Covid-19 and the Traditional Family Christmas

JoFamily Life

mom and son looking at the christmas tree

With restrictions in place, I suspect it is fair to say that many of us are feeling the strain of Christmas more acutely than ever before. When have we had to choose a small and select group of family or friends to socialise with over the festive season, and stick to only seeing those few? How often do we have to quarantine gifts before handing them over in good time so that the recipients can do the same? And that’s before we think about the potential of buying or making additional presents to show our appreciation for what others have done for us and our loved ones, during what has been an exceptionally difficult 10 months and counting.

As adults we might be able to comprehend the situation more succinctly and with perhaps a little more balance through virtue of having and being able to digest and understand the data available. As a child though, arguably especially a young child, this is not so straight forward.

So what is the impact of all this on our traditional family get together, and how is this going to effect young children in particular? I’ve been approached by Barnardo’s who have some rather sobering facts:

Covid Christmas leads to sharp drop in traditional festive activities for families, says Barnardo’s

Continuing lockdown measures and uncertainty over the safety of group gatherings mean there is a sharp decline in Christmas activities taking place for families this year, according to Barnardo’s. 

In a YouGov survey of over 2,000 UK adults, just over half (56 per cent) of parents of those aged 18 and under say they will visit family members this year, compared with three quarters who said the same thing in a similar survey last year (74 per cent). 

Traditional Christmas activities will be thin on the ground, with nearly half as many parents of those aged 18 and under saying they will see a school nativity play this year compared to last year (19 per cent in 2020, 37 per cent in 2019). The number saying they will attend or host a Christmas party has also almost halved, down to 14 per cent from 24 per cent last year. 

In a separate survey of Barnardo’s frontline workers*, more than a third (35 per cent) said the children they support are not likely to receive any presents, while a similar number (32 per cent) say they will not have a Christmas meal.

These results are being published during the charity’s ‘Kidsmas’ campaign, which aims to raise money to help vulnerable children at Christmas.  

The charity is asking people to get involved by creating an online ‘Build a Kidsmas Snowman’ fundraising page. Through the platform, fundraisers can ask people to donate by throwing a ‘snowball donation’. The more snowballs thrown, the bigger their snowman gets and the more money is raised to help change the lives of vulnerable children.

Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan said:

“These findings are a stark reminder that families are facing their toughest Christmas in years, and the vulnerable children Barnardo’s supports need us now more than ever. 

“As we enter a challenging winter season, many more families are falling into poverty and the pandemic is wreaking havoc on children’s mental health and increasing their risk of harm at home, online, and in the community. All this means too many children and young people will be deprived of the chance to enjoy the festive season.

“That’s why we’re asking people to come together to raise funds and help Barnardo’s make sure that vulnerable children are safe, supported and cared for – at Christmas and all year round. I encourage everybody to get into the Kidsmas spirit.”

People can set up their own online Kidsmas Snowman fundraiser at

About Barnardo’s

In 2019/2020 around 358,800 children, young people, parents and carers were supported by Barnardo’s through more than 800 services across the UK, such as young carers, care leavers, foster carers and adoptive parents, training and skills or parenting classes.

We work to change the lives of vulnerable children in the UK and every year we help thousands of families to build a better future. But we cannot do it without you.

Visit to find out how you can get involved. Registered charity No. 216250 and SC037605

Follow Barnardo’s media team on Twitter @BarnardosNews 

*324 Barnardo’s frontline staff were surveyed in October 2020.

N.B. Huge thanks to Barnardo’s for sharing this information about the impact of Covid-19 on a traditional family Christmas with me, so that I am able to share it with you. I have not received anything in exchange for publishing this piece. For more information on how I work with others, please see my disclosure page.