How to make the most of a Covid Winter

— by Adrienne Wyper

Photo: Ett Hem Hotel Stockholm

We were lucky with the weather, we all agreed, in spring and summer; blue sky and warm sunshine taking the edge off Covid anxiety, and encouraging us to spend time outdoors. But as temperatures, and leaves, fall, even keeping windows and doors open on public transport and in pubs, restaurants and shops will be a little chilly, with averages of 4°C to 10°C in November, 2°C to 7°C in December, 1°C to 7°C in January… Although indoor socialising might be allowed, some people aren’t comfortable with it. So seeing friends outdoors may be the way to deal with the annual flurry of ‘we must meet up before Christmas’.


Wrap up warm

To stay comfortable outside, prepare with what you wear. I’d recommend thermals, specifically a merino base layer, which kept me snug on a -30°C Arctic Circle trip. I love lambswool insoles, earmuffs, a furry hat and a Buff (neck wrap), which keeps your heat in and the wind out. Also, you can pull it up over your nose as a face covering.

If you’ll be welcoming guests to your garden, outdoor lighting and a firepit or chimenea will make it cosier. You could visit other people’s gardens or grounds – such as the National Trust and English Heritage – or go to a gallery or museum.

Off on a winter walk (or park-bench picnic)? Take a Thermos but think beyond tea or coffee. A wide-necked one will happily hold hot food, and soup is ideal. Or how about hot chocolate with brandy or rum, a hot toddy, mulled wine or cider? For sharing without cross-contamination, liaise beforehand so you’re all swigging the same thing.


So here it is Merry Sixmas…

Looked at one way, Covid is just like a conventional Christmas: we’re all stuck indoors with our family, eating and drinking too much, and watching a lot of telly. According to the ‘rule of six’ for gatherings and 10pm closing for hospitality businesses will remain until March 2021. Johnson’s jolly prediction was: ‘it will be a very tough winter for all of us: bumpy through to Christmas and may even be bumpy beyond.’

So, Christmas will be rather different this year: what we do and where we go…

We’ll do more present-shopping online, put off by travelling, limits on numbers in shops, or timed entry. I predict that homemade gifts will be popular because they’re more meaningful and thoughtful, and we may be cautious about spending.

In recent years we’ve been sending fewer Christmas cards but this could change as we get in touch with people we haven’t seen for months. And with gatherings being ‘intimate’ in size, there just might not be enough time to hook up with everyone.

At home, going overboard on decorations is jolly, and seems like a good way to stick two fingers up at Covid’s effects on life as we knew it. And with ‘big switch-ons’ of Christmas lights unlikely, your own fairy lights could be part of a synchronised switching-on of lights at home, maybe with the neighbours on your street (on a Thursday night?)

Most Christmas markets are cancelled so you’ll need to source mulled wine, wooden toys and giant gingerbread hearts elsewhere. And if you want to take kids to see Santa some of his grottos will be open (no sitting on the knee though). Some pantos are also being staged. (Oh no they’re not…)

Whether you’re religious or not, carols are the season’s soundtrack. For the choir I sing in, December’s concert is by far our most popular, but all our concerts are cancelled. There’s no news yet on this year’s broadcast (its 92nd) of Carols from King’s on Radio 4. Listening (and singing along) to that while cooking on Christmas Eve is one of my must-dos. As an alternative, sing with your household or via video-call.

As the year draws to a close there’ll be no big New Year’s Eve bashes in town and city centres. And it’s hard to do the Auld Lang Syne arm-linking from two metres…

For events that are taking place, numbers will be severely limited, so book early. And don’t rule out any last-minute, plan-ruining restrictions being imposed, as they were on the eve of Eid in July.


Look at the positives

Change is always unsettling but there could be a positive side to the pandemic. If you feel that all those traditions mean that individual Christmases blur into one another, or you feel obliged to always host everyone, or you’ve had enough of ‘duty visits’, Covid could be the perfect excuse to do it your way, to start new traditions, or have a one-off celebration to remember.

This year, more than ever, we’ve learned to appreciate the simple things in life – reading a book, taking a socially distanced walk in the park, catching-up with a friend (even if it is online) – acknowledging these small joys and making a note of three positives every day is a good habit to get into.


Adrienne Wyper is a health and lifestyle writer and regular TNMA contributor. 

References to restrictions are correct at the time of writing. Check here:


Keep warm and carry on….

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