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Many simply desire a hug for Christmas this 12 months, says Queen Elizabeth

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© Reuters. Britain's Queen Elizabeth II's Christmas program

By Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) – All a lot of people want for Christmas this year is a simple hug, said Britain's Queen Elizabeth in her annual festive message. It is difficult for those who have lost loved ones to a COVID-19 pandemic or were separated by curbs to social mingling.

In her traditional pre-recorded Christmas Day address to the nation, the 94-year-old monarch repeatedly spoke of hope for the future while acknowledging that millions of Britons would not be able to celebrate their usual family celebrations this year.

"Of course, this time of year will be one of sadness for many; some will mourn those they love and others will miss friends and family who are aloof for safety when all they really want for Christmas is a simple hug or a hug Pressure is obvious, "said Elizabeth.

"If you are among them, you are not alone. And let me assure you of my thoughts and prayers."

The Queen herself had to forego her traditional Christmas parties and spends the Christmas season quietly in Windsor Castle with her husband Prince Philip, 99.

Usually all of the Windsors gather at their home on the Sandringham Estate in eastern England. Strolling to a nearby church for a Christmas Day service is an integral part of the royal calendar.

However, the UK is currently struggling to contain the spread of a new variant of the novel coronavirus, with new infections hitting record highs this week and soaring hospital admissions and deaths.

Much of the country has been heavily restricted and in the London area and the surrounding area households are not allowed to mix at all over Christmas, while in other areas there are severe restrictions restricting contact to just a single day.

"Remarkably, a year that necessarily kept people apart has brought us closer in many ways," the Queen said, adding that the royals were inspired by stories of those who volunteered to help others in need .

"In the UK and around the world, the people have faced the challenges of the year in great style and I am so proud and moved by this calm, indomitable spirit."

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