By Co-Artistic Director in need of a socially-distanced visit from three spirits, Lizi Perry.
This isn’t a post about Christmas.
It’s far too early.
As I write this, we are in lockdown for the second time, a lockdown which I doubt will be fully lifted for Christmas, at least not here in Hull, currently experiencing the worst Covid rates in the country. As much as I want to ridicule the phrase “the new normal”, I do find myself strangely used to these circumstances. It feels bizarre to see pre-pandemic television with people stood close together, even touching. It remains scary, and exhausting, but no longer strange to only see friends via Zoom, or from the end of their garden path.
And as a little lightness in the dark, many people are discussing putting up Christmas decorations early, and many have already popped up their tree. I cannot say I blame anyone who is looking to brighten their homes, or give themselves something to celebrate, and if you are one of those with your lights already strung up, then good for you. Personally, I fear having a tree up for two months would make time feel even less meaningful… though I do confess to being a Scrooge who only approves of music and decorations in December, and don’t want a tree up until about the 20th of December.
That being said, this isn’t about Christmas.
Because it seems to early to make plans. We don’t know whether we’ll be allowed to gather, or how we’ll be able to celebrate. Seeing Eid celebrations during the last lockdown, and candles lit for Diwali this weekend has been both heart-breaking and heart-warming. I’ll take this opportunity to wish you a Happy Diwali, if you are celebrating, and hope that you’re able to celebrate with your loved ones, even if it’s not in person, even if your plans had to change. Despite the total disruption the pandemic has had on all of our lives, seeing people find ways to connect, to support each other, to reach out has been a silver lining on a really crappy cloud. And nowhere has this been more clearly shown that at these moments of religious and cultural celebration. In the adaptation of traditions.
But even though the adverts have begun (with predictably twee messages about being together), even though names in my Secret Santa exchanges have been drawn (and I’m eyeing up the mince pies), even though The Roaring Girls are trying to find ways to host some digital festivities (with predictably twee messages about being together… and probably some mince pies)… I didn’t want to write about Christmas.
I wanted to write about advent calendars.
A few years ago my sister gifted my the greatest advent calendar – a different blend of tea every day. This was far more exciting than a little chocolate a day, or an impersonal picture behind a window. As a tea lover, it was exciting to get a new blend to try each day, and fun to message her and say what I was drinking, and whether I liked it. She’s since sent other tea calendars (always delightful), and on occasion I’ve sent her, and friends, home-made calendars filled with tea or photos.
If you’re looking for a project it’s quite fun to put one together – and it needn’t cost anything either – you could send a photo or video clip everyday or text them a joke. Though I will say, if you are looking for a fancy advent gift, there are lots of tea-based calendars available to buy, and would no doubt be warmly received by any tea lovers in your life.
And another slice of advice - the fabulous Tom Wells popped an unexpectedly delightful idea into a WhatsApp group I’m in – if you started after Bonfire Night, you'd get just enough days for two advent calendars before Christmas Day. This is the sort of self-care I am here for, and if you have made a similar decision then I salute you.
If you are reading this and realising that you’ve missed out on this simple pleasure, may I point out that if you start your first advent calendar tomorrow, then you’ll have ten days of extra treats, and I’m sure you can find ten days between now and the 24th of December when such a thing would be welcomed. If memory serves, discovering you’d forgotten a day and could eat two chocolates was always the best bit anyway.
So whatever you celebrate, however you get to do it, and whoever you get to do it with this year, I wish you a Merry Whatever. (OK, it's a bit about Christmas.)
An advent calendar - hopefully it's filed with tea.