Libby Purves and Kate Spicer debate whether we should cancel Christmas to stop Covid

Libby Purves said she does not think Covid should get in the way of Christmas 


By Libby Purves  

Ebenezer Scrooge woke after three ghosts, as nightmarish as any virus, gave him a lesson in forgiveness and family.

Dancing in his nightgown on Christmas Day he cried: ‘I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel . . . A merry Christmas to everybody! A happy New Year to all the world! Whoop! Hallo!’

You may not go that far. I don’t always. 

It is easy to moan humorously about turkey struggles and toy-battery chaos and annoying relatives. 

But admit it: if you’re lucky enough to have even a half-happy family, there is powerful magic in gathering round that table on December 25.

It is a landmark in the rolling year, a time to laugh and shake your head at the absurdity of life, and drink to absent friends and lost loved ones.

There is healing in the awful cracker jokes, the arguments about sprouts and the unnecessary observations on how the youngest nephew has grown.

For us traditionalists, there is also the bit where every chair and floor cushion is occupied (perhaps a little competitively) to watch the Queen’s speech at 3pm.

It’s a thin excuse to sabotage revelry 

She will spell out the never‑changing message of goodwill while we all sympathise with whatever her own family have done this time to give her an annus horribilis.

Maybe you even score an outside guest at the table, scooped up from solitude due to work or unfortunate circumstances: the widowed neighbour; the young key worker who can’t get home until the trains run again; one year we had Prince Charming from a local panto on his one day off.

It’s Christmas! Nobody shall sabotage it under the thinnish excuse of the ‘rule of six’.

Most of us can live with the Government’s Covid restrictions for the coming weeks, just as we lived with lockdown, masking up, queuing and the hundred other awkwardnesses of this year — even when we disagreed.

But as Christmas Day approaches (even if you mark it a day early or a day late due to work or travel), I think many a resolution will harden: people will rebel, have Christmas Day with every available generation, every waif and stray, and enjoy it.

We may be extra-careful with the vulnerable, but that’s nothing new. 

Once, my late Mum had pneumonia and was stashed away upstairs, with dinner and crackers and goodwill visits from small cheeky grandchildren (‘Granny’s got new monia. Does that mean she isn’t an old moaner?’).

Last year, I myself was mid-chemotherapy with dodgy immunities while suffering from lymphoma, so was sat at the end of the table and was not hugging people.

We are not stupid. But we are Christmas people. And we are many.

Kate Spicer thinks we need a new, healthy way to end a dismal year

Kate Spicer thinks we need a new, healthy way to end a dismal year


By Kate Spicer 

This Christmas isn’t shaping up to be a great one, especially for big families like mine, for whom the ‘rule of six’ will wipe out any prospect of a get-together. 

Even for small families, the general fear and fury around the pandemic will put the lid on festive merriment.

So here’s what I suggest: let’s #CancelChristmas2020 as we know it and find something better to do.

I’m not being a joyless puritan like Oliver Cromwell when he cancelled Christmas in the 1640s, I just think we would benefit from looking to a different-shaped feast day.

I actually like Christmas. I can still find a tickle of childish excitement on Christmas Eve. 

But even if you hate ‘the most wonderful time of the year’™, you might enjoy my attempt to revive something closer to pre‑Christian midwinter festivals.

We need a humdinger of a rite of passage to mark the end of this dismal year, but let’s steer away from the traditions of smothering our woes in cheese, booze, sugary Heston-branded rubbish and debt.

As the pandemic has chillingly proved, gorging ourselves on festive junk food is in nobody’s best interest. 

Instead, let’s banish the cooped-up ghosts of lockdown by turning Christmas into a noisy, vibrant celebration of nature, of action, of health and of fresh air.

 We need a new, healthy way to end a dismal year

Wearing warm coats, let’s toast our neighbours over the garden fence, gather (yes, yes, safely distanced) around a bonfire and, if we dare, throw off all our clothes to run around in frosty fields at dawn. 

Let’s go wild for a Covid-friendly celebration of the turning of the year.

Without the possibility and pressure to host hordes of our own family, let’s chat to people in the community who live alone, or bake cakes for people who need cheering up. 

Let’s look outward, and not roll around in crisps and Baileys and wrapping paper. And why not offer up a prayer to whichever God you believe in and ask for a better 2021.

With all the worries about excessive boozing during the pandemic, let’s have a sober Christmas. Perhaps we can also eat something other than turkey (let’s give the birds a stay of execution).

The kids can have presents, but let’s forfeit our own and give the money to a charity or local project serving those most devastated by our collective misfortune.

I bet this alternative event would still be a laugh. When you stop pouring all your hopes, dreams and £20 notes into the promise of Christmas, you can see it through new eyes. 

And, while this new vision won’t save the High Street (sorry, Rishi), it might save our weary souls.