In the last seven days, over half a million in the UK have tested positive for coronavirus. That’s a lot of people who are currently staring down the barrel of Christmas in self-isolation, or, in the best case scenario, will be praying that their lateral flows come back negative on the seventh day so they can leave the house and salvage their holiday season.
TV adverts would have you believe that, short of being poisoned by off-brand eggnog, a solo Christmas is the worst thing that can happen to you. But spending the festive period alone doesn’t have to be miserable – just ask the people below, who tested positive in the run-up to the holidays and can now spend the day cooking whatever they want to eat (read: not dried-out turkey), being able to watch a movie without fighting their siblings for the remote, and swerving awkward dinner chat with the extended family. And, of course, there’s the added benefit of knowing that they aren’t in any danger of spreading Omicron to their families and loved ones.
In the run-up to the UK’s second COVID Christmas, VICE photographer Aiyush Pachnanda met – in a socially-distanced way, obviously – the Londoners planning to spend the day alone in isolation.
Travis Li, 25, songwriter and music A&R
Solo Christmas came across really scary at the beginning because when I think of Christmas, I think about family and friends’ reunions. But then when it’s closer to its time, it makes me realise that I actually needed this time to be alone since my job and my life is pretty much busy and noisy all year round – not that they’re bad for me, but I need a bit of balance to keep me away from social anxiety without worrying [about] turning friends down on arrangements and stuff? Could this be a common London thing? [laughs]
I got a turkey ready for myself [and I] will also make mac and cheese, roasted vegetables and a chocolate bombe for dessert. I think this is probably my only chance of this year to make some space for myself, have some me time, so I’ll just keep on writing songs, do a movie marathon – Love Actually, Bridget Jones, Home Alone etc. It’s actually perfect timing to enjoy a zen holiday.
Saachi, 23, law student
COVID affects everyone differently but my vaccines mean that I don’t have any cold symptoms. I mostly have a tight chest, fatigue and my kidneys hurt occasionally. It’s sad – I was obviously looking forward to spending time with my family, but perspective is important: I have a lot to be grateful for!
I’ll probably just going to watch a festive film – isolating has really limited my options! I’m trying to use the isolation time as a chance to rest up for the coming year.
Sam Owen, 25, video producer
I’m going to be spending Christmas by myself – all my housemates will be going back to family homes. I’ll probably get on Zoom to my family back in Manchester. I’ve never cooked a Christmas dinner, so I’ll most likely be going on Deliveroo and seeing what’s available.
Looking ahead to having a solo Christmas is quite weird, I’ve only ever spent it with my whole family and it is my first time self-isolating. It’s more anxiety of the unknown – I am very comfortable in my own company but already just being alone for two days, it’s very different.
It just feels like FOMO at the moment where everyone’s finishing work, heading home and seeing family. I’ll probably try and stay off social media on Christmas Day because I think that’s when it might just get to me a bit more.
Joe Kibria 29, art director
I’m not really a massive Christmas freak anyway so I’m not that bothered, but of course I’m very sad I can’t spend some time with the family and dish out some poorly wrapped gifts.
My isolation period actually ends midnight on Christmas Eve. So Christmas morning I’ll either be walking from London to Devon, taking the most expensive Uber of my life, or defrosting some Linda McCartney pies alone in my flat in Walthamstow. It also all depends on whether/when we go into lockdown again.
I just finished eight seasons of Homeland (again) so probably FaceTime the fam, spill a pint of port down myself and a massive nap. The most fun part of Christmas is seeing how middle class all the people I follow on Instagram actually are.
Freddie Smith (right) and Mike Lang (left).
Freddie Smith, 26, and Mike Lang, 29, bar managers
We’re currently trying to enjoy a few days off after a mental eight months of nonstop work reopening the bars, but once new announcements with restrictions and the like come into play, we will both be making plans for the fantastic teams that work for us and the bars we run.
Both [of us] had symptoms for the last week and a bit: sore back, cough, sore eyes, bad sleep, exhaustion. I tested positive on a lateral flow and a PCR on Sunday, Mike tested positive on a lateral flow today and [is] doing a PCR soon.
Thankfully, both [of us] getting it at the same time feels like we planned it. My family are in France, Portugal, and the Netherlands, so after an absolute nightmare trying to see them last year, and almost £2,000 wasted on flights, trains, boats, it seems like it’s going to be a surprisingly not disappointing Christmas in the grand scheme of things.
James Bates, 32, strategy lead
I found out [I had COVID] on Saturday evening. Symptoms so far don't feel too bad – a tight chest, scratchy throat. I had a cough briefly but it seems to have gone now.
I’m spending Christmas alone in my flat. My flatmate who doesn't have COVID is staying at his boyfriend's. [I’ll] probably [do] video calls – if my seventh-day lateral flow is negative on Christmas Day, I'll visit family. Lots of people are in similar positions, though most people I know will be with at least one other person. Aside from that, I'll blast music whilst I'm cooking and maybe watch a few films.
I had to have Christmas on my own last year. The day itself was quite nice – I made it nice. The bit I found difficult was being alone between Christmas and New Year’s. I'm hoping this [time] we'll feel different, as my isolation period will end during that time.