“I’m a doctor – Boris Johnson’s Christmas plans are deadly,” wrote one expert for HuffPost UK, responding to the announcement that people in the UK are able to mix with up to three households, exclusively, this Christmas.
Many people are finding ways to keep their Christmas bubble as safe as possible – such as self-isolating and socialising in their biggest room – but others have decided to stay away from larger gatherings completely.
In fact, new Google and YouGov research conducted by surveying 2,178 adults finds that 64% of Brits would be willing to celebrate Christmas without other households if it meant ‘normal’ life would return more quickly.
HuffPost UK spoke to the people throwing a ‘friendmas’ this year to find out why they decided to stay put – and what they’ll be doing instead.
‘Christmas happens every year, a funeral for my dad only happens once’
Aaron Bhugobaun, 35, digital cinema and film specialist, London, would usually spend Christmas in either Cambridge, UK, or Japan with family.
“My dad just had a major heart operation and is recovering at home. He’s also a diabetic in his 70s, which puts him in the higher risk category. I shouldn’t be selfish by putting his life at risk for one or two days. I want him to make a full recovery so I can see him once a vaccine has majorly suppressed the virus. Christmas happens every year, a funeral for my dad only happens once.
“I’ve not been on good terms with my dad, so I wanted to use this year to make good with him. Doing that in person would have made it easier, of course. But if I don’t go home, my dad is not at risk of the typical family Christmas arguments, terrible burnt cooking, or catching the virus.”
“I will do what needs to be done to protect my family, friends, and colleagues – and I’ve been doing this since the start of the pandemic. Things are bad now, however, this is only temporary. As long as we get through this with the least amount of pain as possible, things will get back to a kind of ‘normal’. I guess you could say I’m kind of optimistic.”
‘It’s the first family Christmas I’m missing in 28 years’
Dan Cohen, 28, software developer, Bristol, would usually travel to Ely, Cambridgeshire, for Christmas.
“By the start of autumn, I had an inkling Christmas wouldn’t be happening, but I decided to see what happened in the lead up to December. When the second lockdown started, I reluctantly rang up my parents to tell them I wouldn’t be coming home for Christmas – the first one I’d be missing in 28 years.
“Despite the initial hesitation and shock disappointment, we agreed that despite how sad it’d be, it’s not worth the risk of potentially bringing it over with me on a visit home even if ‘allowed’ to by the government, especially as Bristol is a hotspot at the moment.
“My parents aren’t exactly young any more, nor is my Grandmother who they care for – an even higher risk. It got me down to be missing it, but what’s the point in saying hello at Christmas to wake up to bad news on New Year’s Day?
“It’s just a day after all – we’ll have a belated event in the spring when we can all be safe. A bunch of my friends have had to disappoint their parents in the same ways so I get the feeling people are trying to do the right thing. I live on my own so I’m going to have a ‘friend-mas’ with my bubble household – it’s not exactly the norm, but what has been normal this year?”
‘I feel good about my decision today – but tomorrow may be a different story’
Maryam Roohipour, 31, publications co-ordinator, Lancashire, would usually travel to Ireland for Christmas.
“This will be my first Christmas in the house I’ve built by myself. I usually leave it every year and travel to spend Christmas with family. I made the decision to stay put because I was anxious about getting back home. The thought of all the regurgitated air on a plane or boat was making me feel so ill, too. I feel good about my decision today – but tomorrow may be a different story.
“Ask me how I’m feeling on Christmas Day after FaceTiming my family because I’ll probably be crying. I won’t be home or have seen a single member of my family for a whole year, apart from on video calls.
“That said, there are some upsides: going all out with the cheesiest, tackiest Christmas decorations I can find. What’s that saying? Go big or go home... that’s my motto this year.”
“On Christmas Day, I’ll open my presents from our family Secret Santa. We’ll be posting our presents to the recipients as we won’t be together. I’ll then be spending it with my bubble, comprised of five people and Aurora the cat, eating and drinking, and maybe having a walk. I’m glad the restrictions have changed slightly over Christmas so I can see a few more people.”
‘I’d prefer doing ‘Christmas’ in summer with my family’
Sophia Ward, 29, student, London, would usually travel to Fleet, Hampshire, for Christmas.
“One of my parents has underlying health conditions, so the impossible logistics of going home for Christmas are obvious. I could self-isolate, but I live in a house share of six people, so I’m not sure how realistic that is. Also, coming out of lockdown, I don’t think I could handle isolating myself voluntarily.
“I feel fine about my decision. It doesn’t make sense to put so much pressure on this one day of year. We have a vaccine on the way, and I’d prefer doing ‘Christmas’ in summer with my family when we can do it safely. The pressure to enjoy spending a day together would be intensified by the hurdles in the way of getting tested, plus with a looming backdrop of there being a global pandemic. I think there would also end up being a lot of tension in the air!
“Christmas is only symbolic anyway for my family – what about everyone who has missed out on seeing their families during other religious festivals?
“I’ll be spending Christmas with friends! I can’t wait to have a completely different kind of experience – a chance to let off some steam and relax after a stressful year. A number of my friends are staying in London for similar reasons. We’re going to do a pot-luck roast dinner and all bring different dishes. It’s sad I won’t be seeing my family and strange not reconnecting with home friends. But, I’m sure we will Skype on Christmas Day!”