Three Very Different Christmases

With the UK government imposing further restrictions and tiers on the UK (which I do think are necessary), Christmas this year looks different for a lot of people. Amusingly enough, I don’t fall into that category – our Christmas was already constrained by childcare bubbles and so the Christmas day travel we were planning to make stays as is.

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But it’s made me think – Christmas has always looked different for me. I’ve never enjoyed the gatherings or the exchanging of meaningless presents. Since becoming a Catholic six years ago, the best thing for me now are the chorister duties, the Carol services, and midnight Mass to end Christmas Eve/start the new Day.

More so, my Christmas has looked so different from the festivities that I’ve taken part in, the social aspects.

In 2017, I’d been married under six months and being straight out of my Masters, doomed as many of my generation to work an entry-level job, albeit admittedly in a five-star hotel and indulging my passion for food and beverage. I have such respect for the hospitality industry, the hours they work and the effort they put in not to receive so much praise. I worked four days a week and still worked over 40 hours; I dread to think the hours people classed as working ‘full-time’ were doing.

It’s no wonder I was exhausted all the time. I left the house at 10 in the morning and didn’t return until after 11 at night.

In 2017, I worked Christmas Day (along with the day shift of New Year’s Eve) and my Christmas lunch consisted of turkey breast that I quickly gobbled with my husband. The hotel itself held a Christmas party in the middle of January, which I joined after the end of my shift, but there was always the chance at that point that I could be pregnant, so I couldn’t enjoy drinking into the night.

A good choice, retrospectively.

In 2018, I’d managed to get a different job, working as a Clinical Coder for the NHS. Thanks to the location of the clinic, we also moved into York Central, as opposed to hanging around the towns and villages that required a train drive to get anywhere. By Christmas 2018, I was actually already eight months strong into the job. We were given the bank holidays off, but, being NHS, weren’t allowed to take a week off like my husband and his family were. We had a small Christmas at home, just the two of us and our kittens. At work, I was getting involved with ore ‘typical’ work activities. I had a Secret Santa and the Friday before Christmas we exchanged gifts and had a ‘fun’ work day.

Except that I wasn’t there for most of it. I had two back-to-back job interviews that day and arrived barely in time to get my gifts and cards and head home. A little stressful!

In the end, I got offered both of the jobs. I’ll never know if I made the wrong choice by picking the one that I did, but I will never not value dipping into the corporate side of hospitality and it was the most fun job I’ve had (ranking above being a ride operator at Legoland, let me tell you that).

Arguably, agreeing to leave that job in July changed my life. I got offered better job in August, but waited months and months for my start date, leaving me essentially jobless and working from home until October. Long story short, I was already prepping for working from home months before we had to. I was already used to it.

Christmas 2019 was another weird one, job-related. Since starting my job in October, I spent the majority of the end of the year training down in Norfolk. This meant, no Secret Santa and no festivities within the office. Christmas dinner as a work thing was provided by Sodexo, who did our lunches on the Norfolk base anyway, and we had the option to have it a couple of times, so I was not short on turkey and Christmas pud last year! I also chose gourmet mince pies a couple of times as dessert at the hotel at which we were staying.

In contrary to my other jobs and the constant flow of work around Christmas, we did, however, get to book off as much time as we liked (outstanding annual leave notwithstanding) and I got back in time for our Christmas night out – the first proper Christmas social (and the first proper social for this office). I took a day off to get my hair done and I went out drinking and finish the night with pizza and friends, far more how I’d expected work Christmases to be.

Despite what my above history might suggest, I stayed in that job. I’m enjoying it.

And now we come full circle back to Christmas 2020. I suppose in the end, the idea of keeping my distance comes naturally to me and that still applies to Christmas. It’s easy not to lament about losing Christmas when one never had it in the first place, and I’ve definitely found 2020 more of an advantage than most. Next year will be yet another different Christmas in our house, but who’s to say where we’ll be or what we can do. Perhaps, there’s no such thing as normality for Christmas.

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