A December to Remember

In the past few years, my kicking-off-Christmas posts have been about all the many fun activities we have planned for the month of December, and the incredible number of things there are to do in London this time of year. As is the case everywhere, the holiday season here in London is looking a lot different this year.

The Christmas lights around London were quietly hung and lit with no lighting ceremony fanfare and festivities.

Photograph: Jonathan Hordle/PA Wire

Christmas markets and school nativities and even pantos have gone virtual. There will be no Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, no tickets to the Nutcracker, no visits to Father Christmas’ Grotto, ho ho humbug.

But Christmas certainly isn’t cancelled. We just have to be a bit more creative in ways to get joyful and jolly.

And this week the restrictions from our monthlong “lockdown” were lifted until after Christmas, with the idea that we can all have a decent December, with the payoff of then suffering through the winter of our discontent.

I put lockdown in quotes because it was so much looser than the one in the spring, and it really didn’t feel like much changed except you couldn’t go into shops or restaurants or bars or gyms. Which changed very little for those of us who weren’t going into gyms and restaurants and bars anyway.

Of course this DOES make a big difference for the people who work in those places and may not have been getting paid this past month. And the owners of small businesses and restaurants who took yet another hit in this difficult year. We’re making a conscious effort to support these small businesses, and to donate to the local food bank and other charities that are seeing a huge increase in demand for their services.

Bundling up festive baby attire at Little Village to go to families that need help this month

But with a vaccine being rolled out in the UK this week!!!, and the result of the recent American presidential election, dare I hope that things are looking up for 2021?

And as for our family fun Christmas activities, I have still managed to book a couple activities that I feel can be done safely, as they are entirely outdoors: ice skating at Hampton Court Palace and the Christmas at Kew Gardens light display. And I just saw that a local church has organised some neighbourhood doorstep caroling, which sounds delightfully back-to-basics.

The girls’ school can’t hold their usual Christmas fair, or the class Christmas party for the parents at a pub, but I came up with a creative alternative to a class Christmas party, for both the kids and grownups to enjoy: We are repeating our trick-or-treat trail that was successful on Halloween, but changing it to a festive trail. We’ve already got the route and the schedule worked out, so it doesn’t involve much more planning.

Everyone will don their gay apparel, decorate their doors and windows, and blast Christmas music; and we’ll visit each other’s doorsteps and hand out little Christmas goodies to the kids. And likely some mulled wine for the parents. It’s something to look forward to, for all of us.

So it will be a quieter, much less busy December for us this year. Which isn’t a bad thing. I’ve definitely overbooked us the past few years, because I’m never sure if this will be our last Christmas in London, and I want to experience everything. This year, experiencing everything just isn’t possible. Even if it does end up being our last Christmas in London.

Reading Christmas books with Daddy

Our Thanksgiving was also quiet, just the four of us; and while that was a little depressing, it was also very low-stress and no-pressure for me. The kids were at school (No. 1 thing I’m thankful for this year) all day and M had to work, so it’s not exactly a typical American Thanksgiving anyway.

Much like the Pilgrims on the first Thanksgiving, I masked up and collected our turkey dinner from Whole Foods, and cycled it home in my cargo trike.

We watched the altered Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on YouTube, in our slippers, while our pre-made mashed potatoes and cornbread stuffing reheated in the oven.

We Facetimed both our families, who were celebrating in New Jersey and Oregon.

All in all, it was a decent Thanksgiving in lockdown London, though I do look forward to being able to spend it with family and friends again in the future.

And going back to what I was saying about finding creative ways to spark Christmas cheer, I had a Victorian boot scraper to decorate.

I made the little mouse using the same pattern as the previous mice, but also made a little Santa hat for him, and added a scarf and a jingle bell. I made the little stockings out of felt and pom-pom trim, too.

The other mouse had been an early addition by someone to our original mouse hole installation. He had been holding a little Christmas tree, but it went missing at some point during his first stay in the hole. So I wrapped up a little present and glued it to his hands where the tree used to be. Wrapping presents that small is no simple task, btw. And, spoiler alert: they’re each getting a single Lego.

I managed to set this whole thing up, with timer lights, without getting caught by the homeowners this time. Some might say I’m the Banksy of Victorian boot scrapers. (OK, just me, I’m the only one who says that.) Too bad the name “Anonymouse” is already taken.

In addition to making my little Christmas mouse, I made another mouse at the same time to continue my joy-spreadage. (Better to be a joy super-spreader than a Covid-19 super-spreader.) A few months ago, a woman on my block, whom I don’t really know other than her first name and door number, stopped me on the street to tell me how much her 2-year-old daughter F loved the mice, and adored visiting the “mouse hole.” So I made this little guy, wrapped him up in rainbows, and popped him through their mail slot one afternoon.

This is the message I received from the mum later:

Mission. Accomplished.

And the greatest gift of all arrived yesterday: my mom made it to London for Christmas.

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