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Christmas of 2020 will no doubt go down as one of the least festive in history, after the government's last-minute lockdown saw millions of people across the country forced to spend the festive season away from their loved ones.
With the damp squib of last year still fresh in many people’s memories, the UK was prepared to go all out for Christmas 2021: one study showed that consumers were willing to spend an extra 30 per cent on the big day, while 57 per cent of us were hoping to spend the holidays with all their loved ones.
However, omicron had other plans; the new variant of Ccvid-19, has seen record numbers of people infected – with one study predicting 30 per cent of Brits could have to spend Christmas isolating due to infection.
Alexandra Haddow is one of them. The stand-up comedian and writer, 33, had been feeling slightly under the weather when she took yet another lateral flow on Monday night – and saw two bold red lines appear.
“I was frustrated,” she tells Tyla. “I hadn’t tested positive yet at all before this.
“I had no idea how long I’ve had it for – I could have had it since last week, but because I only tested positive on Monday, I can’t leave quarantine.”
The government changed the advice in the last few days for people who are double vaccinated can shorten their quarantine period from 10 days to seven, if they have two negative lateral flow tests on day six and seven.
While this change means many people may be able to see their family after all, Alexandra’s late positive test means she will have to stay at her house in east London, instead of travelling to her family’s house in Corby in the Midlands.
“I usually go to my sister’s in the run up to Christmas, and then my sister, me, my mum, my dad and my brother in law would spend Christmas Day together,” Alexandra says.
“I was really disappointed as I missed Christmas with my family last year, due to the last minute rule change. Thankfully, I could spend it at friends, but this could be my first Christmas alone.”
Thankfully for Alexandra, who is double-jabbed, her symptoms of covid (which she believes to be the omicron variant.) are quite mild.
“At first, I just thought I was hungover,” she said. “I had been doing a number of gigs, and I had been going out a lot celebrating Christmas.
“I hadn’t had any of the classic symptoms, just feeling a bit tired, achey and shivery. “Otherwise, this was fine. I would have continued going to work feeling like this, in the days before the pandemic.”
With Alexandra having to cancel her last few planned gigs on the comedy circuit, as well as the parties and nights out she had planned with friends, she’s been spending the last few days holed up in her room recovering, with her housemates leaving food outside her door.
Now her housemates, who all tested negative, have left for their own family homes, Alexandra is enjoying having the home to herself, and is planning her socially distanced festivities.
“I’ve been lucky as I’ve had so many friends drop off food for me at the front door,” she said.
“These small things have gone a long way to cheer me up.
“I’ve also treated myself to a few things on UberEats and stuff like that. I’m just glad I’ve not lost my sense of taste.”
To break up the festive season, Alexandra has planned a number of Zoom calls, to keep her company.
“I’m a very social, so my advice to anyone who’s in the same position of me is to organise as many chats as possible with people,” she says.
“On Christmas Eve, my and my friends are having a Zoom call – one of my friends is in LA and they’re spending Christmas on their own as well, isolating. We’ve all bought the same bottle of wine and we’re just going to get p***ed on Zoom together. You’ve just got to make something of it, if you’re not too ill.
“I’m going to call my parents and my family on the day itself for a chat, and we’ll have a little chat.
“I’m just going to keep chatting to people throughout the day. “It’s about planning something for yourself that you can look forward to.”
While people may be tucking into their turkey on Christmas day, Alexandra wasn’t keen on plating up an entire roast just for herself on the big day.
“I’m just going to see the whole day as a treat day, essentially,” she says. “I’m going to make myself a prawn cocktail for starters, and then I’m going to make myself a massive macaroni and cheese.
“They don’t go together at all but who cares? It’s Christmas.”
She adds: “I’ve never seen It’s A Wonderful Life before, and it’s meant to be a good film, so I’m planning to watch that.
There are some things of her usual family Christmas that Alexandra will miss.
“Although we have a small Christmas as a family, I will miss the chaos and the arguments of the day,” she says.
“My dad every year loudly sings ‘chestnuts roasting on an open fire’ to everyone’s immediate cringe – but you miss it when you don’t hear it.”
All is not lost for Alexandra this year, who is hoping to test negative on Sunday and next Monday to go and see her family before New Year.
But even though she may not be able to spend the big day down in Corby, Alexandra’s more than ready for a (hopefully) one-off Christmas alone.
“I might be on my own this Christmas,” she says. “But I certainly won’t be lonely.”
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