AM I alone in thinking that November is too early to put the Christmas tree up?

It seems everyone I know has started decking their halls with boughs of holly, so to speak. Christmas trees festooned with baubles and trinkets, lights twinkling in windows, Nutcracker soldiers standing to attention on coffee tables, bumper stockings hanging from mantlepieces - even though it’s 30 whole days until Christmas Eve.

This has been one mother of an awful year, so I get the ‘Bring on Christmas’ vibe - but it’s only November, people!

We used to laugh at a house down our road that always had their Christmas tree up at the end of October. Now it’s almost socially acceptable. And as the Insta-ready festive season creeps into mid-autumn, the 12 Days of Christmas become lost in the mix, like tangled old tree lights.

Christmas is a bit of a dilemma this year. It’s started early, because we want some festive cheer within the four walls we’re confined to, but it’s not really going to be much of a Christmas, is it? Regardless of what tier you’re in, the festivities will be toned down, scaled back and low key. And that’s how it has to be, when there’s a pandemic on your doorstep.

One thing that has occurred to me a lot this year is that people don’t like being told what to do. So they flock to crowded beaches, throw house parties after the pub and refuse to wear masks in the supermarket. “People are getting sick of rules. They just want to enjoy Christmas,” said a ‘social commentator’ on telly the other day.

I don’t suppose my grandad liked the rules when he wasn’t allowed home at Christmas during the war, and didn’t see his child, my mum, for the first three years of her life. But you know, sometimes life as we know it has to go on hold because of a bigger picture. “This is our war,” someone said to me recently. Except even during the war the pubs and theatres were open, and households weren’t restricted to bubbles.

But, as ordinary people did back then, we must make sacrifices today. One of them is Christmas. A scientific adviser has stressed that mixing at Christmas will carry substantial risks, especially for older people. There is, he says “far too much emphasis” on a normal festive season. Quite. There’s been nothing normal about 2020 so why should Christmas be different? We don’t have a right to it.

I have never spent Christmas Day alone, and that makes me lucky because an awful lot of people do spend it alone. And this year it’s a likely prospect for many more. My sister’s household is my support bubble, but I can’t visit her currently because she’s isolating, having been in contact with someone who tested positive for Covid. If this happens again in December, to her or her kids, I could be home alone for Christmas. What seemed most pitiful, when I mulled this over recently, was the thought of cooking Christmas dinner for one. Pulling a lone cracker with both hands... Even worse, the forced jollity of a family dinner via Zoom. I’d rather just stick a baked potato in the microwave.

But you know what? I could get through it. Much, much worse things have happened to people this year than being alone on a day that never quite lives up to expectations anyway. Nobody really has a Fezziwig Christmas.

I know that being apart from loved ones will be awful for many people, but the alternative is too risky. If people get silly about Christmas, and insist on mixing irresponsibly, we will all be in for one hell of a hangover come January.