This year is not like the ones before and it’s no surprise that the end of year holidays must then be different as well. Here in Belgium the rules to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus have changed every month or two: the government imposing restrictions when the infection rate is too high and loosening them again when it’s low enough. Too high and low enough refer to the capacity for health care: though some non-urgent medical interventions are postponed, there should always be enough beds and personnel to handle both the people infected with COVID-19 and others needing medical care.
The restrictions include the closing of bars and restaurants, a curfew and a limitation of how many persons you may come into close contact with. Today on Christmas day a household is allowed one knuffelcontact (a person to hug), but they can also meet up with others outside, in groups of maximum four people and while respecting the safety rules like social distancing and wearing a mouth mask. Professionally, those who can work at home, must do so, so you can imagine that I haven’t seen a lot of people these last few weeks.
It was a bit odd to start this holiday season under such circumstances, but I’ve decided to find the silver linings and make the most of it!
Friday 18 December is the last day at work before my holiday, so I wrap up ongoing tasks, write a few status update mails and tell colleagues to call me if something comes up, I won’t be doing anything exciting in my holiday anyway!
Since Arne does not have a holiday, I’m spending the next days with my mother, working on projects like the Puzzle Plaid and a prototype for a lined fleece and windbreaker. My mom is my knuffelcontact, but even so we take care to keep some distance and wash our hands regularly.
I reply to some mails on my smart phone and answer a few telephonic questions, but it seems calm enough at work. I suppose a lot of people waited with holidays until the last minute, hoping the restrictions would ease up a bit. As a result, many have to take their paid leave now or loose it entirely.
I spend most of the day at my mothers apartment, though we occasionally go out to get sewing supplies or take-away food. The shops are open again and there’s a lot of people in the shopping district. Mouth masks are obligatory and the number of people in any district is carefully monitored.
Wednesday is my mom’s birthday, so we invite her to our house for a luxury breakfast with bubbles. We’re all early birds, so at seven thirty I pick her up, together with the ingredients for breakfast. We bought these in town the day before but that day I took the bike to town and didn’t want to risk the eggs and tomatoes in a bike bag!
After breakfast we head back to down – Arne is still working at home so I want to stay out of his way – and continue our sewing projects.
Thursday is the day of Christmas Eve. Other years we would spend this with my parents, my sisters and their family, but no such luck this year.. We spend a quiet day at home until Arne goes out to pick up our food basket from a fancy restaurant in the neighbourhood.
We take a short walk, put on fancy clothes just for the fun of it and have a pleasant evening with just the two of us. We watch the feel good show that is produced and aired simultaneously by all national television stations (both Flemish and Walloon, with a few brief sentences in German for the Oostkantons), with music and short stories of how all kinds of people in Belgium are dealing with the corona crisis: a nurse, a young boy in school, a military woman helping with care, .. It’s a nice counterpoint to all the negative daily news!
Dinner is excellent: we start with appetizers with a non-alcoholic cocktail, these come in little Weck jars, ready to eat. The two warm dishes require some preparation: fish and meat in the oven, sauce warmed up in a saucepan, .. We have a glass of white with the fish dish and then a light red with the turkey.
After dinner, to finish the evening, we watch the Christmas special of Bake Off Vlaanderen.
Today, Friday, is Christmas Day. Usually we would spend this day with my husband’s family, but again that’s not allowed now and we continue the celebrations on our own.
I skip breakfast because I’m still full of yesterday’s delicious meal and we go out for a long walk. The weather is unexpectedly sunny but there are not many other people – we set out just after nine and I imagine many people are not up and about yet.
It’s cold and extremely muddy on the forest trails but we’re prepared with waterproof shoes and down jackets. The birds are singing, the pheasants are screeching and it’s all very peaceful. We take a selfie and send it to our family with our best wishes.
The rest of the day is filled with cleaning up the kitchen (it requires three runs of the dishwasher), Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, a computer game for Arne and a book for me. Soup for lunch, fruit and fresh cheese for dinner!
We have a quiet weekend ahead of us, obviously. Saturday we’ll be doing an online Pictionary game with four families we’ve been friends with since college, the first time we’re trying something like that, I’m curious as how that will turn out.
Sunday I’ll take a walk with a friend. It’ll be raining, but we’re determined to make the most of it. Afterwards we’ll sit in the veranda with the doors wide open, under a heat lamp to avoid freezing and we’ll have a small celebratory drink and snack.
A few days of work – nice and quiet while everybody’s on holiday – and then another small celebration, just the two of us, for New Year’s Eve. I expect we’ll do a few more walks, alone or with couples from family or friends, thankfully we already know quite a few routes in the area!