As of December 2020, I have a new post: How Expats Stuck Abroad Are Spending Christmas in 2020, which deep dives into how to deal with a low-key festive period from a variety of perspectives, as well as a list of tips for dealing with loneliness on Christmas day.
Okay, so the real inspiration behind writing this post? In 2017 I spent Christmas alone for the first time. (Not by choice and in my own country.) And ‘Christmas’ doesn’t mean just Christmas day, it meant a full week of being in an empty flat while my flatmates headed home to be with their family. It was dead quiet and void of distractions.
As someone who dreaded the key festive dates growing up – a familiar feeling for many with a tricky childhood – it was still harder than I ever expected. It was the total silence and lack of work or plans that made it impossible to ignore just how alone I was, and was tougher than I’d care to admit.
But there are ways we can spread a little Christmas joy
even to people who are finding it difficult!
What to do if you know someone spending Christmas alone:
Make them feel involved in Christmas festivities
Don’t feel inclined to invite them to spend Christmas with you unless it actually makes sense – for example, you and your fam really want them there and it won’t be awkward
Instead… asking them to join you for a Christmas-themed drink after work the week before or after Xmas!
If someone is completely alone, maybe call them in the morning/evening and have a chat with them! Not a quick ‘Merry Christmas’ before you rush back to your fam, but a real conversation. Long enough to get a real laugh out of them 🙂
Don’t just brush it off and tell them to go volunteer somewhere (unless…)
Okay, in theory, this is a great idea. But you know how many people suggested this to me right up until 3 days before Christmas on our last day of work? It made me feel like it was my fault for being alone because I wasn’t ‘kind’ enough to be volunteering, even though it wasn’t possible anyway.
People have volunteered at Christmas with great success but before recommending it…
- check the nearest (for example) homeless shelter to their address. Would this person be able to afford to get there on Christmas day? (With no public transport running, those who don’t drive would be faced with an expensive taxi.)
- is the person mentally up for it? For example, I have social anxiety and going between a busy charity organisation and a totally empty house would be overwhelming for me
- Are there actually spots for volunteering around Christmas? This gets booked up quicker than you’d think.
Don’t just say ‘you should go volunteer’ unless you know it’s in advance enough for them to actually organise it AND could easily drive there… It’s a GREAT idea in theory but not necessarily doable. Say it with a particular organisation in mind or it’s kinda undermining your mate or colleague’s situation.
Christmas alone means no presents… small gestures mean a lot!
No, I’m not materialistic, but sometimes the smallest gesture can make someone feel involved in this Christmas tradition. Last year, when Pam in my old office gave everyone a chocolate Santa it meant the world to me. She thought it meant nothing, but I still remember it as I unexpectedly had a present. I was grateful for it.
Or simply send a card or email with a personal message. If you don’t know them that well, keep it short and sweet. Last year, spending the majority of Christmas alone after moving to a new country, a stranger on social media sent me a personal message saying they were thinking of me. It was very touching.
IF YOU’RE SPENDING CHRISTMAS ALONE!
- Plan something for the day! Even if it’s just a walk in a nearby park, binging a box set or getting a movie playlist ready.
- Try and plan your own Christmas drinks or dinner with friends before/after (even if it’s nowhere near the actual Christmas date haha and you head to the local pub for a mulled wine!)
- Get someone to call you on Christmas day if you can
- Make sure you’ve got plenty of different kinds of food in (I just ate junk food which probably didn’t help haha) and feed yourself properly.
- Take a long shower. Get something to pamper yourself (a new body lotion or fuzzy pyjamas, whatever works for you) so you have something to ‘look forward to’ that will help ensure you take care of yourself.
- Enjoy a glass of wine or two if you want! But don’t drink too much! Solo drinking at Christmas is not the best idea haha
- Don’t go on a personal social media account and look at what everyone else is doing. Thankfully, I had no social media that Christmas which made that part easier.
- Saying that… if you’re a traveller with a travel account, do reach out to a Community on social media who may also be solo on Xmas day!
- Don’t feel obliged to do anything remotely Christmassy if it makes it harder. Don’t feel bad if it’s easiest just to mentally skip it…
Remember, there are plenty more Christmasses to come.
And honestly…. you have no idea what could be just around the corner 🙂 So don’t feel like you have to right of the festive season forever. Don’t lose hope.
And (sorry, but I’m gonna say it) Merry Christmas xxx