Optimism, hope and trying not to be Scrooge

Embed from Getty Images

I’m not channelling Ebenezer Scrooge but at one level Christmas is the last thing we should be worrying about at the moment. Yet it drips through media headlines almost on a daily basis. I’m not against bank holidays although many people have had too much in the way of non-working days this year. I suspect I am irritated because Christmas has been put firmly in a political context this year.

Our Prime Minister seems to think he has a supreme obligation to cheer people up while blithely unaware of how much he is capable of depressing us. He does apologise, of course, but he apologises for the wrong things. Managing a country in the midst of a pandemic should not be about saying “I’m sorry but we are all going to have to do the right thing”.

Unsurprisingly I am not against Christian festivals! However for those who see Christmas as a high point for affirming one strand of religious faith there are good models to remember. Easter was for the most part done differently this year. Mosque leaders should be commended for their discipline and messaging during Eid. We should be taking seriously the possibility of the same pattern being required over the Christmas season.

I am not against businesses making a profit out of Christmas, even though I wish there was a more even pattern to business plans and sales expectations across the year. I accept that there was a bit of a difference this year with the pre-Christmas selling season not really getting going until the end of September!

I am not against family celebrations but this year we have to make judgements about the consequences of whatever arrangements we make or don’t make. For those of us who are getting on a bit it will not do to say “I am going to have a really good time this Christmas because it may be my last” because, of course, it is not just about us.

I do not want to dampen enthusiasm about vaccines, and the amazing high speed research that is producing them. But we need a sober recognition of how long it will take to make use of them in an orderly fashion across the population. There are times when we have to distinguish optimism and hope. False optimism can be really cruel and the worst form is the false optimism that costs lives. Responsible leadership means telling people hard truths. It means having a clear sense of priorities that informs planning, including contingency planning.

Happy Christmas may seem a simple message but I hope (yes hope) that this year people can see it as an opportunity to affirm how we value one another, recognise our common humanity and celebrate our interdependence. Meanwhile all l personally really, really want for Christmas is to be around for Christmas 2021.


* Geoff Reid is a retired Methodist minister and represented Eccleshill on Bradford City Council for twelve years

Read more by or more about .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Christmas, ceased being a purely Christian festival years back; but then the early Church did appropriate other religions festivals and reworked them with Christian narratives, so it never really was a purely Christian festival…
    Perhaps what is necessary is to continue the trend and as you note build on the messages of family(*), charity and goodwill to all. Interestingly, I suspect Jesus would approve, as he disassociated himself from the Chuch…

    (*) where family is what people regard as ‘family’ and not necessarily some strict definition based on blood and legal papers.

  • I can assure you that the church has realised for months that Christmas is going to be very different, and has been actively planning for what we will be able to do in keeping with regulations. As you point out, we ‘lost’ Easter at comparatively short notice. We have no intention of losing Christmas, although the carol services that probably bring more people into contact with a church at Christmas than at any other time will have to be very different.

    Unlike our government, we are not on the back foot on this one. All we ask is that we may know what will be allowed in enough time to do the best we can.

  • By the way, Roland, Jesus didn’t disassociate himself from the church. There wasn’t one. He didn’t even disassociate himself from the synagogue or temple – he preached and taught in them. What he did dissociate himself from was hypocrisy, frequently seen in religious leaders.

  • Richard Underhill 20th Nov '20 - 8:47am

    Scrooge repented, got a good one.

  • James Fowler 20th Nov '20 - 9:38am

    One of the most serious errors of collective judgement about the virus has been its elevation to a status more important than anything else. It is not. We have been on a moral absolutist binge for months now, and values and lives have been trashed in its name. We don’t cancel Christmas due to cirrhosis or obesity – though it accentuates both and they are deadly.

    ‘Stop that or someone might die’ is the most powerful argument imaginable, but used repeatedly it becomes meaningless and self defeating. People do indeed stop doing things – and ironically that causes other people to die as well. Taken to its logical destination, caring for the sick is a risk. Bringing a child into the world is risk. It would be safer not to do them.

    Constantly pursuing safety above all other concerns, what are we left with? Nothing but ourselves. So by all means cancel Christmas – in fact, to be fair, ban all festivities. Better to enjoy Christmas day, and all the other days of your life, completely alone. Stay safe.

  • Richard Underhill 20th Nov ’20 – 8:47am…………Scrooge repented, got a good one……..

    On Christmas morning sending a raw turkey, the size of car, to a family with a stove unable to cook anything larger than a sparrow never struck me as a great idea….j

  • Geoff Reid:A Christmas free from Boris Johnson’s false and deeply irritating pronouncements would be a wonderful Christmas present as my wife and I have decided, sadly, to spend the festive season alone for our own health sakes and with the support of our families with the hope, now that a vaccine looks more likely, that like you, we will be around next year to meet up with our lovely family as I hope everyone else will also.

  • Helen Dudden 21st Nov '20 - 9:16am

    My family are Christian and love this Christian Festival. I believe in the Human Rights aspect, the right to.
    I’ve been to virtual synagogue every day during this lockdown, it’s important to remember freedom and democracy, not forgetting justice.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Mary ReidMary Reid
    @Graham Jeffs - yes, I am fortunate to be living in a target seat, although I was campaigning for about 20 years before we won it. It's a long game. My point...
  • Alex Macfie
    The mistake made by Clegg & co wasn't going into coalition, it was the way they did it, going in too quickly and conducting it as a "love-in" rather than a ...
  • Mark
    I wouldn't normally encourage people to spend time reading Conservative Home website, but this article is well worth a read: https://conservativehome.com/2024/...
  • David Garlick
    Given in his speech his dismissal of action of climate change, so appropriate that the climate chose to give him a good soaking. A drip being dripped on....
  • Peter Martin
    @ Steve, "Might it help.if our party were to assertively oppose Neoliberal socio-economics...." Of course it would. It's unlikely any establishm...