As per usual, I am attending a grand total of zero Christmas dinners this year. That is apart from the actual one on Christmas day which I can’t really avoid because it’s in my house and, hey, I don’t want to avoid it anyway. It’s nothing to do with my atheism – like Tim Minchin, I really like Christmas – but it’s much of the bollocks leading up to it. Christmas dinners, like Christmas parties, all seem a bit pointless to me. They’re nothing to do with the real meaning of Christmas, which to me is nothing to do with a dead Palestinian and everything to do with being with those I love.

I will be with my partner and our children (who are hardly children anymore) and I shall see family members and friends. I will not seeing some of my closest family because they are in Ottawa and Vancouver and I shall miss them terribly. I go years without seeing them and that kills me. At least my family and friends in England, I can see them whenever I want to.

People make decisions in life to move abroad for different reasons. My paternal grandfather left Norway to live in Britain and my mother left the Netherlands to do the same. My father left Britain to live in Canada. In every instance, they left a life behind and the people who the lived it with. I don’t know if they regretted their decisions – how could I possibly find out since they are all dead? – but interestingly they all died in the places they emigrated to. But for me, and this can only be about me, I could never move away from those I love.

It is the same with friends as well as family. You don’t choose your friends, something just sort of clicks. And that something doesn’t go away, even if the people do. Some of my very best friends – well, one in particular – lives the other side of the world and I fear I shall never see him again. Others live relatively close, just across town. In 2022, I intend to see them far more often. Not a few times a year; far more often that.

I’m notoriously bad for keeping in touch with people, worse than ever since Covid came along, but I know I must do better. And I shall. It is not miles that separates me from friends, it’s my slovenly attitude. It is only when I am with my family and friends when I remember how mad it was to not see more of them.

I intend to see everyone I truly love this Christmas, apart from the ones who I can’t see because it will be a physical impossibility. Zoom and all the rest are not enough, no substitution for the real thing. But not at Christmas dinners, apart from The Actual One. I can’t be truly happy unless I am actually with my family, at Christmas and, to be honest, most every other time of the year. And as I get older, I understand it even more.