As the prospect of a normal Christmas sits squarely in the crosshairs of the Covid-19 pandemic, many people are waiting with baited breath to learn what government restrictions might allow for on the day. But could these challenging circumstances be a chance for us to take a step back and reevaluate what we actually want from the festive season?

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, or so goes the conventional wisdom and classic song. But the constant repetition of this message is part of the reason why, in reality, many people find Christmas so ­difficult. When the bright, flashing lights tell us to be “merry” and have a “holly jolly” time, it can feel like a mark of failure to be living anything less than a Hallmark dream.

For those who are struggling with their mental health, or their finances, or their family or other relationships – for anyone who is struggling with anything, really – the extra pressure that Christmas brings to make things “perfect” can simply add insult to injury.

So, while it’s perfectly understandable that many people, including those who have an ambivalent relationship to Christmas, are anxious about having to rethink their plans, it’s worth considering that this might have less to do with genuine personal wishes than it does societal expectations.

Think about it, truthfully. How many times have you done something over the ­festive season not because you really ­wanted to, but because you felt you had to? Have you ever wished that there wasn’t so much to do, so many places to go, people to see, money to spend?

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The answer to that last part is definitely “yes”, unless you’re Jeff Bezos (overlord of Amazon), in which case you probably just use an hour’s worth of unpaid tax to buy your Christmas gifts. And you can be sure that Jeff Bezos and other billionaires will have a very merry December, as they do ­every year - because while it might have started out as a Christian celebration, Christmas as we know it serves the all-inclusive religion of hyperconsumerism.

Every year, parents are expected to buy something bigger and better for their ­children, and comparisons are made ­between (and within) families which bring income inequality into sharp relief. Those who can’t afford to go “all out” are left ­feeling inadequate for reasons that, all things considered, don’t really matter at all. That’s the crux of a lot of what we get ourselves worked up about over the holidays: none of this matters. To paraphrase John Lennon: Christmas stress is over (if you want it).

I say all of this not as an “anti-Christmas” Scrooge, or even as someone who wants Christmas to return to its purely religious roots. I am fully signed up to the secular model of Christmas, which is all about spending time with the important people in your life and getting excited because the new Dolly Parton ­Christmas movie is released on Netflix today (yes, Dolly really is the gift that keeps on ­giving).

But it’s because I have watched oh-so-many festive films that I have learned the most important lesson of all: it’s time to quit your job at that corporate law firm and bake cookies for a family-run B&B that your client wants to turn into a carpark. Or, less specifically, that taking pleasure in the simple things in life and not allowing our wants and needs to be dictated by advertising agencies (who I’m fully aware make an awful lot of money from Christmas movies – oh, the irony) is generally a good idea. It’s good for our mental health, it’s good for our personal relationships, and it’s good for our bank balance (see exception on multinational CEOs above).

There are almost certainly going to be things we would like to do this Christmas that we can’t, as well as still having to do some things that we don’t. That’s been true of 2020 as a whole. But ­maybe ­being forced to scale back and slow down over the holidays could be a blessing in ­disguise. An opportunity to pause for breath and think about what actually makes us and our loved ones happy. And isn’t that what the “Christmas spirit” is supposed to be about?

All of this is said in full appreciation of the fact that some people aren’t ­fortunate enough to be able to have a quiet but cheerful Christmas at home – for ­example, those who live alone or without another adult. The introduction of ­extended households is an important ­recognition of the need to mitigate against the impacts of social isolation on mental health. Christmas can be one of the most isolating times for people who don’t have a close support network, so it’s vital that lone adults who have the chance to spend time with another household over the holidays are able to do so.

But for those of us who live with someone we care about, and who cares about us, can we honestly say that spending the day at home is that much of a hardship? I’m aware that I’m very lucky. Taking the time to appreciate and recognise that luck – that privilege – seems like something that many of us could be practising more of year-round. And if Christmas is supposed to be a special time, in whatever form that takes, then it’s the perfect time of year to be doing just that.

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As it stands, the First Minister has said her government is in talks between the four nations about developing a ­“common approach” around a “sensible and safe plan to allow people a greater degree of normality over Christmas”. Meanwhile, under Boris Johnson’s proposals, ­England would participate in an experiment that sounds like the latest installment in The Purge franchise, which sees all crime, including murder, become legal for 12 hours on one day each year. Let’s call this one The Purge: Elf Out to Help Out.

Lifting all Covid restrictions for not one but five days, people would be able to visit friends and family for ­Christmas ­celebrations. Because nothing says ­“festive cheer” like picking your least ­favourite relatives and exposing them to a deadly virus. In truth, the comparison to movie series doesn’t end there -- both seem to be based on the premise of ­letting a frustrated population “get it out of their system” at the expense of the more ­vulnerable in society.

As much as this column might ­convince you otherwise, I’m not ecstatic at the thought of not seeing my parents, siblings, nieces or nephew (all of whom live a two-hour drive away) over Christmas, anymore than I’m ecstatic that I’m not sure when I’ll see them at all. But I do find that a more enjoyable prospect than any of them falling ill, or of being responsible for passing that illness on to somebody else’s family.

It’s also worth remembering that other significant religious and cultural dates have taken place this year, including the whole of Ramadan, both Eids, passover and Yom Kippur, and most recently – in the midst of these high-profile debates about Christmas – Diwali. While there is clearly a higher population in the UK who celebrate Christmas than any other day, this still adds a bit of much-needed ­perspective to people acting as though their entire life will be destroyed if they can’t have 10 people round their house to eat a turkey on the 25th.

Far from seeing Christmas “cancelled”, maybe the close of our chaotic Covid year could be like our very own Christmas film. You know, the one where you get snowed in at the lodge with that grumpy but generous lumberjack you just met and, in between furiously Facetiming your boss, you fall in love. When life gives you lemons, make lemon meringue pie – because who really likes Christmas ­pudding anyway?