Would we have ever thought that joy would become such an act of defiance? Defiance against a new invisible enemy, a killer virus. And defiance against the old invisible enemies, the killer viruses of shame and tut-tutting, viruses that have been endemic in the Irish herd for generations. Viruses that mutate to meet the unique challenges of each generation.
Did we ever think it would take such courage to go and break bread with friends and family? Did we ever think we would have to overcome such fear to go Christmas shopping? Did we ever think we would take our lives in our hands to eke out a bit of joy?
Did we ever think that experts on the TV would keep telling us sternly that it was the hugs that could kill us this Christmas? Who would have thought? A Christmas without hugs. And we take it in our stride. Who'd have thought that we'd become so hardwired not to touch that we'd sometimes forget ourselves, and give a start when we were hugging our children? That we'd sometimes stop and panic, and think, 'What am I doing?' Only to realise that it's OK, that when we hug our children we are hugging the huggable, the allowed hugees.
In the old world, when hugs were a more harmless commodity, some children needed to be taught that you didn't hug everyone indiscriminately. 'Hugs are for home' was the mantra we taught them. Who would have thought we'd all have to learn that? And Irish males, God bless us, had only learnt to start hugging each other. It took generations! And all gone in one fell swoop. Who knew that granny would not be an allowed hugee at Christmas? Who would have thought that the most dangerous slip you could make over the festive season might be to give into the invisible virus that is love, and to lean in for an embrace?
Who would have thought that maybe you could hug someone if you saved your hugs, that if you spent the run-up to Christmas behind closed doors, like a human Advent calendar, you could maybe hug a granny?
Who would have thought that you would have to prioritise who you'd see, that every precious little meet-up was one more allowed contact burnt? Ration who you see, ration who you hug, ration your joy.
Who would have thought, too, that we would be relying on the HSE and the Department of Health, our Angola, to save us all? Who would have thought we'd put our lives in their hands, and trust that they will deliver us from this? Who would have thought we'd know all about vaccines, that footage of anonymous lorries delivering them would be more exciting than a Coca-Cola lorry in a Christmas ad? And who would have thought that the vaccine would become our only hope, because even locking down the whole country, destroying our society and our culture and our mood for six weeks doesn't work anymore to stop the virus?
We wouldn't have believed you if you told us about this Christmas.