2020 will forever be echoed alongside the words “Coronavirus”, “Lockdown” and “Social distancing”. It has been a year filled with a string of extraordinary events that have ended in anguish for many. While some have lost their source of income, others have lost loved ones. Now – as the curtain begins to fall on 2020, so too does the gloom overshadow customary festive season celebrations.

The weeks leading up to Christmas are usually filled with cheer, shopping for gifts, decorating the Christmas tree, attending festive events and visiting extended family. For many, this is the first year that none of these festivities will take place, however all is not lost and celebrations can continue even under lockdown, says Lifestyle and Travel blogger – Kathryn Rossiter. She shares her family ideas on maintaining festive traditions even while being separated from loved ones.

“We had all the material to make a Christmas wreath, so did our family in the UK, so we spent time online. We also plan the weekend before Christmas to decorate our gingerbread houses. On Christmas Day itself, we will zoom in when the children wake up and open Christmas presents under the tree. We spend everyday Sunday in the build-up to Christmas acknowledging advent, we have a meal and light a candle. We acknowledge with gratitude the year that we have been through. We all need to feel a little more positive.”

Think festive season and the thought of food soon follows. Chef Kirti Kamal says getting the family to gather around the kitchen and begin preparing for Christmas is a great way to bond and create some festive cheer in the home. This year, the gingerbread house has been one of the most popular trending festive treats.

“They not having as many gatherings as they usually would, they are opting for traditional items but they trying out new trends. We seeing a lot of home baking. The gingerbread seems to be trending quite a lot this year because everyone is looking for activities to do with their families. The gingerbread house is a wonderful activity, it’s festive fun, delicious to eat. It makes the home look festive because you can put it on display.”

December is also a time to travel, to see new places and visit family you probably haven’t seen all year. Lockdown restrictions have not stopped the Pillay family in Johannesburg from planning a whole month filled with festivities at home – including a Carols by Candlelight event in their living room.

Donna Pillay says the lockdown has not hampered her Christmas spirit.

“We usually go down to Durban to celebrate Christmas with the rest of our family but this it won’t be possible. I said to myself we are not going to be all sad and gloomy about it. You can make happiness with your own family. We planned to do many things. We never had a Christmas tree before, so we bought one and made a whole festivity out of it. On 23rd December we will do Carols by Candlelight with our family. We don’t have to miss out on those things. We will sing good old fashioned Christmas carols, reminisce about this year and hope that this year will be better for us.”

Christmas Day is probably the most anticipated day on the calendar. Many attend Christmas services at church and sing carols – that’s then followed by a large family lunch filled with scrumptious treats. Despite restrictions still in place on religious gatherings – Pastor Justin Naidoo is encouraging everyone to pray and take time to give thanks for the blessings the year has brought.

“Given the restrictions that COVID-19 has placed on us, most of these will not take place. Most churches might have a few extra services, but there will be restrictions to the numbers that gather. Is it the first time for many Christians that they will not be in a formal gathering. That they have not gathered to sing Christmas Carols but it will also give us the opportunity to spend more time with our family. My encouragement is that we do not look at the negatives but we take advantage of what’s taking place and begin to look at how we can gather as families in our homes and enjoy this moment.”