The Irish Mail on Sunday
We wish you all a merry Covid Christmas and a trolley New Year
A party in the off ice and an ordered-in dinner for six... who’s for a lockdown-style celebration?
WITH children back to school last week, large department stores are already taking delivery of their Halloween stock, ordered long before Covid-19 was around. These stacks of tiny witches’ costumes and cartoon heroes already thronging the isles will soon be replaced by Christmas paraphernalia.
But who will be buying these products this year as we head into one of the most unsure winters any of us has ever faced?
Will we be sending children out trick or treating or even be having Christmas dinner with our family? Will the office Christmas party be a thing of the past and will Europe’s famed Christmas markets be no-go areas?
Will the All-Ireland final really take place in Christmas week at Croke Park with no fans present?
And most importantly, if the current upswing in Covid cases continues, how will our health service cope?
Here we outline some of the things we can expect this winter.
OFFICE workers thinking that Christmas parties will be cancelled this year can think again, according to Caroline Gardiner of the Dublin event firm, The Party Professionals.
Ms Gardiner says she already has eight bookings in from large corporate firms.
Christmas this year will not be cancelled, she says, but it will be very different.
‘The main thing we’re seeing is that firms want the events to be broken up into smaller groups. So if you have 120 people working for you, you might have seven or eight events.
‘Of course, it all depends on how the guidelines change on large gatherings but at the moment we think Christmas will be very doable. It could even be that we would have parties going on in different rooms of the same buildings.
‘Some of the parties we’ve booked so far are even going to take place on companies’ own premises,’ she said.
‘We are also recommending that companies hire a photographer so that employees who weren’t at one particular party can see what went on there and vice versa.
‘For parties in people’s homes, we’re limited now to gatherings of six but we are planning dinner menus where a professional chef will come in and cook.
‘There might be a cocktail maker and server as well, it’s just something a little different to keep people’s spirits up this Christmas.’
HEALTH experts are already warning that families may be forced to have their Christmas dinners together by Zoom, with turkey dinners being heated in the microwave so everyone can eat at the same time.
Another possibility is that families could be forced to gather outdoors with blankets and heaters to get around the current restriction of no more than six people gathered indoors. Professor Anthony Staines says he dearly hopes that he and his brother can cook dinner for their 86-year-old mother in her Dublin apartment this Christmas Day.
But he accepts that this might not be possible.
‘More than anything, I want to be able to hug her and wish her happy Christmas, I don’t want to be saying it over the phone,’ he says.
‘But if the Covid keeps rising as it is, I’m afraid this won’t be possible.’
Meanwhile, the large supermarkets are having to hold off on their advertising campaigns for the Christmas period, waiting to see what restrictions will be in place.
‘Whether we will be in lockdown at Christmas, or back to normal life, will heavily influence the tone of the ads,’ a copywriter at a large Dublin advertising firm told the Irish Mail on Sunday. ‘Ads with big tables where families and friends are mingling wouldn’t go down if there’s a lockdown in place,’ they said. ‘Anything that’s put out has to reflect the mood of the nation and it’s tricky to get that right with things moving so fast.’
Although hotels are still taking bookings for Christmas dinners.
A sumptuous package at the K Club in Kildare starts from around €1,000 per person for a twonight break, featuring carols, Christmas dinner and, of course, Santa Claus.
PAUL BYRNE, owner of the awardwinning Zuni restaurant and townhouse in Kilkenny City, also says businesses like his are hoping to capitalise on Irish people taking their winter break at home this year instead. Business was ‘very good’ this summer, he said.
‘We’re thinking people who used to take European city breaks will probably no longer be able to do that and we’d be hoping to attract those people to Kilkenny.
‘Irish people like their holiday and we’ve seen this summer that Covid is not going to stop them,’ he said.
Christmas markets may have been cancelled across England and France but in their heartland in Germany, Austria and Poland, organisers are still determined to go ahead.
And where there are markets, it’s likely that Irish people will travel, say tour organisers.
‘Oh my God, the Christmas markets are hugely popular in Ireland, they’re just good fun and such value and they’re traditional,’ said a spokeswoman for Abbey Travel.
‘We know that’s going ahead in Vienna, Berlin, Munich, Krakow, but at the moment we’re not taking bookings.
‘Some of those countries are not currently on the green list and who knows what that list will look like by November or December when people will traditionally make that trip?’
For those who are thinking of traveling Professor Staines has this advice – ‘don’t’.
‘I’m amazed that organisers can think these markets will still go ahead, people will be drinking, relaxing, all the things which make the spread of Covid more likely,’ he said.
‘If we don’t want Christmas to be cancelled, please don’t travel anywhere.’