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Boxing Day is the start of a strange and confusing time – in 2020, that’s nothing new


As with all things 2020, Christmas got cancelled (Picture: Getty Images)

And so begins that awkward bit between Christmas and New Year where no one knows what day it is.

It’s the calendrical No Man’s Land where dates become futile and the durability of our favourite pair of joggers is tested to the limit.

Except this year, the confusion began back in March.

The past nine months have rolled into one hellish nonsense full of tears, tiers and far too much Matt Hancock. With very few social events to mark the passing of time I’ve lost track of entire months, which is why Christmas felt more important this year than ever before.

As with all things 2020, Christmas got cancelled.

But, like a bigoted celebrity who should’ve thought twice before publishing a tweet, Christmas didn’t disappear altogether. It just had to remain low-key until it’s safe to go outside again.

Human beings find comfort in tradition, yet we also have an incredible ability to adapt them to fit our circumstances. We’ve swapped whole turkeys for packet slices, board games for Zoom calls and Santa outsourced his delivery services to the Amazon elves.

There’s no denying that Christmas has been different for all of us this year but I doubt it will have been the first time our plans have had to be adapted.

I don’t know a single family who hasn’t had some sort of crisis strike around Christmas time. Divorce, death and illness don’t wait until January to devastate our lives, so we do what we can to keep the yuletide cheer, regardless of our circumstances.

We’ve had so many endings and beginnings taken from us this year. Weddings postponed, funerals reduced in capacity – but that doesn’t mean the love is any less real or the loss isn’t just as painful.

People often rely on ceremony to outwardly express emotion, so when tradition is snatched away it can take a toll on our mental and emotional wellbeing. 

This year, there’s less pressure to keep up with the Joneses as we focus instead on keeping a two metre distance from them

If I’ve learned anything this year, however, it’s that human beings are a resilient bunch, and we discover new ways of dealing with adversity.

In our family alone we’ve got five positive Covid-19 tests, four isolated households, three shielding grandparents, two cancelled weddings and a partridge in a pear tree.

We’ve exchanged presents through patio doors and sent Christmas dinners via Deliveroo. Our familial customs look a little different, but we’re still a family: perfectly imperfect and trying our best.

This won’t be the first time that children have spent Christmas without a parent, or that grandparents haven’t been allowed to see their grandkids. Nor will it be the first time that people have spent it alone.

Just because Covid-19 has been at the centre of public discourse, doesn’t mean other existing issues have ceased to exist. At least this year, we know that none of us have had the Christmas we were hoping for. 

Christmas isn’t always full of joy for everyone. It can be a time where many are haunted by the ghosts of Christmases past. Painful memories of family rifts, heartbreak and bereavement are made all the more vivid because the festive season comes with a sensory overload.

A Christmas jumper gifted by a late relative, the film you’d watch with a cousin you no longer speak to, the personalised bauble with a photo of you and an ex taken days before you found out they were cheating (cheers Etsy) can lead us into pits of despair. But it’s over now. 

Boxing Day is for packing up those painful reminders into boxes, storing them in your emotional attic and eating your feelings away. Not the healthiest coping strategy, granted, but it’s a strategy, nonetheless.

We put so much pressure on ourselves to deliver the ‘perfect’ Christmas. Many of us fall victim to ‘obsessive comparison disorder’ as we compare the success of our festivities with those we follow on social media.

This year, there’s less pressure to keep up with the Joneses as we focus instead on keeping a two metre distance from them. Just because no one posts videos of the fall outs, the culinary disasters and the Bucks Fizz-fuelled existential crises, doesn’t mean they aren’t happening nationwide.

2020 has given us permission to let go of expectations and accept that just getting through the days in any way you can deserves a spot on the nice list.

Who knows what next year will bring or how long lockdown restrictions will continue to affect our existence. If only life was as predictable as the Hallmark Christmas movies I intend to binge on in this wasteland between Boxing Day and new year.

However you spend your ‘Crimbo-limbo’, ‘Betwixtmas’ or ‘Merrineum’ (my personal fave), I hope you find time to rest, reach out to those you want to and say a giant ‘f*ck off’ to any brand trying to push a detox-agenda upon you come 1 January.

You’ve suffered enough. Eat the mince pie. You deserve it.

Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing jess.austin@metro.co.uk.

Share your views in the comments below.


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