COVID-19 at Christmas; a UK members experiences

Hello, I’m Rachel, one of the Clinical Psychology trainees at Lancaster University, and I’ve recently started to get involved with Sharing Stories. At the first Skype meeting I attended, in October, we talked about how we can stay connected as a group during this time, and came up with an idea of having a monthly theme around which we can share words or pictures about the impact of Covid on different aspects of our lives. So I’m going to kick this off by writing a bit about how the pandemic has changed Christmas for me this year.

I’m sure that the usual festivities have looked very different for everyone this year. For me, Christmas isn’t just a time for parties and presents; it’s a hugely important part of my life, as a celebration of the birth of Jesus, and of the hope I believe He brings to the world. So I have found it particularly hard not being able to go physically to church services and share the joy and celebration of the Christmas story with others. Since the outbreak of Covid, all our services have been happening virtually, via Zoom; it’s great that we can still meet to worship in this way but it isn’t conducive to collective singing (due to the time lag from each individual connection – you can try it but it doesn’t sound so pleasant!). I love making music and singing with others so it’s something I’ve missed all year, especially in our ‘carol service’. It’s traditional in many churches to have an Advent wreath – a circle of four candles which are lit progressively at each Sunday in Advent and one in the centre for Christmas day. Since we couldn’t be in the church building this year, our minister suggested that the wreath be ‘hosted’ by  a different household each week. We’ve also been encouraged to share a picture if we have a nativity set in our Christmas decorations, and there have been a few from various parts of the world. Seeing the wreath and the nativity scenes on screen in different people’s homes has been a good reminder to me that God is everywhere and with us in our day-to-day lives, not just at church. Another positive that has come from doing church a bit differently, is that I’ve been able to attend virtual services at a church in the south of England, where I lived previously and it’s been lovely to connect with old friends in this way.

My husband and I usually visit our parents in Reading (south-east England) over the Christmas period. It’s where we both grew up and still have friends in the area so it’s a good chance to catch up with them too. Originally the UK government had planned a relaxation of restrictions from 23-27th December, to allow 3 households to form a ‘bubble’ over Christmas but unfortunately this got changed when a new strain of Covid caused a spike of cases in the south-east of the country. So that region went into lockdown and elsewhere we were only allowed to meet in homes with people from another household on Christmas day itself. We were at least able to have my sister over for the day and having just the three of us, it was perhaps a more relaxed day than usual (no parents!!) but it was odd not being able to spend time with other family and friends. Cooking together and sharing food is an important Christmas activity which we usually like to do with both our families. This year I decided instead to bake some festive treats and post them to family we couldn’t meet up with. Unfortunately I forgot how much longer it was taking for parcels to be delivered during the Christmas period (because so many more people were having to post presents), so they arrived a bit stale, but apparently stale cookies are better than nothing! Those are a few thoughts on what Christmas in a pandemic has been like for me. It would be great to hear from others about any similarities or differences in their Christmas celebrations this year.