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We’re only days away from celebrating Christmas and as we all know this time of year is very family-oriented and should be oh so joyful. But: What if you can’t or don’t want to spend this merry holiday with your family? What if you’re gonna be alone on Christmas?
My First Christmas – Alone?
A few years back I sat down with my therapist and cried hard through the whole session. It was only a couple of weeks until Christmas and my parents were about to separate. Ugly stuff, that I don’t want to get into now.
Long story short: The thought of spending those three days completely by myself and cut off from the outside world scared the shit out of me.
Not only do German cities transform into ghost towns during Christmas, also all my friends usually spend time with their families (some unwillingly but still, they’re not available to hang out or so I thought).
So there I was, one of my worst fears about to get very real: Spending Christmas by myself.
Putting Things in Perspective
My therapist suggested to do some brainstorming with me in order to alleviate the problem and make it less scary for me to be alone. I was just sitting there, sobbing, full of anxiety and heartache.
After a couple of minutes of brainstorming though, I could see, what my therapist wanted me to understand: Those days may be filled with family stuff for others and yes, I might be restricted in my choices since stores etc. would be closed, but I could create these days however I wanted to.
In the end, we’re talking about two and a half days off, which are marked by Christianity. In many other parts of the world, life goes on as if nothing’s happening. Two and a half days is like a slightly longer weekend. My therapist unmasked the situation and kept things in perspective for me.
How to Spend Christmas Alone
She proposed that I could put my wellbeing first. And she said something very true: My wellbeing isn’t tied to other people but very much to how I treat myself. I have the power to make myself feel good (and bad). So it was in my power to create an environment in which I would feel happy, safe and comfy during the holidays.
Things I could do my therapist and me wrote down included:
- Since I love Christmas, I could decorate my apartment accordingly.
- Indulge in the festive atmosphere beforehand and spend time at Christmas markets.
- Pamper myself and recreate some spa and wellness rituals at home e.g. face masks, body scrubs, mani & pedi, taking a long bath, hair masks, you get the gist.
- A reading marathon of books I loved or new books I could get for this occasion.
- Treat myself to a delicious meal, that I wanted to cook forever and never did. The preparation e.g. going shopping for all ingredients I needed already would make me happy.
- Bake Christmas Cookies.
- Teach myself something new e.g. handcrafting or knitting or coding.
- Finish a DIY project I had sitting on my couch forever.
- A movie marathon. When else can you just sit on your couch in PJs not feeling guilty to binge watch all Harry Potter Movies or the complete Gossip Girl series (I was obsessed with that back then)?
- I could travel abroad and do some solo exploring.
- Going out and meeting like minded people in the same situation.
- Volunteer at a local shelter and help less fortunate people.
What Happened Then?
I left that therapy session and felt much more empowered and less frightened. Also the stigma of being alone during a time of the year where no one “should” be alone faded.
Weeks passed by and there it suddenly was: Christmas. And as my therapist predicted, everything worked out fine. These two and a half days had lost their negative grip and I wasn’t anxious anymore because I planned these days how I wanted to spend them – and not how society told me to.
In the end, it was a mix of well-planned and conscious alone time and hanging out with friends. One of my best friends invited me to her house to be part of her family’s Christmas celebration and dinner, and that year we established the tradition of going out late on Christmas Eve to dance the night away. The club was half full (which was pleasant) and I was surprised how many people were in the same situation and made the best of it.
Thoughts & Tips
The most important thing is to plan accordingly in my opinion. I immediately felt better about the situation AND empowered once I understood that it was me who could create something beautiful (or drown in self pity). I am in control about how I feel about things and certain situations, not about the situation itself (hey Stoicism, hi!). Yes, that’s right, I’m in charge here 🙂
About loneliness: If you feel lonely, remember that you are not. You have always yourself. This is the most important relationship you’ll ever have and it lasts a life time.
Be your best friend and start routines where you spend time with yourself consciously. Get to know yourself better. Take yourself out on a date. Treat yourself to something nice every once in a while. And please stop the pity party at some point. Nothing good comes out of it and you lose the power to remove yourself from unpleasant situations.
Here’s an Idea
Last but not least: If you spend time with your family during Christmas but know that one of your friends or good acquaintances will be alone over the holidays, how about inviting them over?
It’s not out of pity, not at all. It’s thoughtful, kind, caring and generous. Isn’t Christmas about human connection, community and spreading joy through celebrating?
I remember very well, that we often invited non-family members to Christmas dinners when I was younger. Once we had a Marine friend over, because he was based close to my hometown in Germany – and alone.
It was always awesome. I’ll be forever grateful to my friends who invited me over for Christmas and I know those who spent Christmas with us will always be grateful as well.
So maybe think about that and extent an invitation if you feel your friend would rather be part of a celebration than all by her-/himself at home.
Reasons Why Anyone Could be Alone This Christmas
- Not having family living close by or having no family at all.
- Expats living abroad which can’t go home to be with their family.
- Being part of the army etc. deployed overseas.
- Having to work (I have cabin crew friends which won’t be with their loved ones due to work).
- Having a partner who is working (see above cabin crew example).
- Having an estranged family.
- Being single, divorced or widowed.
- Elderly persons are often left alone.
- Being someone who just doesn’t care about Christmas but lives in a country that does.
This Year’s Christmas
I personally love big-ass Christmas celebrations, because I think: The more, the merrier! My dream was always to have one big family one day, with tons of kids and grand-kids (ok that’ll need to wait a bit lol).
This year, our Christmas Eve dinner (the 24th is the most important day of Christmas in Germany and yes we get our presents then :)) will happen with 15 people and kids. It’s a mix of friends (who’d have been alone otherwise) and family. It’ll be loud and messy and probably slightly stressful, someone will cry, others will get wasted – and it’ll be wonderful.
Merry Christmas and much Love!