Although mass media drums it into our heads that the holidays are meant for family and friends, there may come a time you find yourself facing the impending holidays alone. Moreover, millions of people choose to spend holidays alone. Whether due to divorce, school or work responsibilities, lack of cash to travel home to see family, or worse, the death or illness of a loved one, a year may come where you have nowhere to go for the holiday season other than where you are right now, by yourself. While being alone for a special occasion may sound horrible, it can be one of the most satisfying and enjoyable holidays you’ve ever spent.
If, like me, you find yourself alone this year, it needn’t be a time spent wallowing in self-pity or gorging on Peppermint Candy ice cream to fill the void. There are many advantages to spending the holiday season alone. First, you don’t have to tolerate awkward relatives or sketchy sibling friends who tag along for family gatherings. Additionally, you don’t have to spend a fortune on travel or risk getting stranded in an airport due to cancelled flights. Staying alone for the holidays simplifies cooking and cleaning burdens as well. Dinner for one is far simpler than dinner for twenty.
A holiday free of social obligations enables you to spend it doing whatever your heart desires. While getting a head start on your next school assignment may not initially excite you, the extra time you have in January can be spent getting fitter in the gym or speed learning courses with your free access to lynda.com through AUSU. I finally began the new acrylic painting I’d neglected to start all year, and it will be finished by the end of 2017. Take that procrastination! Perhaps you’d like to visit a local Christmas light show or indoor gardens in your city. It’s easier to focus on all the details when you are alone and an ideal time to practice your photography skills. Binge watching a series on Netflix is easy when there is no one around to judge your taste in movies.
If you’re longing for family and reminiscing about the good old days, get creative and take action to fend off the holiday blues. Write a poem or story about past family gatherings and send it to family members as a new year’s gift, or refine it for next Christmas. Can’t write? Create a collage out of old family photos and make copies. Nothing says you care like giving a homemade keepsake.
Volunteering or donating to a good cause is an excellent way to forget about your own little problems and focus on the bigger community picture. Since I’d recently moved and wasn’t going to see my wonderful dog until after Christmas, I found out where the local SPCA was and went there in person to write a check and relish a few dog cuddles. Nothing is too small or insignificant to give this season, whatever your financial status. Your time could make all the difference in the world to someone suffering unimaginable hardship this time of year. Witnessing the unfortunate circumstances people may be struggling with this season can swiftly put your current situation into perspective.
On another note, a few days alone to spend doing whatever, from reading a stack of books to traipsing up a new mountain trail, can be heaven for an introvert. Extroverts may need to open their minds to this perspective. In any case, don’t feel obligated to tell others you’ll be alone this year. Most will look at you like you’ve just told them you have a terminal illness. It’s fine to say “I have plans”, even if those plans involve lounging in your pajamas with a stack of magazines, school books, and endless cups of hot chocolate for three days in a row.
Lonely students take heart—many professionals work through the Christmas season taking care of the elderly in care homes, manning hospital emergency stations, and working busy retail and restaurant businesses. In the physical world, Christmas day is just another day. Cook up your favourite appetizers and enjoy them for dinner or order takeout. Whatever you choose to do, take a deep breath, keep your perspective, and don’t judge yourself. Relish your alone time, contemplate what it all means if you must, catch up on sleep. Contrary to popular opinion, there are far worse things you could be facing than being alone for the holidays. Happy New Year!