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With grim news over the spread of the new Covid variant, I’d determined to make sure the bright, shiny event at the end of December doesn’t end up being a damp squib.

I love Christmas when it’s here, but I’m not one of those people who puts their tree up in October. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But this year, I started thinking about it early – and with a sinking feeling.

It’s not just me. Among my friends, a festive bunch on the whole, there’s also a definite unease. It’s like something is gnawing away at us. We’re carrying niggling doubts and uncertainties when we should be looking forward with glee.

That’s strange because last year we promised ourselves a better, uncompromised Christmas in 2021. We got through last time resigned to the realities. We were accepting because this year we expected more after the monotony of Covid.

The low hum of conversations about food shortages and warnings about unavailable gifts are contributing to the current mood, aided by a gossipy uninformed tone adopted by some of the media. No wonder my sister has stopped tuning into the news bulletins.

In a strange way it might be ‘better’ if there suddenly was an Official Statement insisting Christmas will be reduced to a can of soup and a cigar. We Brits are pretty good at embracing dire circumstances and harking back to that ‘we’re all in this together’ wartime spirit in a crisis. Witness the hour-by-hour updates on my street’s WhatsApp group during September’s fuel shortage: ‘Diesel only in Bunny’ and ‘Long queues at Asda tonight, avoid’.

To cheer myself up, I wandered into Wilko’s in Clifton the other day to buy some festive lights – only to be met with empty shelves. Never mind, I’m really looking forward to spending 45 minutes unravelling that I brought there last year.

In a way it doesn’t really matter if we have to serve Cava instead of Champagne. But if Christmas isn’t about the details, what is it about? Let’s call it that feeling – that feeling of old lights suddenly flickering on in the dusty corners of your mind. Memories from childhood wrapped up in tinsel and cheap paperchains hanging across the lounge with Sellotape staying stuck in the corners all year round.

For my mum it is remembering the texture of the then scarce orange in her post-war Christmas stocking. For me, it was coming home to Mapperley from college in Brum on a cold night and pausing for a second before stepping into the warmth and welcome.

Today, that feeling can come from that cheap and cheerful musical star on the boy’s jumper in the John Lewis TV advert.

Even if this Christmas turns out to be another cheap or compromised one, I’m determined for it to be cheerful, at least.