A not so merry Christmas in lockdown?

All Europe's states are struggling with high coronavirus infection rates, and everywhere the rules have been tightened in recent weeks. Many people won't be able to celebrate Christmas as they are used to doing this year. Commentators offer some tips for the Christmas holidays.

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The Independent (GB) /

No need to fear digital festivities

Christians should take advantage of digital Christmas masses, businessman and philanthropist Adeem Younis urges in The Independent:

“Virtual festivities are nothing to be worried about. What they lack in physical closeness, they more than make up for in spiritual connectedness. I've lost count of the number of people who told me that Ramadan and Eid in 2020 were their most meaningful and special yet. It's important we all strive to adapt to virtual festivals. At times of crisis, we need a sense of community more than ever. ... There is nothing like physical proximity to bring hearts and minds together. One day, we will gather again shoulder to shoulder on our pews and in our mosques. Until then, going digital can keep the faith alive.”

Tygodnik Powszechny (PL) /

Plenty to talk about

Sensitive topics should not be avoided just because it's Christmas, says Tygodnik Powszechny :

“The events of recent months show that the antiquated view that Jarosław Kaczyński is a genius and a political visionary is outdated. ... We political animals should say that out loud, even on Christmas Eve. Poking at this wound is hard, but it's worth it. ... When Polish families, divided in their worldview, sit down together for dinner on Christmas Eve, there are excellent questions and topics for them to discuss.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

Handwritten cards say more

The Dutch postal service conveyed a record number of Christmas cards this year. A card is like a hug, says NRC Handelsblad, paraphrasing the writer Katherine Mansfield and adding:

“It's no wonder hugs are in high demand. A letter or a card is a good solution. ... Every handwritten letter, every card, is an unexpected - and above all tangible - gift. More thought goes into it than into a Whatsapp message, a text message or an email. The person who wrote it looked for paper, an envelope, a stamp. ... And most importantly, the sender took the time to consider beforehand what thoughts they wanted to convey to the recipient. Before they pressed 'send' too quickly. Deleting is not an option here.”

Le Temps (CH) /

Things could be a lot worse

We should look back at history, Le Temps advises:

“If we focus on the year that is coming to an end, certainly there's cause for complaint. However, if we compare our situation with other, not so distant times, we can put things into perspective and above all take courage, because there are good examples of resilience. A hundred years ago Europe was recovering from a terrible war that claimed more than 18 million lives and left almost every family in mourning. And yet it was the beginning of a period of euphoria known as the Roaring Twenties and an unprecedented economic boom. ... So let us celebrate Christmas with dignity. A Christmas that is not a message of death but, on the contrary, of birth. This is not a message aimed at boosting consumption but a message of joy and hope.”

Eesti Päevaleht (EE) /

Scarves, woolly hats and bonfires

Estonians are used to a harsh climate and can spend the holiday outside, says Eesti Päevaleht:

“Since many Estonian families like to go to the countryside for Christmas, the [WHO's] recommendation to gather outdoors can be followed. We don't yet know what the weather will be like, but we aren't usually spoiled by the weather at the Midsummer Festival either. With suitable clothing and a proper bonfire you can celebrate Christmas outside, provided the weather isn't too bad. A low-key Christmas is the smart approach this year, with less hunting for gifts and Christmas food in the shopping centres and fewer visiting relatives and other close contacts.”

Kleine Zeitung (AT) /

Freedom is the insight into necessity

The Kleine Zeitung insists that the citizens' common sense will prevail:

“Even if it is legally permitted for 'ten people from ten households' to come together on Christmas Eve, it remains the height of stupidity. The smartest thing would be to celebrate the festival of love with only nuclear family members this year - without visiting relatives and without other guests. An outrageous request? Yes, undoubtedly. There will be family constellations where this - for whatever reason - is absolutely out of the question. They should then feel free to meet. ... As Hegel once put it: Freedom is the insight into necessity - so let us be free!”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Unworthy of an industrial nation

Germany is feeling the dramatic consequences of its negligence over the past few months, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung explains:

“Testing capacity is still insufficient and the testing strategy is erratic. ... The restrictions of November's 'lockdown light' were poorly implemented, at best. If there's a symbol for the failure of German politics it's the schoolchildren who have to sit in their classrooms wearing hats, scarves and thick jackets with the windows wide open because one of the world's leading industrial nations failed to use the summer months to prepare schools to operate during the pandemic. Germany will now pay dearly in both human and economic terms - not because it underestimated the virus but because these failures have worsened a wave of new infections.”

Delo (SI) /

Controlled shopping instead of sneaky meetings

Slovenia has had tough restrictions in place for two months, but their effectiveness is waning. Delo pushes for a change of course:

“It's high time people were allowed to shop. Not just because they need the chance to make urgent repairs and buy seasonal clothes, but also because this way they spend an hour or two in a controlled environment where the likelihood of contagion is low. It's better than them being bored at home and drinking a cup of coffee with the neighbours on the sly. ... The responsible authorities should set rules that allow people to exercise outdoors, in nature and perhaps even in the snow. And instead of just imposing sobering restrictions they should encourage people to make their own efforts to reduce the risk of spreading the virus ”

La Repubblica (IT) /

The confused citizen's dilemma

La Repubblica describes how people feel after doing their Christmas shopping when they switch on the news and hear the new death figures:

“Then they start worrying. Judging by the images there were too many people [in the city centres]. We won't get out of this mess like this, they think. And at this point they no longer know who they are: a kind of living contradiction. ... They are stranded in the shallows of the Christmas dilemma, lost between the repeated admonitions to be careful and the call to support commerce, they feel innocent and guilty at the same time. ... They wait for someone to tell them whether they're right or wrong. And if they're a little right and a little wrong at the same time, this time it's not necessarily their fault.”

La Libre Belgique (BE) /

Let's dare to celebrate a real Christmas!

For theologian Arnaud Join-Lambert this Christmas season provided an opportunity to do things differently:

“As our relatives may be far away, let us dare to celebrate a non-normal Christmas with our neighbours. Let us respect a distance of 1.5 metres and offer each other soup, pies, kebabs, pretzels or mulled wine. Every household, no matter how big or small, can light a candle in the window, for example, spreading hope in our dreary lockdown life. ... On this unusual Christmas of 2020, celebrating will mean sharing, in simplicity and by caring for our relatives and neighbours. Our Western societies have a chance to rediscover the meaning of this festival above and beyond the glut of materialistic consumption. This would be a return to a normal, authentic Christmas.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Clear leadership, please!

Due to the spike in the infection rate, the current measures will not be relaxed over Christmas in the Netherlands. In her column in De Volkskrant, journalist Marcia Luyten calls for a more courageous government crackdown:

“The state, which is firmly committed to putting tens of billions on the table to save companies, remains vague and permissive when it comes to controlling the pandemic. ... [PM] Rutte has appealed to the citizens to exercise self-control and described the lacking enforcement of the rules as 'pragmatic'. But in a pandemic it is not half-hearted self-control but clear leadership that is pragmatic. Rutte and his cabinet are the only ones who can punish recklessness and reduce the moral risks.”

Magyar Hang (HU) /

A strange change of heart

In Hungary, too, the coronavirus restrictions will not be eased over Christmas. Magyar Hang is surprised, as there is no official reason for this:

“Viktor Orbán made this decision after consulting with experts. Yet speaking in parliament only a short time before, he had played down such expert opinions, saying that it was merely a matter of taste whether and to what extent one believed them. So one can only speculate as to why he made this decision. Did he impose the lockdown too late [this autumn]? ... Or is his taste now telling him to believe the virologists? Or, wonder of wonders, has [the pro-government think tank] Századvég started to carry out surveys about the efforts to fight the pandemic?”

Der Tagesspiegel (DE) /

Box it through

In Germany, the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina has called on politicians to put together a massive package of restrictive measures, including schools to close from next week, and to push through a hard lockdown until at least January 10. Der Tagesspiegel also sees this as the only option:

“We ask, once again: Is this the right thing to do? Couldn't it be done differently, better? It could. ... However, most solid evidence so far only testifies to our inability to react in a sufficiently targeted, balanced, flexible, solidly united, science-based and knowledge gap-recognising manner that is logistically and technologically effective and where the communication is reliable. ... People want to feel safer again, and so does the economy. If we can't achieve this goal intelligently, then we'll have to box it through in a very non-Christmassy way.”

Új Szó (SK) /

Thanks a lot, government!

Új Szó does not believe that the unpredictable approach to controlling the pandemic in Slovakia will improve by Christmas:

“Almost the entire Slovakian press, the population and even President Zuzana Čaputová have been saying for more than six months that the decisions on measures should be taken by experts, and not changed every five minutes. They also call for transparent, clear communication. ... But all we got from the government on Saint Nicholas Day [6 December] was chaos and frustration, and the way things are looking now all we'll get for Christmas is another lockdown.”

Neatkarīgā (LV) /

Tanking up okay, but not buying headlights

In Latvia, new rules which mainly affect shops have been in force for a few days now. Many products may no longer be sold at the weekend, for example. Neatkarīgā see no logic to the measures:

“Everyone is affected by the new restrictions, even the tiniest shops in the most remote rural areas. Fortunately, pet food, newspapers and travel tickets can still be sold without restrictions. ... But gloves, socks and boots are to be covered with large polyethylene films, and you can't buy disinfectants - completely absurd. Products to do with cars cannot be sold. How does that make sense? A man who runs out of water for the windshield wipers or who needs a new headlight fills up and then drives into a tree in the dark? ... There are already restrictions on the number of customers per square metre on all shop floors. And buying brake fluid takes no more than a minute.”