Christmas this year will not be cancelled, but it will be very different from any we have known.
Many are wondering where they will be this festive season, how many will be able to come for dinner and what we will do for entertainment.
Although many things will be changed due to coronavirus, we will still be celebrating, as generations have done for hundreds of years in all kinds of circumstances.
As this pandemic year rolls by, every landmark date, every birthday, every special event, is being celebrated differently. Just when we think we are used to the presence of the virus, we find something else that has to be changed or adapted. There seems to be no end to this.
Now we are realising how different Christmas will be. In our homes, there will be fewer people around the table and TV. There will be no workplace parties. There will be no pantomimes and theatre trips.
Christmas in our churches will also be changed. There will be no carol services as we cannot sing together inside. Services which would usually be packed will only be able to have a few attending. Church Christmas will be via Zoom or YouTube and will not feel like Christmas at all.
Now I think we have a choice. We could let all of this add to our misery and allow it to make us downhearted. Or we could decide right now to make of it the very best we can and do things differently.
In fact, for some years now many people have been saying maybe we were losing our way, that there was excess, too much money spent, too much pressure on those who could not join in at the level suggested by adverts in the shops and on TV.
To make the best of doing things differently we could begin planning now.
Every year there are those – most often women – who begin planning early. There are reasons for doing so. It spreads the cost. It also spreads out the tasks, the purchasing, wrapping, writing of cards, planning of food and entertainment, so Christmas can be ready for all the family. There are some I know who have already completed their shopping for this year.
If you are one of those who starts to get ready a couple of days before December 25, most likely you are someone who carries less of the responsibility than others.
So given that we have good notice that things will be different, we can use this time to make some plans.
At Christmas many families welcome into their homes elderly relatives and friends to join them. Some include a neighbour who they know lives alone.
This year we could plan knowing that the numbers of people in our homes and at our tables are very likely to be limited.
Those who get left out are most likely to be the elderly, lonely or vulnerable. If we cannot feed them at our tables, maybe we can plan to include them in other ways. We could deliver a Christmas meal to the door, share food from our table to someone else’s, for example.
Many of us purchase gifts early because there are bargains to be had. So this year, given that we might be spending less on entertainment, we might buy a few extra gifts.
Come Christmas there will be appeals from various charities for donations of gifts, especially for children and the most elderly. We can have spare gifts wrapped and ready to go.
We have heard again and again through these past months that the number of those using foodbanks has been increasing. As redundancies increase and more and more are working on low or restricted incomes, the number of those depending on foodbanks will escalate.
We can help right now by making regular donations so that sufficient supplies are in place to meet the December demand.
We can donate food and other items in many stores or make financial donations direct to a local charity.
And when it comes to gift giving, this might be the year to reduce the number of gifts we buy for others and make a donation to a charity instead. Every charity is experiencing a reduction in donations right now, so what better time to make a gift?
Who knows, in years to come we might remember finding some good in the challenges brought by the pandemic. This might be the year when we were forced to have a more simple Christmas, but found ways to make the great festival in our winter more meaningful for all.
The Rt Rev Anne Dyer is Episcopalian Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney and Scotland’s first female bishop