At the time of writing, I have no idea of what will and won’t be allowed in terms of families gathering for Christmas. One thing is clear, though. It’s been a slow year, with the time we’ve spent in lockdown becoming so strangely elastic and elongated, and it’s going to be a slow Christmas. In this, at least, we can all take comfort – and I mean that literally. There is nothing nicer or more luxurious-feeling than taking it ultra-easy at Christmas.
The thing is, Christmas is still Christmas, regardless of whether it looks and feels a little different this year. You know how Christmas sometimes takes you by surprise, with December seeming to spin by faster and faster until suddenly The Day is upon you and you don’t feel quite prepared enough? Not this year. This year is like easing yourself into a warm bath. It isn’t just that so many people started Christmas earlier than usual, either in little incremental steps – a paper garland here, a wreath there – or by cutting straight to the full-blown version: some people had their trees up by the beginning of November. It’s more the sense of a leisurely countdown to the 25th, of a supremely leisurely Christmas period, and of an equally unhurried trickling into the new year.
The fact is, slow Christmas is the best Christmas. I’m taking the absence of the usual frenetic dash, where every day brings a new last-minute panic – forgotten presents, no bay leaves to be found, bad-tempered crowds of shoppers – as a giant blessing. I’m also taking the whole season as a sort of at-home rest cure, except with better food and squishier sofas and a small side-order of contemplation. This would be nice enough in itself, but of course there’s a prize at the end in the joy of Christmas Day itself.
We’ve all, in recent years, been urged to adopt a more Scandinavian approach to the festive period, to embrace hygge and sheepskin and candles. And we’ve all pared our lives down this year, and know that they will continue to feel pared down for some time, in one way or another. Now’s the best time to really embrace that. Slow Christmas is about the simplest pleasures – the delights of hunkering down, the scent of something good to eat wafting through the house, the feeling that, whatever may be going on (or not) outside, all is peaceful and contented within. Golden light glinting off baubles, a jigsaw puzzle in progress on a corner of the kitchen table, a pile of books by the fire, the unrushed wrapping and unwrapping of presents: you don’t even have to be a Christmas enthusiast to admit that it sounds pretty idyllic. Throw in long baths, the odd bracing walk and a wardrobe that largely comprises of soft, nuzzly things that are forgiving of an extra mince pie or two, and you have a recipe for utmost contentment. And as the days trickle by, we all have a chance to reflect and take stock, to think about what it is that really matters to us.
No matter how big or small your Christmas, how lavish or modest, how normal-feeling or how unexpected, it is and remains a time of joy, celebration and hope. Savour every last moment by taking it extra-slowly.
India Knight is a columnist for The Sunday Times and Sunday Times Style and author.