All many people want for Christmas this year is a simple hug, Queen Elizabeth II said in her annual festive message, saying it would be hard for those who lost loved ones to the COVID-19 pandemic or were separated by curbs on social mixing.
In her traditional pre-recorded Christmas Day address to the nation, the 94-year-old monarch repeatedly spoke of hope for the future whilst acknowledging that millions of Britons would be unable to have their usual family celebrations this year.
“Of course for many, this time of year will be tinged with sadness; some mourning the loss of those dear to them, and others missing friends and family members distanced for safety when all they really want for Christmas is a simple hug or a squeeze of the hand,” Elizabeth said.
“If you are among them, you are not alone. And let me assure you of my thoughts and prayers.”
The queen herself has had to eschew her traditional Christmas celebrations and is spending the festive season quietly at Windsor Castle with her husband Prince Philip, 99.
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Usually, all the Windsors gather at her home on the Sandringham estate in eastern England. The walk to a nearby church for a Christmas Day service is a staple of the royal calendar.
However, Britain is currently battling to curb the spread of a new variant of the novel coronavirus, with the number of new infections reaching record levels this week and the number of hospital admissions and deaths soaring.
Much of the country has been placed under tight restrictions, and for London and the surrounding areas, households are not allowed to mix at all over Christmas, while for other areas there are strict curbs limiting contact to just a single day.
“Remarkably, a year that has necessarily kept people apart has, in many ways, brought us closer,” said the queen, adding the royals had been inspired by stories of those who volunteered to help others in need.
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“In the United Kingdom and around the world, people have risen magnificently to the challenges of the year and I’m so proud and moved by this quiet, indomitable spirit.”