I wonder if Bing Crosby knew when he sang those beautiful and immortal lines in nineteen forty-four, ‘have yourself a merry little Christmas’ that he would be muttering such wise offerings for those of us struggling with Christmas in two thousand and twenty.
Having lived my life between two countries for over a decade now, certain differences I may not have noticed at first are now becoming increasingly apparent. Having grown up within a small nuclear family, I became very used to just six at the table for Christmas lunch. People that is. The number of pets seemed to treble on a yearly basis. My fault, I confess. Could never resist a stray. So when I first got invited to a lunch party here for twenty close friends, I was a little overwhelmed. Then I found out those same twenty people were all going on holiday together in the near future. Twenty! I can barely cope with finding somewhere decent for me and hubby to eat when I’m abroad, let alone find a table for twenty. The mind boggled.
Since then, it has become fairly normal to attend lunches and dinners in double figures, drinks parties in treble figures, and weddings in quadruple figures, I kid you not. It took a little while to get used to, but it is an aspect of Maltese cultural life I fully understand. It is a very small island, and people keep in touch and live nearby. In the UK, friends and family tend to move to all different parts of the country, meaning they seldom see each other, even at Christmas. Which is why this year I see how Maltese people may be suffering more than my fellow countrymen back home in good ol’ blighty. Despite the horrendous restrictions in place there. I am sure there are a handful of Maltese mothers out there thinking “thank goodness it’s just the ten of us this year!”. But I know the majority of you will be mourning the loss of certain family members or friends at the lunch table.
So this year, why not embrace the change? Instead of lumping all the old people down one end of the table, and throwing iPads into children’s hands the minute they take their coats off. Allow a smaller number of people around the table to become a positive thing. Talk to each other! Ask Grandma what she really thought of Grandpa on their first date. And what was Christmas like when they were young? Ask your niece what her favourite music is, and ask her if she wants to get up and sing. You never know, you may have a budding Ira Losco on your hands! Play traditional fun games that are much easier with smaller numbers, charades, the post-it note game, (still one of my all-time favourites). Make up your own version of ‘The Intro Round‘. It’s where members of each team have to get their teammates to guess the intro to a well-known song. Honestly, the less talented the person making the noises, the funnier. You’ll need a waterproof mascara, believe me.
This has been a difficult year for every person I know, for many reasons. Do not allow those reasons to make this Christmas equally painful. Accept that things are going to be a bit different this year, a bit smaller, less of a bang. But that does not mean less fun. Use your imaginations to make this the most interesting Christmas yet for the young and old amongst us, for they are the ones who really matter, no? Those building memories, and those recalling them. Make this Christmas more special and fun for them, no matter the number of people you are sitting with. Intimacy at this time of year is a rare thing, embrace it. You never know, it may turn out to be your best Christmas yet.