Christmas in a pandemic. How do we make the best of it?

Christmas in a pandemic. How do we make the best of it?

Christmas is a special time of year – a much anticipated holiday where we celebrate the year that’s been. It conjures up different feelings for everyone; from the joy of exchanging gifts, to the pleasure of rare indulgences.

But in 2020, we’re facing a very different type of holiday. For most Australians, this has been a particularly hard year, with the global pandemic following devastating bushfires. And while the lockdowns and border closures are relaxing, things are far from ‘normal’.

For many people with family overseas (or even interstate), Christmas will be a painful reminder that the in-person togetherness we crave is still impossible. Even for those who can get together, some traditions may be tricky to observe, and financial hardship might mean our usual extravagances are out of the question. And for those who have lost a loved on to COVID-19, there will be an empty chair at the table.

In general, it’s likely we’ll feel more pressure around Christmas than usual.

Maybe we’ll feel pressure to drive 18 hours across the country to see family. Maybe we’ll feel like we need to make things feel ‘perfect’ (when we know they’re not). Maybe it’s financial pressure – how do we afford the usual splurges when work has been scarce or non-existent? In any case, it’s important to recognise that this pressure exists, and try to minimise it!

For some, the current circumstances will also exacerbate the pressure already felt around the festive season. Few families are perfect (are any?) and Christmas is a time when old hurts and resentments tend to surface. Add alcohol to the mix, and tempers can flare and hurtful things may be said in the heat of the moment.

So, how can we navigate the festive season with minimum angst?

While there’s no sure-fire recipe to avoid conflict and disappointment, there ARE some things we can do to make the most of this unusual moment in time.

  • Give ourselves a break from ‘tradition’. This an opportunity to get creative, and do things differently. If we treat this as a ‘holiday from tradition’ we can re-frame our expectations and appreciate the positives.
  • Focus on togetherness, in whatever form it takes. Maybe your clan can’t all be there in person – and maybe you are still frustrated by the need for physical distancing. But there are still ways to connect safely, even if it means sitting down ‘together’ in separate locations, with the computer proudly perched at the head of the table!
  • Cherish the simple things. Massive expensive gifts may be off the table this year – but we can still put a lot of thought into small gestures. Similarly, meals don’t need to be over-the-top to be beautiful.
  • Share the love with those who need it. No matter how hard done by you feel, there’s likely to be someone who has it worse. By volunteering for a charity, or extending an invitation to neighbours who are isolated and alone, you can make a difference to someone else’s life (while appreciating your own in a new way).
  • Be kind (and forgiving). This isn’t a year to air grievances or dwell on each other’s shortcomings. We’ll all enjoy the festive season a lot more if we can remember to approach things with love, acceptance and generosity of spirit.


We can’t change the situation or predict the future – but there is always hope that the Christmas of 2020 will be one of reflection and gratitude for the small things in life that keeps us connected.

Need some support? Here are some of the services available.

13 11 14
24/7 support line. Free call.

Or you can visit our Get Help page to see the local services available across the Northern Beaches.

National Alcohol and Other Drug hotline
1800 250 015
Help for alcohol and other drug issues.

Gambling Helpline
1800 858 858
Available 24 hours a day if you need to speak to someone about problem gambling.

1800 737 732
National free, 24/7 hotline for anyone experiencing or at risk of domestic violence.

Men’s Referral Service
1300 766 491
Help for men to stop using family violence.

Mensline Australia
1300 789 978
Support for men with family and relationship difficulties.