Another Christmas with COVID: Why things are different in 2021

Last year, as we were preparing to celebrate Christmas 2020, our first living in ‘these unprecedented times’ (which now, of course, are becoming somewhat more ‘precedented’), we shared on blog on how we could still hope to have a good holiday by accepting things for how they are and changing what we thought about things.

This year, as we prepare for our second Christmas in a pandemic, some things are different, while some remain the same, so we thought it might be useful to revisit our thoughts from last year and perhaps add some new ones. Christmas is a time for traditions, after all!

While 2021 saw the lifting, at least for a while, of many restrictions and hopefully we all got to see more of our friends, family and the outside world this year, the virus, and its many variants, is still very much with us. With things changing so quickly, our Christmas plans may still need changing in the next week or so.

Naturally, many of us will again be facing Christmas with mixed feelings. It can be a stressful time anyway, with the demand for everything to be ‘just right’, or wishing it would just hurry up and be over making it less than jolly. And this year, some of us may be feeling frustrated that ‘here we are again’; another year when we are perhaps not having the full Christmas experience we are used to, and might be wondering if an end will ever be in site.

Acceptance is key

What then can we do to get the most from Christmas, which will happen whether we want it to or not?

First of all, accept ‘what is’, rather than focussing on ‘what if’. Possible travel restrictions, reduced numbers for gatherings, the ever-ubiquitous but vital face masks might all seem like spoil-sports for the most wonderful time of the year. But wishing it was different, and experiencing the disappointment and frustration of not having that wish met will only result in you having an even less merry Christmas.

Accept that things are as they are for a reason – to keep us and our loved ones safe and to help stop the spread of a deadly disease. By accepting that things might be a little different again this year, a little smaller, a little quieter, you might actually begin to enjoy things more.

Instead of having to either host or attend a party or meal where perhaps not everyone is able to relax or actually get along with each other, accept and embrace the reality of a smaller, more intimate and cosier Christmas. Doing less is not doing nothing – it can also be an opportunity to relax more.

It was at this point that last year we said: “And next year, well who knows, it could be back the usual noisy and chaotic Christmas you are used to!” It’s clear we are not quite there yet. But compare where we are now to last year. Vaccinated, boosted, and with fewer measures in place and more social mixing enjoyed. Are things really still as bad? For most of us, the evidence points to things being better. And next year, well who knows…

Manage your expectations

Secondly, begin managing expectations, your own and others’, sooner rather than later, to avoid hurt and disappointment. If you don’t feel able to spend what you usually would on food and presents, let people know. You might be surprised by how many others feel the same or are in a similar boat. If you don’t feel comfortable mixing with larger groups just yet, remember there is no rule that says you actually have to. We know that COVID is a sneaky foe and catching it more than once I not unusual. It’s OK to make your concerns clear and still have a good time.

Others will either understand or not, neither of which is in your control. You are responsible for your feelings and actions, not theirs.

This year, just like last, it’s important to realise just what we do have, as well as accepting without resentment the things we might not. Holding on to our rigid, unrealistic demands about a ‘perfect’ Christmas might only result in us missing the ‘perfectly good’ Christmas that’s just waiting for us to discover it.

Nick Jones
REBT / CBT Therapist

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