Most people are familiar with the scene at the end of the movie Love Actually. The one at the airport. Everyone is smiling, laughing and embracing their loved ones as they come through the arrivals gate for Christmas.

I experienced that myself this year with my brother James surprising everyone (except his taxi – me) with a permanent move home from Australia.

Our reunion, as special as it was after two years, was not exactly like the movie, with – as is normal now – everyone in Dublin airport wearing a mask. Hugs were probably more cautious amongst the families gathered as the Omicron variant was really beginning to demonstrate just how transmissible it is.

The reality of a changed Ireland to the one he left must have been a shock to my brother.

He walked onto a plane in western Australia where there is no COVID-19 in the community and walked off in Dublin into the highest daily rates of the disease that our little country has experienced since the start.

Having been in a part of Australia not massively impacted (as of yet) for the entire period of the pandemic, I imagined it must have been a surreal experience to come home to this totally new reality.

Unfortunately, I have spoken to very few people who did not have a close contact or a family member isolating over this festive period, as we did. For those I know, the illness was mild and passed quickly, but my thoughts are with those not so fortunate.

I imagine that as strange as this Christmas was for my brother, it was probably surreal for many families with stories of Christmas dinners loaded into boots of cars and new year’s kisses blown through closed windows abounding.

Despite all that, I am going to err on the positive side of a Christmas spent in COVID-19 isolation. This year, there was less waste. We ate everything we bought and therefore there was no lingering food waste guilt. Not being able to go to the shops made me more imaginative. We finished the last of the turkey on a pizza. We might have humoured ourselves in previous years using that leftover turkey in a curry. However, this generally meant the purchase of new vegetables and the ones sitting under tinfoil in the fridge invariably finding the bin. This year, conscious of the enormous bird and the smaller group eating it, I cut off one third of it and put it in the freezer.

Wasting less and using renewable resources are key facets of the Climate Action Plan. Head of agrifood business and spatial analysis with Teagasc Maeve Henchion spoke to Janine for this week’s Climate Conversations about active and passive acceptance of the bioeconomy. She explained that society will passively accept things when they have no impact on our lives, it is when there is added expense or the loss of convenience that we are challenged to do what is asked of us.

Each January when my uncle, Fr Benny, comes home from the UK, we have a second Christmas dinner. That chunk of frozen turkey will be defrosted with gusto and I am curious to see if Neven’s buttermilk and orange brine will be as effective at keeping it as moist after a few weeks in the freezer.

For us Christmas 2021 will be an “if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again” effort.

Hopefully the January re-run will see us all around the same table.

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