Let me say at the outset that this isn’t a cry for help. I’m not angling for an invitation, nor am I depressed at the thought of another Christmas by myself. This year, more than any other, people need to be with the families they have been denied during the past 18 months.
But, yet again, I find myself echoing amid the resounding silence of zero festive invitations. I have three work-related events (thank heavens for my journalist colleagues and friends), but not a single invite for Christmas itself. This will be my third Christmas without Mum, with whom, bar three years since 1990, when Dad died, I had her over to my house. She used to arrive with enough stuff that would have seen her through a six-month safari, and still have plenty over for the feeding of the 5000.
Christmas was always a joyous time in our house, so I feel its absence strongly since Mum died. For a start, I get no presents, and she was the only person still buying for me. It’s not that I need anything (I really don’t!), but I miss the magical dawn of Christmas morning, the rustle of wrapping paper (like a young child, I’d have been happy to play with just that), the first Champagne, heading to the pub before cooking the dinner, afternoon TV (ET, always; there’s nothing like a good cry on Christmas Day), fry-up with the leftovers for supper…it’s just not the same when you’re sitting alone with the carving knife, contemplating that maybe the best place for it is in your heart.
On Thursday, we will be celebrating Thanksgiving (the last Thursday in November) in the US. It’s much bigger than Christmas here, and I love it because it really is a time to give thanks for what we have. I used to serve food and hand out clothes to the homeless at Mr Biggs Bar and Grill, and it was such a humbling experience to witness people so grateful for the wonderful hot meal that Richie (one of the owners) generously provided every year. Covid put paid to that in 2020, but it remains a day on which I give thanks (not least for the remains of the 20lb turkey from last year still languishing in my freezer).
I haven’t had any Thanksgiving invitations, either, but to be honest I find that being amongst people quite tough after the relative silence of the past couple of years. When I returned to the UK a few weeks back, I suffered panic and anxiety attacks every day, in no small part due to most people behaving as if Covid had never happened. New York City has been mega strict from the outset and went from being the state with the highest number of cases to the lowest; today, you can’t get into a bar or restaurant with showing your double vaccination card. Good. It’s great to be back here.
I contemplated spending Christmas in Valencia, where I now spend quite a lot of time, but the Spanish save their celebrations until January 6th, Dia de los Reyes, the Kings’ Day, which celebrates the arrival of the three wise men in Bethlehem after Jesus’s birth.
I’ve always been curious about that story because it’s never been clear how they acquired their alleged wisdom. Arriving with presents of gold, frankincense and myrrh for a new-born smacks of idiocy to me, and I’m not sure that the 33 year-old Jesus would have had much use for those gifts, either. I Googled them and learned that they were most likely the King’s personal advisors whose responsibilities included reading the stars. I also discovered, during this pointless search, that Deuteronomy 18:9-13 forbids activities such as reading the stars for guidance. You sinner, Russell Grant!
Here’s another thing I learned: the wise men arrived months, possibly up to two years after the birth, so never even made it to the manger. That’s hardly wisdom if you don’t even make it in time for the frying of the placenta.
Anyway, this is my first post in a long time, as I’ve been struggling a bit, as so many have. These have not been the easiest of times, and for those who have lost loved ones to Covid, or, indeed, to anything else, Christmas is going to be more difficult than usual.
So, I’m sending you kind thoughts and much love for 2022. If my invitation’s in the post, you’re too late; I think I’m going to spend the big day on a plane.
There are worse places to be lonely.