England's Queen Elizabeth II assured those distanced from their family for the holidays that they "are not alone" during her annual Christmas Speech and called on people to let kindness and hope guide them into the new year.
The British monarch and the Duke of Edinburgh are celebrating Christmas at Windsor Castle instead of Sandringham, where the royal family usually spends the holiday, due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The Queen acknowledged that people of all faiths have been unable to celebrate religious festivals "as they would wish" this year because of the ongoing global health crisis but stressed that "we need life to go on".
She praised frontline workers, "supported by the amazing achievement of modern science", for their work throughout the year. "We owe them a debt of gratitude," she said.
But she also paid tribute to all those around the world who "have risen magnificently to the challenges of the year and I'm so proud and moved by this quiet indomitable spirit."
"We continue to be inspired by the kindness of strangers and draw comfort that even on the darkest night, there is hope in the new dawn," she said.
'You are not alone'
The pandemic has been blamed for nearly 70,000 deaths in Britain, the second-highest death toll in Europe behind Italy.
Over the past two days, the UK has recorded its two highest daily infection numbers, at just below 40,000.
A new variant of the novel coronavirus that is 70 percent more transmissible has prompted British authorities to tighten rules during the end of year festive season and to cancel family gatherings in the capital and large swathes of eastern England.
"For many, this time of year will be tinged with sadness, some mourning the loss of those dear to him 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," the Queen said in her speech.
"If you are among them, you are not alone," she added.
She then urged people to "let the light of Christmas, the spirit of selflessness, love and above all hope, guide us in the times ahead."
2020 was a tough year for the royal family — and not just because of COVID-19.
The year started with the so-called Megxit as Prince Harry and his wife Meghan stepped back from their roles as senior royals to become financially independent.
Prince Andrew, who was forced to quit his public duties last year over the Jeffrey Epstein scandal, continued to be haunted by damning allegations.
One of Epstein’s accusers, Virginia Giuffre claims she was forced to have sex with Andrew in London, New York and on a private Caribbean island between 1999 and 2002.