Let’s face it, however you cut it, whatever the rules, restrictions and relaxations say, our festive fun will be scaled back a little this year.
So, as we face the challenge of having a merry, but much smaller, Christmas, we went around the world to ask the experts for their tips. Exactly how will Dull, Boring and Bland be celebrating this year?
Dull – the Perthshire village near Aberfeldy with about 80 residents – hooked up with Boring, in Oregon, USA, after a villager, Elizabeth Leighton, passed through on a cycling trip and hit on the idea of a link to boost business and tourism.
The village officially paired with Boring – population circa 8,000 – in 2013. Not wanting to miss out, the region of Bland-shire in New South Wales, Australia – population 6,400 – decided to join the “Trinity of Tedium” in 2017.
Until lockdown struck, the trio’s monopoly on monotony saw them celebrate an annual Dull, Boring and Bland day each year on August 9 but how will they be celebrating on Friday?
We spoke to community leaders in Dull, Boring and Bland to hear how their community spirit is undimmed, despite the pandemic, as they sent seasonal greetings to their international twins around the world.
We do try very hard not to live up to our name
The “Dull paired with Boring” welcome sign was on its way to becoming one of the most photographed in Britain when Covid-19 hit, putting an end to the busloads of tourists who came for a picture.
Community council secretary and kirk elder Tommy Pringle, 66, helped organise the pairing and his son Jamie, 31, created a special tartan to mark the occasion.
After the world’s dullest – and most dangerous – year, he says the community is looking forward to a brighter 2021 thanks to the development of vaccines.
Dad-of-six Tommy, who has two grandchildren, said: “We have a great community spirit here, and we are looking forward to 2021. Some of us are already talking about having a vaccine party as soon as it is safe to do so.
“We have been lucky in Dull. We have had no serious illness or deaths from Covid-19 and it was a beautiful place to be in lockdown. People here have pulled together throughout this crisis and we’ve been thinking about our friends across the water.”
Residents were unable host the annual Dull, Boring and Bland celebrations this year and also had to cancel the Guy Fawkes event, as well as festivities planned for this Christmas and new year. But Tommy said the village was still keeping both the community and Christmas spirit alive. He said: “Our minister Rev Neil Glover – with volunteer technical support from Jamie – has conducted services online throughout the crisis. The Christmas Eve carol service will go out online, as will the Christmas service on December 27.
“And Highland Safaris and Red Deer Centre – our local employer – has worked hard to make sure people could meet up at its cafe. Kids have free use of its play areas and we’ve been able to support the business by doing our Christmas shopping at its gift shop. In many ways, it has saved Christmas. Its Santa’s grotto and reindeer event was a sell-out.
“We hope that vaccines will mean we can again welcome tourists and our friends from Boring and Bland next year. But we’ve shown during the pandemic that our little village of Dull – which was fast becoming one of the most photographed in the UK – does not live up to its name.”
Sad to say, this year our Christmas tree switch-on was a low-key affair
A Christmas tree is lit and taking pride of place in Boring, Oregon, but restrictions are preventing its townsfolk from gathering for the occasion.
The pandemic could not, however, halt its enthusiasm for its annual Boring Dull Day. Steve Bates, of the Boring Oregon Foundation, said this year’s event did go ahead in August, but was a scaled-down and socially distanced affair.
He said: “We didn’t have anybody get together at the Christmas tree lighting this year. But usually whenever we do, we say ‘cheers’ to our friends in Dull. And on Boring and Dull day we even bring the bagpipes to get a flavour of Scotland.
“We did mark the day this year, but we had a downsized version without ice-cream and with social distancing. It was a small celebration and raffle attended by about 40 people.
“We have stayed in touch with Dull on social media, largely through the Pringle family.”
Like communities around the world, the pandemic has brought sorrow to Boring. Steve said: “We have lost a few old timers to Covid-19. One of them was Bobby Rykken, the old assistant fire chief for the Boring Fire Department.”
Christmas in Boring will be a quiet affair.
“None of the restaurants are open so no-one can go out and have a big celebration,” said the community stalwart.
“So some people will be staying home and having Christmas by Zoom, others will be getting together with family.”
We can celebrate but think about our Scottish friends
Just as the people of Dull were waking today, their counterparts in Bland – 11 hours ahead – were gathering in its main park where a Christmas tree twinkles against the night sky. Up to 200 people gather for the annual Carols by Candlelight event, which this year was socially distanced.
The region of Bland – wool and wheat country – has escaped the worst of lockdown and the fires that ravaged other parts of New South Wales. It is looking forward to a bright 2021 with a bumper harvest and its local goldmine set to boom after major expansion.
Mayor Brian Monaghan, who is hoping to visit Dull for the first time next year, said: “We have been lucky. We have had no confirmed cases of Covid-19 and, while we have lost some trade for our businesses, we haven’t lost any of our people.
But he added: “Our harvest this year was twice what it normally is so it’s a significant boost. We also have an open-cut gold mine, which is going underground in a major expansion so, hopefully, there will be more income from that. We are optimistic and looking forward to 2021.”
And the benefits of being Covid-free, whilst adhering to safety guidelines, cannot be underestimated. He said: “It means we have the freedom to celebrate Christmas together and can be in each other’s homes.”
The Mayor along with Ray Smith, Bland Shire Council’s general manager, have been playing Santa as they visit pre-school children and old folks in the community.
Mr Smith, who travelled nearly 16,500km in 2014 to hook up with Tommy Pringle in Dull, said: “Australia has coped fairly well with the pandemic but we read about the UK and America and we spare thoughts for our friends in Boring and Dull.”
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