Christmas for one?
I once worked with a wonderful lady called Anne. She was older than me, extremely stylish and very sassy. She also had a wicked sense of humour. One Christmas she was facing her first Christmas alone, without her two sons. She was divorced and they were due to spend the time with their Dad.
Anne decided to turn Christmas Day into a spa day. She bought delicious food, a box of her favourite chocolates, a luxurious bath oil and a new nail polish. She also had some new magazines and films to watch. Her day was going to be full of treats.
When the day came she hardly managed a bubble bath before the phone started ringing with people phoning to check on her, all relieved to have an excuse to speak to someone outside their family and by the time her sons returned she had yet to start a film.
It must be over 30 years since I worked with Anne but I never forgot her Christmas spa. More recently another friend was about to spend her first Christmas without her children as again it was their Dad’s turn. She decided to go away for a couple of days as she couldn’t face being at home. She packed her favourite DVDs, books and cosy clothes to lean in to her time alone.
Christmas is a magical time but it can also be extremely challenging. The expectation of happy times brings into sharp relief the absence of loved ones whether it’s a bereavement, illness, broken heart or just a change in circumstances.
Here’s a selection of ways I’ve come across over the years to make life easier if you are alone at Christmas.
1. Remember it’s only a day. One day of 365. It may feel as though it starts in the middle of November but it is only 24 hours. Regardless of the circumstance, it often feels as though there is an extra layer of unhappiness generated by the idea that Christmas, “shouldn’t be like this”.
It’s tempting to compare our lives to others and at Christmas this can be a recipe for disaster. Advertising agencies would like us to believe that everyone is sitting around a table having a wonderful time with their families but this just isn’t the case. It is possible to have a great day on your own.
2. Shake it up and establish new traditions for yourself. First Christmases “without” are challenging. I remember the first Christmas I spent with my in-laws apart from my family. I was miserable and so was my Mum so she introduced the Christmas jigsaw. A 1000 piece jigsaw which would take most of the holiday to complete.
The first Christmas without my Dad was very sad and we also had a girlfriend who was soon to become an ex-girlfriend staying with us. It certainly shook things up and oddly it helped.
3. Reach out. Sometimes it feels as though there is an unwritten rule that you can’t phone people on Christmas Day. It’s not a rule....you can. My oldest friend always calls on Christmas Day in the afternoon when everyone is either asleep or watching TV and I love it.
I have one friend who volunteers at a homeless shelter for a few hours every year, partly I suspect to avoid too much time with her family and another who visits an elderly neighbour. Someone else I knew always went to church on Christmas despite the fact that she wasn’t at all religious because she loved a good sing.
4. Find the peace. Christmas falls a few days after the Winter Solstice, the shortest day in the Northern Hemisphere. We are in the depths of winter and although we have a couple of months of wintery weather ahead of us, the days will now begin to lengthen.
Take a walk and enjoy the peace and stillness away from all the Christmas madness.
5. Make it special for you. Take a leaf out of Anne’s book and think Desert Island Discs with goodies instead of music. What would you take with you for your perfect day? And if you are looking for inspiration....there’s always our Winter Retreat. :)