surinenglish

THE BOTTOM LINE

A place at Christmas

Christmas is coming and rather than being a celebration it is well on its way to becoming the wet dream of Ebenezer Scrooge ('Bah humbug'), that infamous anti-yuletide character in Dickens' novel. In every family the debate has started over who to invite and who to leave out, especially in the larger homes of the rich relatives who usually play host round the dinner table on special family occasions. Those party-bore brother-in-laws are already angling for an invite, sucking up to others in all their WhatsApp groups: they know that they'll be the first to miss the cut and noone wants to find themselves eating alone more often than the other at this time of year, however much family upset they cause every time they turn up.

The government has said that in the upcoming festivities, which will be the saddest ever for many thousands of people in Malaga, only up to six people will fit around the table but it hasn't made clear if children enter into the equation. On the day, maybe they can take turns: group A starts at eight on Christmas Eve, as a sort of dinner-supper; and then in successive shifts until downing the grapes at midnight on New Year's Eve. But not much later than that mind you, as by one o'clock at the latest we've all got to be back on the sofa, dozing in front of whatever is being churned out on the telly.

It's hard to find a 'malagueño' clan that doesn't usually all get together at this special time of year, and in the best case scenario, the hardcore group, including partners, is more than ten people. That's without even thinking about families with lots of children; they're going to have to send one of the kids over to the neighbours'. So it goes without saying that the level of compliance is going to be somewhere between zero and hardly, although to be fair, ignoring rules is as old a tradition in these parts as Christmas itself. It's going to be impossible to police a rule imposing such a low limit on people eating the Christmas Eve meal, or Christmas Day lunch, or at New Year, so that, as ever, everybody will do just what they want to do.

Having said that, and now it's time to get serious, I'm worried that all this palaver of limits and timings means many people become more lonely, those who don't really mix with family much or who normally work far away from their loved ones and who rely on the Christmas period as a time to meet up. Loneliness, depression and sadness also kill, and as much as the virus does, although this other pandemic is talked about in public very little. Whether it is in groups of six and six, or shifts, or however the Holy Government lets us, everyone deserves to have their place at the Christmas table.