AS I write this the World Health Organisation (WHO) has just stated that families gathering for Christmas should wear face masks.
This morning the radio told us that at one stage last night 17 ambulances were queuing outside an Antrim hospital because of Covid overload.
This really is a Christmas like no other.
How could it be otherwise after the year we’ve just had?
And I couldn’t help wondering what the anti-mask crowd thought when they heard that news from Antrim. How they sought to explain it.
Are all the ambulance men in on the hoax?
Is that level of infection acceptable because most of those who are ill will recover?
Do the experts of the WHO know less than the bloke you follow on the internet? A fool free Christmas would be a nice present, wouldn’t it?
Something that will be missing this Christmas will be the tearful airport reunions.
The coming home for Christmas footage is a seasonal staple of all Irish news channels.
Every year we see those Irish families gathered at Arrivals. We see their long awaited hugs.
Not so much this year. Some people will, of course, come home. Many more won’t.
They will decide not to take the risk. They won’t have the time to isolate.
A Christmas like no other.
Sentimental or not that Christmas footage is an Irish tradition that is hard to ignore.
It is a striking reminder of the kind of country we are. Of what makes us Irish.
I look at my own children and wonder whether their own Irish futures will involve emigration.
Not the youthful, joyful, curious wandering of the young. But the forced, necessary, traditional leaving of the Irish.
In some future, imaginary, Christmas will we be waiting at an airport, Post Covid, for them to come home?
However much the pain and emotion of emigration and families separated is a very Irish symbol of Christmas, Covid or not, it is nothing to the sorrow of those for whom Covid has brought the worst thing possible.
As I write this 2,140 people have died in Ireland of a Covid-19 related illness.
That is an awful lot of sadness. That is a Christmas like no other for an awful lot of families.
We cannot pretend this year hasn’t been the way it was. This has been the time of Covid.
This will be a Covid Christmas. 2,140 of our fellow citizens insist that we remember that.
In this way the hope and brightness of the imminent vaccine has come at just the wrong time.
We want to relax at Christmas. We want to drink and eat too much. We want to meet family.
We want to gather with friends. But we kind of can’t. Or we can in a strange, removed, sort of way. In a way that makes it seem like something not really worth doing.
In a way that makes it seem like something to do in a couple of months instead.
We’ve been through enough this year anyway. What’s a few more months, Christmas or not?
And after all, think what generations before us have gone through.
Previous Irish generations have put up with far more than being confined to comfortable houses and running out of things to watch on Netflix.
This Christmas children will still be able to sit on the settee with mum and dad and open presents and fall asleep safely.
Insisting the pubs open and we be able to go out for meals or to shops and watch our clubs and teams play?
Well, all those things matter in their own way.
They make life more bearable and richer in their own way. But we can cope without them. We really can.
What’s more relevant is that those at risk in their own homes, without homes, those in Direct Provision, are that much more vulnerable because of Covid.
Those of us who aren’t, those of us who are comfortable, should just do what so many Irish people before us have done.
Instead of looking for more we should just count our blessings.
After 2,140 deaths and counting, don’t we have to? Don’t we owe that, at least?
So, we can count our blessings. Go out on an Irish country lane. Look out over the hills.
Listen to the rain. Raise a glass. Smile at the neighbours. Greet our loved ones.
Trust next Christmas will be different. Will be better. Will be a vaccinated one.
Because after this year trust and hope and smiling and love and looking and listening seem more powerful than ever.
Nollaig Shona Duit. There’s gonna be good times when all our dreams come true.