image captionFinlay loved his drive-by Santa visit
No visits to Santa, no parties, no carol singing.
The Covid-19 pandemic has stopped a lot of the usual Christmas build-up activities from taking place.
Although many of the traditional activities we take for granted any other year are out of the question, there is still some Christmas magic to be found.
With less than a fortnight to go, there are still some things you can do with your family.
1. You can’t visit Santa’s grotto… but Santa can come to you
image captionThe smile on Sarah’s face shows how well the drive-by Santa was received
There’s no sitting on Santa’s knee and whispering your list of demands in his ear this year, but there are some ways little believers can get their all-important lists to him.
Like all of us, Santa has had to adapt for Christmas 2020.
Drive-by Santas can be found at various attractions across the country. At Blair Drummond Safari Park in Stirling, the man in the red suit will pass by on his sleigh three times a day. And at Eden Mill Farm in Blanefield, Glasgow, you drive past Santa in his grotto and stop for a Covid-safe chat through the car window.
Joyce Rhoddan took her son Finlay, four, and daughter Sarah, six. She wanted to give them some normality at Christmas and this was as close to a Santa visit as possible.
She said: “The kids were able to interact with Santa but it also enabled us to be socially distanced. Finlay and Sarah’s faces were a picture and it made us realise we did the right thing.”
Santa’s woodland experience in the village of Balfron has created Santa@home for 2020. Instead of a wander through the woods to find Santa’s cabin, Santa visits children in their own living rooms via a personalised video message and a gift he sends ahead.
2. Elf on a shelf and also on your doorstep
image captionJingle and Bells, actresses Lorraine Graham and Martine McMenemy, are taking the fun to the doorstep
Elves have also been busier than ever at this time of year. A cheeky duo called Jingle and Bells have been taking their mischief out to the children of Central Scotland since level four restrictions were lifted.
The idea was the brainchild of West End actress Lorraine Graham and fellow actress Martine McMenemy. The pair worked in shows such as Still Game and the Steamie and would normally be in panto or a Christmas show at this time of year.
Lorraine said: “It has been a really bad year for the arts and we were thinking what to do. We thought of Christmas and decided if people can’t come to a show, we will take it to them.”
After level four restrictions were lifted, the pair performed their first weekend of live appearances on the doorsteps and gardens of children across the west of Scotland.
They get a 15-minute song and dance show personalised to them, with games and goodie bags thrown in.
Lorraine (Jingle) said: “We have more than 100 visits booked – and we are also going to nurseries. It’s a privilege to bring some magic to these children. Some have been shielding and some have been unwell so it’s wonderful to go to their homes and bring Christmas to them.”
3. Christmas markets go virtual
image captionNo events that would attract a gathering or crowd will take place this year
There’s no smell of German Bratwurst or mulled wine and cinnamon coffees, but you can still peruse beautiful one-of-a-kind gifts and crafts and support local sellers from your couch.
Edinburgh’s Christmas market – Scotland’s largest – was cancelled in October alongside all the capital’s Christmas events.
In recent years, the market – run by Underbelly – has been worth more than £110m to the Christmas festival in the city and last year, 2.6 million people visited the market in Princes Street Gardens.
4. You can’t go to the panto (oh yes you can)
image captionPerth Theatre pantomime performances are live but streamed online
Nothing says Christmas like pantomime. The annual trip to the theatre to shout at the cast and try to catch flying sweeties cannot happen in our current Covid world. But the show must go on and it has for many established theatre groups.
BBC News Arts correspondent Pauline McLean has been enjoying the panto experience 2020 has brought us.
“It’s just before 14:00 on a Saturday afternoon, and I have the best seat in the house for Perth Theatre’s 2020 pantomime. Guaranteeing the best seat is the house is easy since it’s MY house. Like everything else in Scottish theatre this year, the show is online.
“Settled on my sofa, as instructed, with favourite snacks and a torch by my side (all will be revealed later) the virtual auditorium fills up with folk, and suddenly the foyer of Perth Theatre, with its splendid towering Christmas tree, appears onscreen.
“And almost like the real thing, the orchestra (recorded) kicks in and the show begins.
“Audience interaction is complicated – but as such a huge part of panto is worth persevering with. Many of the 70 folk logged on to Saturday’s matinee are family groups, who happily agree to unmute to hiss and boo, or chorus “oh yes, we do”!
“Even sitting at home, on my own, it’s hard not to be drawn into the online camaraderie of scores of people in full panto spirit.
image captionOh Yes We Are! has won five-star reviews and the New York Times has asked to review the show
“Panto always looks so simple – but the huge cast credit list which runs onstage at the end – shows it is anything but. And Perth is just one of a number of theatres where the show will go on this Christmas.
“Thank you everyone for just being there”, is one of the final lines.
“If you’re a fan of panto, or any kind of live theatre, let them know you’re there.”
If you want to see a panto show, many of the normal productions have transformed into recorded shows or live streaming. Check your local theatre for details.
5. The 2020 nativity: Mary, Joseph, three wise men and an ipad
image captionMatthew Wilkin and the children of Stanley Primary in Ardrossan have been working hard on their virtual nativity
It is the earliest school memory for many children and no Christmas with a primary schooler would be the same without the nativity.
But the wise men have ruled against the school hall parading of shepherds, donkeys and angels. The story hasn’t changed, but how they tell it has.
Like most schools, Stanley Primary in Ardrossan has used video technology to ensure pupils and parents don’t miss out.
Teacher Matthew Wilkin said: “It has forced us to think outside the box and be more creative. So we’ve been looking at doing our Christmas assembly and nativity digitally this year – all being filmed with sound editing, video editing, green screen. The children are still getting a chance to perform. Just not to a live audience.”
image captionTeachers have become film producers as they try to bring performances to the parents who cannot come into the schools
The 2020 nativity involves children rehearsing in small bubbles, singing outside, if at all, or using sign language instead of their voices.
Mr Wilkin said: “We sometimes forget how magical Christmas can be for young children. It is a big part of going through school and we didn’t want the children to miss out and the parents to miss out on seeing them perform.”
6. Spot the reindeer / Christmas lights / elves
image captionSpot the RSPB reindeer at their Lochwinnoch reserve
Local communities, unable to host lights switch-on events or festive fun activities have organised spotting games in their areas.
In Clarkston, local business group I love Clarkston have created the Christmas Spirit trail where people collect clues from local businesses in a bid to find Santa’s missing brother Albert Claus.
A similar idea to find elves is ongoing in neighbouring East Kilbride, getting children and adults outside and getting exercise.
At the RSPB in Lochwinnoch, Santa’s reindeer hunt takes place until new year. The wooden reindeer are hidden in the Aird meadow trail and children are given information sheets to help spot them.
7. Hark! The herald angels sing, but we are not allowed
image captionThe Scottish government has said that carol singing should probably not take place this year
One of the biggest disappointments of Christmas 2020 must be the recommendation to limit singing. And combined with social distancing requirements and no social gatherings of big groups, this has ruled out carol concerts, Christmas shows and carol singing for most.
What is Christmas without singing? Again, online magic has come to the rescue.
Charities have been keeping the sound of Christmas alive for those they support and those who support them. Maggie’s Centres staged a star-studded Carols on your couch concert in early December which included a performance from panto legends Grant Storr and Andy Gray and the St. Mary’s Cathedral choir.
They have an online “Carols from the kitchen” stream which is available to watch until midnight on Christmas Eve. Hosted by BBC presenter Fiona Bruce, it has appearances from actors Dominic West and Stanley Tucci, a performance from Lulu and carols from the London Oriana choir.
Alzheimers Scotland’s Home Comforts and Joy online festive concert takes place on 22 December and promises uplifting choristers, talented musicians and a magical message from Santa.