As it turned out, December 2021 was probably about half as fun as we were all expecting it to be.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. After the misery of last Christmas and the lockdown that arrived hot on its heels, everyone had been planning a series of sensational festive celebrations to make up for lost time.
But instead of a fortnight full of revelries, what we got in December 2021 was a truncated scattering of low-key meet-ups, hastily scaled-back office parties, and group chats filled with images of friends holding lat flow tests aloft adorned with the dreaded two lines. Even the virtual quiz – which we all thought we’d left behind in Lockdown One – rose from the dead.
The build-up to this Christmas wasn’t what we wanted, expected, or deserved. But whilst COVID might have stolen events from the festive calendar two years running, it still hasn’t managed to take away our Christmas traditions.
Everyone who celebrates Christmas has their own special routine on December 25. And it’s not always a case of present-swapping, turkey dinner, gallons of wine and a blazing family row. We put the question of festive traditions out on social media to find out more.
Christmas Prep: Poundland, p*ss-ups and ringing bells
Christmas is all in the prep. The gift-buying, the wrapping, the decorations, the food, the games. The run-in to the big day involves planning galore – and this in itself has given birth to some unusual traditions.
People get ready for Christmas in all kinds of different ways, apparently, from budget shopping sprees to embarrassing rituals.
One couple said in the days leading up to December 25, they always arrange a dedicated trip to Poundland together, grabbing a £20 note and splashing the cash on a mix of completely random stuff.
“We buy so much,” said the poster. “Some tat, some funny, others practical. One year I got a padlock and a whisk.”
Another Christmas Eve tradition from one mum involves heading upstairs, ringing bells out of the window, and tossing two new sets of pyjamas into the garden for her kids. She’s done it for years and still does it today… even though her children are now aged 19 and 17.
Then, of course, there are those who just don’t do any preparation at all, and spend most of the previous evening in the pub instead.
One poster admitted that each year he ‘gets p*ssed Xmas eve and ruins Xmas Day’.
He won’t be alone in that.
Christmas grub: Chocolate Oranges from the dog and ‘pigs willies’
The classic image of Christmas involves plates piled high with turkey, stuffing, veg, roast potatoes and gravy, with bites of food punctuated by people pulling crackers. But some say they look forward to getting grub on Christmas Eve more than dinner on the big day itself.
Several respondents claimed their family tradition was to order a gigantic, greasy Chinese takeaway on December 24 – chowing down on noodles, rice and prawn crackers as a way to warm up the stomach.
Some also admitted to never having a traditional dinner on Christmas Day itself. One poster said they moved the classic festive meal to Boxing Day due to family commitments – enjoying a fry-up on the afternoon of December 25 instead.
Another claimed they put out pizza for Christmas lunch – resorting to this option after too many turkey dinner disasters (“After several ruined Christmas dinners… I now refuse to make one”).
The most specific food tradition of all, however, belonged to the family that eats Chocolate Oranges on Christmas Day – all of which are handed over by their mum on behalf of the ‘family dog that died in the 90s’.
A special mention goes to the respondent who admitted that the tradition under their roof is to call pigs in blankets ‘pigs willies’. That dinner table is guaranteed to be full of tittering.
Festive telly: Scarecrows, snowmen and the Ludovico Technique
Even if we weren’t being encouraged to scale back the celebrations this Christmas, millions of us would already be huddled up indoors and spending hours in front of the TV watching festive films.
One of the most popular pastimes after the big feast is to sink into the sofa and switch on the gogglebox. Some generations will still remember when there were just a handful of programmes to choose from on Christmas Day. But now, we can access all our favourite shows on demand. This means that festive tele traditions have broadened a bit in recent years.
Still, it sounds like many people still enjoy the classics. Many respondents said they tune into the same programmes on December 25 – with popular choices including Only Fools and Horses, Call The Midwife, Gavin & Stacey, The Snowman and The Polar Express. But in between the familiar festive flicks, there were a few unusual picks.
One respondent said they’d spent Christmas 2020 watching the reincarnated Worzel Gummidge – the scarecrow who originally appeared on children’s TV in the 70s – whilst their partner cooked lunch. And it’s something they enjoyed so much, they’re continuing it into 2021 (“I’m making this my new tradition”).
The most eye-raising response, however, came from the poster who said he liked to put time aside on Christmas Eve every year to curl up in front of Stanley Kubrick’s once-banned dystopian crime drama A Clockwork Orange.
Not the cheeriest. But each to their own.
Christmas spirit: Special memorials and kind gestures
Of course, for many of us, Christmas can actually be a pretty testing time. The day can evoke memories of loved ones who might not be around any more. In other instances, people who live alone can be left feeling isolated and adrift.
Among the responses to our Christmas traditions question, several posters revealed they spend the day doing something a little different to commemorate or help others.
One respondent said they always “put a cigar for my dad and tube of smarties for my sister under the Christmas tree who have both passed away”. Others said they always take a moment to raise a glass towards the empty chairs where a family member might have once sat in previous years.
Another heartwarming answer came from a reader who said she deliberately set up an extra space at her Christmas table every single year, just “in case anyone needs feeding”.
So, there you have it. Even on Christmas Day – a time of year when we picture millions of others in Britain doing exactly the same thing at exactly the same time as us – it turns out that no two households are identical after all.
Everyone does the holidays differently. But the final word goes to the respondent who argued that Christmas is already strange enough without needing to switch up the status quo.
He stated: “What [weird traditions?]? Weirder than bringing a tree into my house and putting shinny shit on it. Weirder than worshiping a jolly fat man who doesn’t exist. Weirder than stuffing a big bird in the oven and then seeing how much I can stuff down my throat? Weirder than extended family practices? Erm, NO. Can’t think of anything.”