There’s a classic scene in the 1991 film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves in which the villainous Sheriff of Nottingham (the late Alan Rickman) issues an angry edict.
“Cancel the kitchen scraps for lepers and orphans; no more merciful beheadings…and call off Christmas!”
It was funny then, close to 30 years ago, when such an idea seemed unthinkable.
Now, some may feel that the extension of COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings until Jan. 8 is tantamount to the same thing.
Being unable to welcome guests and homecoming loved ones – from near or afar – definitely hurts. So does not being able to go out to parties, concerts, pantomimes and many other community events that used to enrich our Christmas experience.
But we’re doing far better than those who dealt with the flu pandemic of 1918-21, or the generation whose hopes and dreams were on hold while the Second World War still raged.
As this year has shown, a plethora of household technology offers us plenty of opportunities to keep not merely diverted, but connected.
And is it really so bad to avoid some of the excess of Christmases past by keeping our celebrations small and intimate?
If there were ever a time to take a pause and count our blessings, this is it. Making the most of togetherness with our children and closest household family members – or for those who live alone, a few close friends and neighbours – is an opportunity we too often miss.
We will have time to appreciate a beautiful sunset at the beach, a dazzling wintry morning, the stillness of the forest. We will have time to walk the family dog, or pet the cat; time to bake, or craft, or revel in any number of small pleasures not proscribed by the current restrictions.
We may even have time to look beyond our own comforts and think about others less fortunate than ourselves, and the small but meaningful ways in which we can spread the joy of the season by helping those who need it most.
And that, surely, is what Christmas is all about.