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Reform Magazine | November 28, 2021

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Do stay for tea and coffee: “I’ll be home for Christmas,” so the song goes. Won’t we all?’

Do stay for tea and coffee: “I’ll be home for Christmas,” so the song goes. Won’t we all?’

Paul Kerensa shares Covid-safe Christmas ideas

A couple of months ago in this column, I asked for your outside-the-box ideas to light up this bleak midwinter. If we can’t sing in church, if the Rule of Six-Geese-a-Laying means no big gatherings, if some places are tiered like a Christmas cake (alright, Christmas cakes aren’t tiered), what can we do? Share this page with anyone planning festivities who may welcome ideas to bring joy to 2020’s world.

At one church service this year, while we couldn’t legally sing, I was impressed that the minister taught us Makaton, which is like sign language, for each song. Could we do the same for Christmas carols? If we can’t sing, sign. Or, follow Sheila Maxey’s example: elsewhere in this issue (click here), she rediscovers handbells, dusted down to play ‘Silent Night’ for a song-free service.

Many of you have emailed or sent me ideas on social media. Virtual carol services or Advent calendars (click here for Reform’s) were popular suggestions – and it sounds like a few car parks will ring out with carols this year.

Andrew Deacon championed neighbourly contact, even if just a mince pie and a check-up note on the doorstep. Liz Faraday is going bigger on cards this year, with fuller messages for those we haven’t seen as much.

Julie Hoey enthused about Christmas window trails: 24 domestic windows illuminated with seasonal scenes, fun for families to spot on a tour of the streets. Julie also suggested buying vouchers for independent shops or cafes, possibly given to a foodbank to help out a local family. ‘Buying useful’, as well as independent and local, could be encouraged.

Fran Hill suggested ‘promise vouchers’, for later redemption of a fancy cream tea or a simple walk together (when permitted). Dawn Winskill pondered an online Christmas Tree Festival, sharing photos of our trees or children’s drawings, maybe encouraging donations for a local charity

Jo Pratt’s children are recording a radio play of my favourite book: A Christmas Carol. I’ll also be reading that on my Facebook Live show on Tuesday nights, where I’ll give my talk on the history of Christmas. I’m hoping to stage my play, Three Wise Men – on how Dickens, Prince Albert and Washington Irving influenced the modern Christmas – too. That’ll be live at Lantern Arts Centre in Raynes Park, and/or online.

The internet will be handy, of course. Ro Stretton’s doing a Zoom Christingle, while Ruth Leigh will be wassailing via Microsoft Teams, a bizarre mix of old and new. Personally, I’m doing a Zoom-style panto (‘pantonline’?) and a ‘back-of-a-lorry’ carol service on a carnival float, to reach people where they are.

For those who struggle with technology, Christ Church in Rayleigh, Essex, planned to deliver CDs for their virtual carol service, so locals can listen at the same time. Their Minister, Naomi Young-Rodas, says they’re also delivering hampers and staging a traditional Posada with a 2020 twist: Mary and Joseph will tour doorsteps, be refused shelter, and end up at the church.

Julie Ramsden suggested Christmas Eve doorstep carols; Carol Lowries proposed Thursday 8pm carols throughout Advent, like the NHS clap. Liz Roberts’ church isn’t doing Carols By Candlelight; they’re doing Carols By Carlight. Yes, the drive-in car-ol service is here.

However we celebrate, I pray we’ll find something new and worthwhile. Many of us have craved a homely, quiet Christmas for years, with family, faith and mulled sprout juice (or another festive beverage). Without the distraction of Christmas busyness, maybe some of our customs – of generosity and neighbourliness – won’t just be for this Christmas, but for life. Merry Christmas!

Paul Kerensa is a comic writer, performer and broadcaster. He’ll be livestreaming Christmas shows online via fb.me/paul.kerensa. His book Hark! The Biography of Christmas (Lion Hudson, 2017) is also available as an audiobook

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This article was published in the December 2020 / January 2021 edition of Reform

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