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Christmas Prep 2020: Accepting reality & planning a quiet one

Coronavirus Christmas staying at home with a small gathering

Time to talk about Christmas prep, and how we’ve had to pivot our plans for December in 2020. Normally I’d start planning for the festive season months in advance, for fun/anticipation and cost effectiveness, but this year I’ve taken much more of a wait and see approach before making any social or financial commitments.

And now, as I’m sat here watching the coronavirus pandemic continue to unfold, it’s pretty obvious that we’re entering into a second wave of infections in the UK and it might even be bigger than the first one. It’s not going to ‘go away by Christmas’ at least, that’s painfully clear now. The three things I’m most acutely aware of personally are that:

  • We live in a coronavirus hotspot (yes, we’re taking sensible precautions not to catch/spread it, but we can’t control the significant minority of people around here who are refusing to follow the rules).
  • The people we were thinking about maybe visiting are at high risk of becoming extremely ill or dying if they get Covid-19.
  • Other people we’d usually invite over for dinner or meet for pre-Christmas drinks etc have at least one person in their family/household who has a serious health vulnerability.

We don’t want to pass on a deadly virus to our closest friends and loved ones, so even if this new lockdown works as well as hoped and we’re given the green light for limited contact in the second half of December we’ve decided we’re going to give most things a miss this year. I’d be amazed if we weren’t still in some degree of lockdown or fairly high level of restrictions by the start of Christmas week where we live, and it’s time to be realistic.

Time to pull up the big girl pants and say that what we personally usually want here – festivities, nights out, dinner parties, milling around Christmas markets, hours bundled up into cosy pubs, etc etc – is not what our particular nearest and dearest need right now, which is safety. Yes, it feels sad to not get what you want but now is not the time to be selfish. Those little bits of selfishness, that slight or moderate bending of the rules, can create the perfect environment to pass on a respiratory virus. Needs are more important than wants.

So we’re now planning a very quiet one at home for 2020, which has been a way for us to finally make a firm decision and carve out some certainty during a very uncertain time. It’s actually okay, and since I got my head around the idea I’ve been looking forward to it. I’m thinking small, cosy and perfectly formed; a chance to distill it down to what the best of the festive season means to us, and focus on personal favourite traditions and preferences.

Xmas prep I’m doing over the next few weeks

Managing expectations. Being clear about intentions is better than being vague or messing others around, and it gives people plenty of time to make their own arrangements and/or decide whether they’ll be joining you virtually. For example, we’ve got rid of the bed on one side of our spare room to expand the working from home space, so people know we can’t put them up (and it’s not personal).

Putting a spending cap on *everything*. We’re okay financially for the moment – not ideal but sort of in a holding pattern – but most industries are so up in the air right now that we aren’t taking anything for granted. Work has been promised for 2021, but no contracts have arrived yet. This is definitely not a Christmas to put on the credit card and wonder how to pay it off next year. Also, other people we know are really suffering, with all freelance work cancelled or being made redundant, or just rumours going round at work – we don’t want to put them in a tricky position with gifts or anything else.

Being selective with food & drink. We’ve had an honest conversation in this house about our ‘non-negotiables’ and ‘would-be-nices’, without overbuying. For example, Beau has insisted on having turkey and pigs in blankets for Christmas lunch. I fancy some homemade gingerbread and some spiced tea for snacks, and a big bag of posh crisps for in front of the telly. I’ve bought a couple of items each week for the last month, and most of it’s shelf stable or in the freezer – quite happy not to have to do a big supermarket shop during the week before Xmas/New Year now!

A small turkey crown or a medium sized turkey joint is plenty for most small households that like it, and I suspect the demand for huge turkeys will be well down this December. By the way, if you can’t face doing all the trimmings for a reduced gathering, several supermarkets are bringing back their Xmas Dinner in a Box deals for 2020 and some of them look pretty nice.

Keeping in touch virtually. There’s a rough plan to have online chats and phone calls with various folks at different times on Christmas Day, possibly including a synchronised watch-along of some silly festive films with drinks and snacks on our respective sofas. It’s not the same as being able to hug someone, but it could still be fun.

Gifts and other shopping. We’re about to go into another lockdown and I don’t fancy joining the last minute scrum on the high street, nor do I fancy the in-store rush that could happen after the 2nd of December when it’s supposed to be lifted. Online shopping is 100% the way forward for me this year. I’m expecting the post and courier services to be much slower than usual so I’ve bought most of my gifts already to allow extra delivery time, apart from a few tiny stocking fillers. We’ll also be ordering a couple of things nearer the time from companies that make presents designed be posted right through a standard sized letterbox, which will hopefully save hassle.

Decorating. Normally I love me some festive decor, but this year I’m not feeling it, possibly because we aren’t going to be inviting people over (also, a lot of the home collections seem very plastic-y and throwaway this year). I’ll probably perk up eventually and start putting some semblance of a look together, probably a mix of old favourites from the loft and a two or three new items, maybe something homemade. Things I’m going to pick up include new fairy lights, some lovely room fragrance and a new candle or two, because these are going to be much needed to increase the 2020 cosiness factor.

Bijou, compact and cosy. At least we have a theme.


Are you changing your usual plans for the festive season this year? What might you be doing differently?


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  1. I love that managing expectations is top of the list. Our gifts giving will be a needed item for my MIL, and practical gifts for immediate family plus cash-my adult kids need that more than tat, We are skipping external gift exchanges-again, no one needs the expense and we’re not getting together anyway. I’m going to focus our holiday on reaching out to my son-who I will miss terribly not coming home, but he is as cautious as any young single 31 year old man could be and just would not risk being a spreader, or contracting for fun and missing the limited work opportunities he gets as a freelancer. I’ll also focus on making our house charming, enjoy thel ights, not over eat, build in lots of walks even if I have to bundle up and wade through snow, cheesy movies and music, and giving to charity..

  2. Hi Sam! Practical gifts all the way here too, apart from a few silly stocking fillers. Your son sounds like he’s being mister responsible, and I hope you can find a safe way to keep in touch over the holidays. Oh, and your plans for this year sound lovely even if they’re a bit different from your usual family traditions! P x

  3. Yes, we were meant to go up to visit my family this Christmas and be there for my nephew’s first Christmas but now we’re basically assuming we’re staying home; even if lockdown is lifted/the tier levels change, so I’m ordering a few things for our dinner but it’s all going to be very lowkey. Just the cats and us and some sort of virtual gathering of the respective families at some point.

  4. Hiya Meg, making the decision now has helped us to take away some of the uncertainty, which has definitely lowered our stress levels. Sorry to hear that you’ll be missing your nephew’s first Christmas in person, but I hope that your virtual gathering is something special you can all join in with safely. What are you ordering for your dinner? We’re doing a mixture of turkey and veggie I think, although nothing has been sorted out on the veggie front yet. P x

  5. Hey Penny; we’re not big turkey fans so we’re going for steak and then a bunch of pre-made trimmings, all from Donald Russell because I can’t be arsed with making it all for just the two of us. It all arrived yesterday and has been stashed in the freezer so that’s a big thing off the list now. I might still buy a small ham for boxing day/sandwiches but I’ll see. Have made the Christmas cake (despite being the solo person who will eat it. Hahaha.) and will probably get some sort of ridiculous looking supermarket dessert.

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