As the holiday season looms ever closer, the steady stream of Christmas films and TV specials serves as yet another reminder of just how different this year will be.

There were certainly more than three households present at Bob Cratchit’s house as Michael Caine’s Scrooge brought the entire cast of the Muppets to celebrate his change of heart.

The office Christmas party that precipitates the events of Die Hard will be one of the only such gatherings we’ll experience this year.

Schools will of course have reconsidered their usual approach to Christmas this year, which is in keeping with life since term started in September.

In other years, we looked forward to winter concerts and nativity plays which offer a chance to invite parents in to celebrate the performances of their children. Decorations and special assemblies help bring a festive feeling to the end of a long term when staff are looking forward to a well-deserved break.

"Perhaps an official order of service could be sent out as a memento?"

Bubbles are still prevalent, there are worries about teaching time lost and singing in larger groups remains very much off the table. This means many school leaders will have spent a considerable amount of time asking what can be done to preserve the feel of the festive season within the restrictions.

Concerts can still take place with socially distanced orchestral groups or small choirs, albeit recorded and distributed online. These will still offer memories for students and parents, particularly those who might not typically have been able to make such performances in the past.

We must remember that, for some of our students, this might present one of the final times they would have performed in such concerts.

Perhaps an official order or service could be sent out as a memento for parents and serve as another way of maintaining contact when so many other opportunities have been lost?

A number of schools have explored ways of hosting productions without audiences. For those schools not in Tier 3, small and socially distanced productions of nativity plays might be feasible. For the rest of us, recorded, bubble specific, productions will at least allow more students a chance to take on a role.

"We won’t  have the usual opportunities to gather to thank colleagues."

If you are really looking to take this chance to try new things, perhaps a radio production of classic Christmas plays could be on the cards. Although singing in groups will mean that traditional carol singing assemblies can’t take place, we are taking the opportunity to teach students how to sign many of their favourite Christmas songs.

We also should not neglect what this year has asked of colleagues and how we won’t necessarily have the usual opportunities to gather to thank them and recognise their contributions.

A year without an end of term party or social event, with no departmental dinners or carol services might be equally difficult to bear after such a long term.

This might be the time to embrace (or reinvigorate) staff quizzes via Zoom, or offer smaller chances to gather where possible. I’ve heard of one school that has offered departments the chance to book the staffroom after school to socialise in smaller groups. While this might be one step too far for others, even something as small as chocolate in pigeon holes or the offer to take on extra cover periods by SLT where possible will always be gratefully received.

"We must all ensure that the holidays are used to rest and recharge."

Recent news of vaccines being developed and approved means that light is growing brighter at the end of the tunnel. We all hope that this time next year will be back to life as normal, replete with all the signs of festivity.

The final weeks and days are in sight and there is much that we can do to lift spirits in celebration and recognise all that those around us have built together. Maintaining safety and preserving morale during these times has been no small task and we must all ensure that the Christmas holidays are used to rest and recharge.

The usual advice about reducing email over the festive period and taking time away from marking and planning needs to be heeded all the more closely. We don’t want to undertake the second half of a marathon year too exhausted to put one foot in front of another.

This time of year always brings extra energy and excitement to school life and this year doesn’t need to lose such feeling, even if we have to rethink certain elements. I hope that you all have a happy and safe break over Christmas and take time to recognise all that you have achieved this term when so much has been asked of you.