I won’t insult anyone’s intelligence by recapping what 2020 has thrown at us, but I do want to emphasise the fact that I think it threw it at us. You can interpret that however you’d like to I guess; be it the general us as a society, or the us that is you and me. The relatively faceless person who lights the candles and takes the photographs, and the person who sees those photographs appear on their phone screen and sometimes taps a red heart.
I’m not someone who’s all that ‘present’ in my social media – you don’t really see my face and I don’t talk directly to whoever might be watching, yet I think in 2020 I’ve probably spoken to more of you than ever before via comments and direct messages.
We’ve had chats about playlists to listen to whilst working from home, we’ve shared a ridiculous amount of memes, we’ve swapped Netflix recommendations and in huge numbers, queried exactly why model villages were given quite so much air time. We talked about what it meant to be living on your own during a pandemic, how it can be tough to maintain focus and well, your sanity, whilst working from home. We covered a lot of bases.
It’s been a strange year but it hasn’t been one without connection, even if that was digitally.
I’d like to think that this year has taught me quite a lot. I know that I’m not really as solitary a person as I would have thought I were pre-March. I struggled incredibly working from home, not being able to see my friends and my family. I’m not ashamed or embarrassed to admit that I found it really hard and you should know that if you did too, you were far from the only one.
So, Christmas. Why am I talking about it in mid-October? For starters, I’ll talk about Christmas at just about any time of the year. I love Christmas. If you’ve followed me for a while it’s highly likely that you’ll know exactly how much I love it and how much time and energy I devote to celebrating it each year.
Secondly, I’m talking about it because despite everything that’s happened this year and all we’ve had to deal with, I think it might well be going to be one of the best Christmases we’ll ever have. I guess this is a kind of mission statement for the months ahead in fact. I’d like us all to agree to give this festive season our absolute all, because I genuinely believe that after everything that’s happened it’s what we need. Why? Well…
We’re all just looking for a bit of connection.
I firmly believe that. No time of the year celebrates that idea more than the festive period, and however things end up going, there’s a way to make it work. Don’t be sad or disheartened by thinking Christmas won’t be exactly how you want it to be. Find a way to make it work, whatever the outcome, and celebrate all of the amazing little things that the next few months can give you. Most of all, let’s make sure we share it with as many people as we possibly can.
Christmas has always been about spreading joy. Christmas 2020 is going to be about spreading as much joy as humanly possibly.
Everyone is really, really ready for it.
I tend to see my older Christmas content start to pick back up from late October. By that I mean the Christmas gift wrapping posts from past years start to make their way onto people’s Pinterest Boards and traffic to the gift guides goes up as people start to think about what to buy. This year however that all started to happen from August.
It’s something that was felt across the board. John Lewis & Partners opened their Christmas shop earlier than ever before in response to a 370% increase in on site search volumes for festive items. That was in August.
Waitrose started to see searches for Christmas food items as early as July. Yup. That’s crazy, I fully agree with you, but what it goes to show us is just how much people wanted something to look forward to and how much joy we find in this time of year. There’s so much comfort to be had in the festive season and ultimately I suppose it makes sense we were eager to get to it.
Mine or your experience of this whole year isn’t to diminished here, but the likelihood is that in the grand scheme of things we had it a little easy. When I look at my grandma and the fact she’s essentially stayed in doors since March, only travelling to my mum’s and once venturing out to a garden centre, I see exactly what Christmas means for her. As a family we’ll be finding a way to make it work and a way for us to be together. If we can’t all be in the same room, then we’ll be in the same vicinity, because it’s a huge thing for her to have to look forward to.
I learnt a lot about what (and who) really mattered.
Having to live without so many people regularly in my life taught me the real value of them. On the flip side of that, it also in many ways filtered out quite a few too. I don’t think I’ll be alone in saying this, but I think I learnt who my people for life are this year.
The ones who checked in, the ones who stood on the street and shouted hello through open windows, the ones who would run ten meters behind me for miles on end each day, just so I wasn’t doing it alone. We don’t know what the last few months of the year have in store for us, perhaps we won’t be able to spend time with these people in close quarters, but I’m sure as hell going to do my upmost to make sure they know how excellent they are all the same and how much they helped.
I will happily sit in the freezing cold in a garden, two metres away from them, with a flask of coffee and a mince pie if that’s the only way we’re going to get to celebrate Christmas.
I learnt that small things can be really big things.
I’d like to think we all got a little bit more thoughtful this year. I’m lucky to live close by a group of friends, friends who’s houses were on my daily walking route so I could drop off slices of the cakes I baked. Friends who would leave care packages of cookies and plain flour on my doorstep.
That’s likely going to be the only teeny, tiny thing that I miss about lockdown. I missed that back and forth of small gestures, designed simply to make someone’s day that little bit better. So for me, this Christmas, that’s continuing. There’s going to be mince pies and biscotti care packages on door steps everywhere. I know how much they improved my own day when I got them and dare I say, maybe the smaller, more thoughtful gestures are going to be more important than what’s under the tree come December 25th.
Presents are of course a huge part of Christmas and I’m sure we’ll all go there as much as we can afford to this year, but outside of spending a fortune on fancy and decidedly lovely things, there is so much value to be had in those small things. Whether it’s some biscuits from M&S your grandma hasn’t been able to go and get for herself since March, or a bunch of flowers left on a doorstep. Money is going to be tight this year for so many people but huge swathes of expensive gifts under the tree isn’t the only way to do things and perhaps this year we all learnt a little bit more about appreciating the smaller, thoughtful things.
If someone’s been reading more because they’ve had a lot more time on their hands, find them books you know they’ll love. Drop them off with some hot chocolate and a cookie. Hell, make them a banana bread. It’s probably been a while since you did. I’ve always said in my gift guide posts that I think Christmas is a time for you pull out everything you know about a person and find the little things you know they’ll love, so look out for those tiny things can change someone’s day.
If looking back at the year you think there’s people you might have not done everything you could have for, use this season as a reason to correct that. I’m certainly am guilty of also being the person who didn’t check in with everyone. That’s something I regret and something I’m going to look at correcting. Again, we don’t know what November and December hold for us, maybe some people won’t get to see their families this Christmas and they’ll need everyone else even more.
We’ll shop small.
This year my Christmas Gift Guides will come in two stages. The categories as I would always do and then a second round that’s small businesses and local businesses to me here in Newcastle. Small businesses need our help more than ever before and it’s important we help where we feel we can. Some bloggers – CC: Lisa Dawson – have spent years doing gift guides from only small businesses. I’ve not done enough. They’ve been included in gift guides certainly, but they’re going to be a much bigger part of the festive offering this year.
I think we’ll make the effort.
If (and this is a big if) there are people, family members, best friends that we might not be able to spend Christmas with, I believe we’ll all do our best to put the effort in to find a way. I think we got better at that. I got better at calling people, I got better at talking to people I guess.
It might mean sitting in a car on a driveway, having dropped off presents in the porch, or sitting on opposite benches in a park and doing a present swap, I feel pretty confident that we’ll make the effort to find a way.
It’s optimistic to think we’ll be having office Christmas parties. I don’t know about you but I fully intend upon cracking out my festive best at some point this season. Even if it happens to be sitting watching Strictly in a velvet tux on a cold December evening. I think we’ll make an effort to make everything feel like an event because, well, we’ve had a year largely without any kind of event.
We’ll make it personal.
By all accounts we spent the summer baking, decorating and in some of my friend’s cases, learning to cross stitch, Who saw that coming as a way to pass a heatwave. The concept of making your own Christmas Wreath has been on the rise for the past few years. Last year everywhere from local pubs to small cafes put on classes with florists and we all went a little wreath mad.
This year I’ve already seen local florists offering kit boxes for you to collect so you can do it from home, dialling into a Zoom call for a masterclass as you do. Even the big guys like M&S are offering wreath making kits so you can do it yourself.
I’m all for it. Why not try your hand at personalised stockings, cross stitched tea towels? You have plenty time on your hands now your evening plans consist of sitting somewhere I’m sure. Perhaps 2020 is the year for you to finally master those origami stars ey?
And I guess that’s it. With some determination and flexibility in the way we celebrate things, and each other, I think we’ll make it work.