Covid: Seven things that may be different this Christmas

By Ian Westbrook
BBC News

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media captionFather Christmas has some tips on how to have a safe Christmas

The four UK governments have announced their plans to enable families to celebrate Christmas together.

So how is the festive period likely to be different this year?

1. Christmas bubbles announced

The governments of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have agreed a common approach allowing up to three households to form a Christmas bubble and meet up from 23 to 27 December (22 to 28 December in Northern Ireland).

People can mix in homes, places of worship and outdoor spaces, and travel restrictions will also be eased.

However, a Christmas bubble must be exclusive, so people cannot swap between them. Bubble members also will not be able to visit pubs or restaurants together.

There will be no limit to the number of people in a household joining a bubble in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

But the Scottish government has said that Christmas bubbles should contain no more than eight people. Children under 12 will not count in the total.

2. Smaller turkeys on the table

Fears that a lack of skilled overseas workers on poultry farms could hit the supply of turkeys have been overcome after travel rules were relaxed so they could travel to the UK.

But many people are buying smaller turkeys than usual because they are likely to have fewer guests.

An Aberdeenshire farmer has warned many birds could go to waste, while a farm in Wales cut its turkey numbers by 20% in September.

Any turkey shortage may make some people consider a vegetarian or vegan meal instead.

3. Work parties set for Zoom

This year's work celebrations seem certain to take place on Zoom and other online platforms.

Rules on big groups meeting up in pubs or anywhere outdoors are very unlikely to be eased in December, so seeing friends for a pre-Christmas drink or meal will probably not be allowed.

Current rules for socialising outside your household/support bubble/extended household are:

4. Midnight Mass chances unknown

At the moment, it is not known what will happen about traditional Christmas religious services like midnight Mass.

From 2 December in England, places of worship will reopen for communal prayer.

Up to 50 people can attend indoor services in Scotland in levels zero to three areas, but only up to 20 in level four places.

Places of worship have reopened in Wales, but with social distancing in place and communal singing banned.

They are also open in Northern Ireland with no limit on numbers if safety measures are in place. Weddings, civil ceremonies and funerals can happen, but only 25 people. can attend

5. Online shopping surge expected

While in-person shopping in non-food shops can currently happen in all of the UK except England, online retailers are expecting a big surge in demand this year.

In September, shoppers were warned by an industry boss to buy as early as possible.

Andy Mulcahy, from the online businesses' industry body, told the BBC: "At this point, I think we can expect an increase of at least 30% for the peak festive trading season, but if stores have to close this might push to 50%."

In England, non-essential shops will reopen on 2 December. They are currently open in all of Scotland except level four areas, across Wales, and in Northern Ireland.

Last posting dates inside the UK range from 18 to 23 December, while we have already passed some international dates.

6. Watch a panto from your car

image source, Luke Varley/Churchill Theatre Bromley

Theatres in England can reopen on 2 December, and plans have been made for some Christmas pantomimes.

While many venues and production companies have cancelled their shows, others are going ahead thanks to National Lottery backing.

One is at the London Palladium, where the Lottery will buy seats that cannot be used because of social distancing. It will also donate 20,000 free tickets to Lottery players.

Meanwhile a drive-in show - the Car Park Panto - will tour Great Britain with audience members watching from inside their cars.

Theatres in Scotland are closed in level two, three and four areas, throughout Wales, and to audiences in Northern Ireland, where they can open for rehearsals or a live recording.

7. A quiet New Year's Eve

image source, EPA

The Christmas relaxation of meeting up rules does not extend to New Year's Eve, so that is likely to be a quiet affair this year, with house parties banned in most places.

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