Scottish Daily Mail
Christmas? Let people make their own choice
DECK the halls! Jingle the bells! It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Well, sort of. Maybe. Not really, actually. If ever there were a week of mixed messages from Covid HQ, this was it.
First we were told we could form bubbles of up to three households. Then came the stark warnings about, of all things, handing round the roast potatoes.
Yes, you can go walking in a winter wonderland, but you better be prepared to return to a freezing house with all the windows open, sanitise your hands every two minutes and bring your own cutlery. Fa la la la la.
Then adviser Devi Sridhar ominously started predicting a January lockdown ‘to pay for’ Christmas, and Nicola Sturgeon and national clinical director Jason Leitch further muddied the waters by priggishly telling us that, unlike some, they won’t be seeing their families at all.
It was like listening to the pious girl at school who would bring in a packet of sweeties, offer them round, and while you were mid- chew airily announce: ‘Oh, none for me. They’re SO fattening.’ All of it a last-minute switcheroo designed to make us feel guilty for even considering doing something so many of us desperately want.
Look, I know this is a difficult balancing act. I understand that, from a scientific point of view, the women and men in white coats would rather we all just hibernate alone in our bedrooms until spring. I know there are risks, and the numbers are still worryingly high. The virus doesn’t take a holiday just because we want to.
But I know, too, that there are people who are really struggling right now, who absolutely need something to look forward to. Who need the companionship of another human being, just for a few days. To hold a hand, squeeze a shoulder, hear another person laugh in the same room as them.
So there seems something rather disingenuous about dangling all this in front of our noses like one of rudolph’s particularly juicy carrots and then pulling the stern ‘not in anger but in sorrow’ schoolmarm act.
Either do it, or don’t. Or at least give us the dignity of, even just for a few days, making our own decisions.
There are elements of the Christmas regulations that make little sense to me. I am baffled, for example, that families within a bubble cannot go out for Christmas lunch, or to a pub for drinks together. Surely a bar or a restaurant, with all their strict social distancing protocols, would be a safer environment than a family home where the booze is flowing?
Not to mention that it would give some much-needed income to a hospitality industry that in many parts of the country is dangling by a thread.
I fear, too, that the slightly disapproving tone being fostered by those at the top may divide the nation. Some will decide to stay at home on the basis of the finger-wagging, forgoing Christmas with any family and trying desperately not to feel miserable about it.
Come late December when they see pictures on social media and hear about the lovely celebrations others have had, will they feel betrayed? resentful? Downright angry?
THIS year, perhaps more than ever, people deserve to make their own choices about Christmas. Isn’t that what the relaxations are all about? giving us just the tiniest glimmer of freedom and independence of thought after a year when we have never been more helpless to the will of the state?
giving us the option to say: ‘right, let’s do it. We’ll all self-isolate for ten days beforehand, stock up on the hand sanitiser, and just for a few days pull crackers, exchange gifts and try to forget the last ghastly ten months.’ As long as they stick to the rules, I won’t judge anyone for the choices they make. It’s up to them. We must all measure up the risks, judge them carefully and make our own decisions.
This year, surely the greatest gift our government can give us is to be treated like independent grown-ups. Not naughty schoolchildren, sneered at by those in charge for wanting that most basic of human needs: the hug of a loved one at Christmas.