can turn a regular domestic into a stinker in jig time. Cool house, cool temperments. (I’ve no scientific evidence to back that up but trust me on this one).

On that note, fresh air is the key to peace and harmony across the land this Christmas. Every last fibre of your being might feel like lying on the couch with your hand in the sweet tin. Move yourself. Swing your arms. Take deep breaths. And when you get back, turf the rest of your family out. Give them a flask and some sandwiches and you might get a decent stretch at being home alone – a most glorious thing.

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