As extended family members, we must plan Christmas each year as a battle strategy in order to prevent any conflict from turning into war.

My children are married and alternate with their parents. They might be with me for Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and Christmas Day the next year. Then they would go to my in-laws Christmas Day and then see me Boxing Day.

We made the same plans in October as always. My daughter Rebecca, and James, her husband, opened their Aga and home to 17 guests. They served turkey, all the trimmings, secret Santas and crackers. Although it was quite a task, they were both gracious hosts and efficient. The plumber even arrived on time to repair the toilet.

Some of us started to think twice as Omicron began its rampage at month’s beginning. Included in our number are vulnerable members — some aged, some with underlying health conditions — and they began to worry about so many of us crammed together. Although we all knew that we’d use lateral flows tests prior to the party. But how reliable can those tests be? (And is it true — as Irene Petersen, professor of epidemiology at University College London, said at the weekend — Omicron moves so fast you can go from safe to infectious in hours?)

Esther Rantzen and her extended family enjoyed Christmas Day a week early because of the uncertainty about covid data. Pictured: Esther pulls an early cracker with daughter Rebecca

Because of uncertainty over covid data, Esther Rantzen enjoyed Christmas Day with her extended family a week earlier than usual. Pictured: Esther pulls an early cracker with daughter Rebecca

As with most families, our family is divided into two groups: party-poopers and buccaneers. Some people are naturally risk-takers. Some people take a risk and run, while others stay on the sidelines. My children started to call each other on the phone in difficult situations.

Is there a way for people to be together and still keep their distance? Would the elderly have to be outside or huddled in front of an open window to avoid Covid? Or would they succumb to the disease instead? Do the small children hug us and kiss our faces?

A family member suggested meeting at different times during Christmas Day to have lunch while others would meet for tea. That idea didn’t go down well at all. Some felt abandoned. Others felt abandoned.

What’s more, we realised that with so much uncertainty about the data, nobody in government was prepared to guarantee anything.

Perhaps meeting up would be banned entirely — after all, we’ve already seen the whole world upend itself into a lockdown overnight. To ensure that we could all hug and sit around the table together no matter what happens, we held our Christmas Day extended family gathering a week before.

We arranged that everybody would bring their negative tests taken at the last moment, the children would play outside in the garden, the more nervous among us would keep our coats on and sit by the window, and forget the calendar date — for us Christmas would come a week early.

This was what happened over the weekend. It’s been quite amazing. Surprisingly, nobody panicked even though our floors were covered in wrapping paper.

Ester (pictured) said her daughter Rebecca already had the tinsel and twinkling fairy lights on every branch in the garden and picture frames indoors when they arrived for Christmas a whole week early

Ester (pictured) stated that Rebecca, her daughter, already had twinkling fairy light and tinsel decorations on all branches in her garden. She also added them to the picture frames inside when Rebecca arrived early for Christmas. 

It was difficult logistically to make sure that everyone received their gifts a week in advance. Online delivery was my best option and I placed an order for hampers. It’s always nice to receive nice cookies and a bottle of wine.

But one task kept me awake at night. The grandparents had enjoyed gift vouchers, so I made it personal and gave my grandchildren books. Each child chose a character to be included.

Although I was capable of handling a bunny or a unicorn with my two pet rats, Teddy (aged six) proved to be a difficult task. He wanted to create a Lego-based battleship with both a hedgehog, which he requested. It took me hours. However, I managed it. All of us gathered on Sunday to visit poor Rebecca one week earlier than usual.

She is an avid decorator. Her garden already contained the twinkling fairy lights and tinsel, as well as picture frames and indoor planters. She just had to decide what she wanted.

When we arrived at Rebecca’s, the children squeaking with joy, they opted for an all-day breakfast instead of turkey, with panettone to follow to make it more Christmassy.

Esther said her family will indulge themselves in a repeat performance if Boris is as good as his word on no more restrictions this side of Christmas. Pictured: Esther and Rebecca

Esther said her family will indulge themselves in a repeat performance if Boris is as good as his word on no more restrictions this side of Christmas. Photo: Esther, Rebecca

The grandchildren looked wonderful in their Christmas outfits, but we restrained ourselves from opening our presents; my little books are tucked under the familys’ trees to open on the real Christmas morning. And as for the real day, who knows where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing on December 25. Every family has made sure to have a backup plan in case of an emergency.

If Boris is as good as his word on no more restrictions this side of Christmas, we’ll indulge ourselves with a repeat performance, this time with turkey instead of eggs on toast.

Because we’ve already ‘had’ Christmas all together the pressure is off. But that’s not to say the tiffs, the tears and the bruised feelings — caused by this hugely uncertain time and experienced by so many families — have healed.

Boris, I still have one favor to ask.

Please, if more restrictions are slammed down on top of us next week and the science says we need to stay separate to stay safe on New Year’s Eve stop wavering about, make that decision for us, and ban all New Year parties, gatherings and business meetings. They have done in Scotland.

So we can all be at home without blaming each other and maintain family harmony.

This would be an amazing New Year!