'I feel betrayed': Britons celebrate a very different Christmas

By Jedidajah Otte

Britons across the country celebrated a very different Christmas on Friday, with many unable to gather with loved ones or take part in some of their festive traditions.

Dozens of residents at a Leeds care home were able to embrace friends and family members on Christmas Day after a rapid results trial allowed for visitors.

Aspen Hill Village in Hunslet, south Leeds, hosted 50 close contact family visits on Friday morning after running successful trials of lateral flow testing for coronavirus, which produce results within 30 minutes.

Family members clad in personal protective equipment (PPE) – including gowns, gloves and masks – and laden with gifts and flowers hugged and chatted with elderly relatives during a two-hour visiting window.

Mary Orme (right) and her son Michael McKimm greet their mother and grandmother, Rose McKimm, during a Christmas Day visit at Aspen Hill Village care home in Hunslet, Leeds.
Mary Orme (right) and her son Michael McKimm greet their mother and grandmother, Rose McKimm, during a Christmas Day visit at Aspen Hill Village care home in Hunslet, Leeds. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA

‘We got the biggest turkey we’ve ever had, and no guests’

Alex Andrews, 60, from Surrey, is sad his parents won’t be able to visit as they normally would on Christmas Day, but is otherwise feeling positively festive.

“We zoomed my parents last night and will do again today. They seemed very pleased. We often have friends round later in the day, which was great fun in previous years, but won’t be doing that either of course.

“Thanks to the late notice, we have an enormous, 8kg turkey. In the past we’ve nearly always ended up with smaller ones and contacted Waitrose hoping to trade it for a bigger one, but of course this year we’ve got the biggest you can imagine. So, I suppose we’ll be making turkey curry for a while.

“But the biggest change is probably: I’m normally quite stressed, looking after everyone while cooking. Now I’m in bed, which I normally wouldn’t be. So, while we’re very sorry my parents and friends aren’t here, it’s more relaxed.”

Alex Andrews and his gigantic turkey on 25 December 2020.
Alex Andrews and his gigantic turkey. Photograph: Luke Andrews/GuardianWitness

‘The presents are put away for later’

Mary Strode, 68, from Powys, Wales, had been looking forward to spending Christmas with her son and daughter, but will now not meet them.

“My son lives in Milton Keynes, my daughter is retraining to be a teacher and lives in Glasgow. We were to have had Christmas in my house near Hay-on-Wye. My son was told at short notice to work Boxing Day so we had already changed plans to have Christmas at Milton Keynes. Now Scotland and Wales have closed their borders, none of us can meet up.

“There’s a lady who invited me round for Christmas lunch in a neighbouring village, so I’ve actually got somewhere to go today. The presents are wrapped and put away in a wardrobe. I had ordered Christmas meats and duck, which will now not be eaten. It’s a bloody mess.”

‘My stuffed seal gives me comfort’

James Fisher, 28, a journalist from London, will be spending Christmas largely alone.

“I’m in my flat in Battersea, I might go for a nice Christmas walk with a friend later and I’ve got an army of venus fly traps to plant.

“It’s a very different Christmas for sure, but I’m doing my best. I’m treating myself to some breakfast champagne, I’ve got my Christmas jumper on, I’ve got my tree up. It’s my mum’s birthday today, so it would have been nice to see her, but I’ll visit my parents once they’ve had the vaccine. My stuffed seal gives me comfort.”

James Fisher, 28, from Battersea, London, on 25 December, 2020.
James Fisher, 28, from Battersea, London. Photograph: Handout

‘I feel betrayed and defeated’

Michael*, 27, (name and age changed), a police officer from Dunbar, Scotland, will be spending Christmas without his family.

“I live in Scotland where it would still have been possible to have family over, however due to the Scottish travel ban, my family, who live two minutes over the border, are unable to come and spend Christmas together.

“After a year of great hardship, and doing my utmost to encourage others, whilst carrying out my duties at work, I feel betrayed and defeated. Had they said from the start that there would be no meeting over Christmas, we would not have got our hopes up and would have been prepared emotionally for it, but to have built everyone’s hopes and then dashed them – conveniently after everyone has purchased their Christmas shopping – is utterly inhumane.”