“The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.”
~ Mother Teresa
Christmas isn’t always an easy time. In fact it can be one of the hardest holidays of the year. Not every family is close, you might be a long way from home, some families are small – there might be only the two of you, or just you and your pets. Perhaps there has been loss or hardship during the year, a relationship breakdown, or the kids are spending Christmas with your ex.
I thought I’d blog today about how I cope with Christmas, and how some of my friends do. We’ve all been able to turn a difficult day into something that works for us. Here’s how each of us will spend our Christmas Day:
Nicole: Orphan’s Christmas
My parents are divorced, my siblings scattered, and I’ve not had any kind of Christmas with my own family since 2000. I’ve also lived away from home in some very remote areas before that, and been too far away to come home over the holidays.
My Christmas now is an Orphan’s Christmas. I invite friends and neighbours who have nowhere to go, and we share a meal, play some music, talk and laugh and celebrate friendship and kindness. It might be 4 people, it might be 40. It might be someone we know well, or a backpacker or traveller who’s just passing through. What matters is that we each feel included and loved. These have turned out to be some of the best Christmas Celebrations of my life.
Since moving to the farm we start our day at sunrise with a champagne breakfast barbeque with the neighbours from across the river. We all drive down through the paddocks to the water with our eskies and chairs, they bring their barbeque on the back of a ute, Ben and I wade across the river at the shallow part and we cook up a storm.
Later we’ll call loved ones, and maybe go to the beach for a swim. I might lie around and read a book while eating tasty snacks.
This year we have a drinks and dinner drop-by, starting at 4pm. I’m sure I’ll keep you posted on how it all turned out and what was on the menu. (It’s a week away I keep telling myself – I’ll think about it in a few days time when I’ve finished work for the year.)
Alice – Swank Hotel Retreat
Three years ago Alice lost her mum to breast cancer, and then her aunt, all in six months. Then her marriage failed. Most of her family live overseas. She works like crazy all year, and was wracked by sorrow and loneliness at the very thought of Christmas. The first Christmas she stayed at home and cried. It was miserable, but she needed to grieve and it didn’t feel right to be happy or to celebrate so she honoured that. She also turned down invitations to parties and other families’ Christmas dinners. Attending would have made her feel worse, rather than better.
The next year she knew she couldn’t face another Christmas alone in her apartment, so she booked into a luxurious suite at an inner-city hotel for a few days. On Christmas Eve she shopped in town, buying books, new silk pyjamas, bubble bath and fragrant lotions, treats from the patisserie, decadent boxes of chocolates. Then she went back to her hotel suite and bunkered down. Christmas Eve was a cable TV marathon with pizza and red wine. Christmas Day she went for a walk in the Botanical Gardens, drank coffee and read her book, and then retreated to her room for more book reading, baths, naps and room service. Boxing Day was more of the same. It was such a restful and enjoyable break that she’s done it each year since and looks forward to this gift she gives herself.
Damien – Volunteer Christmas
Damien lost his young daughter to cancer and then his marriage broke up. That was twenty years ago. He’s been alone ever since. He works in Emergency Services and is always happy to volunteer to work on Christmas Day so that others can have time with their families. He’ll also do a stint volunteering at the local surf club. He doesn’t put up a tree, or do anything special for himself. But he feels that by working he is giving a gift to others. It’s low-key, and he’s happy with that.
Michael and Louise – Puzzle madness
Louise suffers from severe chronic fatigue. She has multiple food allergies and intolerances to many chemicals and things like perfumes and deoderants. Going out at Christmas is a nightmare, and she’s usually too ill to enjoy herself anyway. Michael is Louise’s partner. His family live interstate, so he will talk with them on the phone. Since he became Louise’s full-time carer money is tight. Travelling to family is not an option.
Michael and Louise have made Christmas their own personal event. It’s not about the food, it’s about the fun. Michael will buy a few second-hand games for his x-box that they can start playing on Christmas morning. He also finds a monster jigsaw puzzle, which they set up on the kitchen table. They will not eat again at their table until the puzzle is done, which might take weeks. It’s something they look forward to all year.
Marta – A Day of Reflection
Marta’s family are big drinkers. And it’s a family with a lot of tension, competition and unhealthy relationships. Christmas usually starts okay but then degenerates into fights and tears as the day wears on. A few years ago Marta decided not to put herself through that anymore. Instead she spends her day at home, with a few carefully selected treats, a new journal and pen, and some music. She starts her day with yoga in her lounge room, followed by fresh fruit, good coffee and an almond croissant. Then she attends church quietly on her own. Later she meditates and writes in her journal. She does a year spread using her tarot cards and reflects on each card and what that might mean for her. She reads from a spiritual or self-help book she’s chosen and then spends the rest of the day thinking and planning for her year ahead. Dinner is a beautiful meal for one, where she takes the time to cook something special for herself – usually seafood, followed by a little pudding or chocolate something. Christmas has become a sacred time for Marta, and a day that has gone from being painful to nourishing.
Christmas is what YOU make it. And if you choose to step away from the idea of how it ‘should’ be celebrated and instead look after yourself and your own needs, maybe it can be a time for nourishing yourself and honouring where you are at in your life.
Not everyone has a perfect family. Not everyone even has a family. Sometimes life is hard, and we need to get through the best we can.
This Christmas I’m thinking of you, sending love, and holding the intent that the day brings you healing, rest and connection – whether you are on your own or in a crowd.
Bless ♥ xx
12 thoughts on “What to do if you’re on your own at Christmas”
Thanks for sharing what other orphans have done on Christmas Day. Now, I don’t feel so odd! Just kidding! Until 2002, I spent Christmas Day with my mother eating out since we were not into cooking. Since then, the year she died, the first couple of years I braved going to public places for lunch, eg good hotels or restaurants that put on a good spread. I felt fine with that as I don’t need to be entertained (I make my own fun and have done since a little girl); however, I was conscious of the stares of others with families as I seemed to be the only one there by myself, but that didn’t faze me. In my head, I made-believe I was a photojournalist on an assignment and would photograph the food and the place I was in with my cellphone; I got some very good pictures and had material for a good blogpost about the day. In fact, one year, I sensed one of those staring at me was going to come over and invite me to their table, but that didn’t happen; shucks, it would have been fun!
One year I decided to find out if any of the tour bus companies had tours on Christmas Day and was pleasantly surprised. I booked, thinking there would be very few people on that bus, but, lo and behold, the bus was full to the gills; I was so surprised (it was a tour to the Twelve Apostles and environs)! Of course, they were tourists visiting Melbourne. It was a most enjoyable day, and I may do it again at some point in the future. I also got some good photos that day.
I’ve spent a few years on my own at home for the lunch part, but then taking a tram later in the afternoon and having a coffee and cake somewhere, depending on the weather and how I feel. This year, I’m having lunch at a place called Timeout at Federation Square, and I don’t have to book as it’s always busy and people come and go freely. I’m looking forward to it.
New Year’s Eve I spend at home also, and have done for many years. I enjoy the comfortable front row seat I have to watch the midnight fireworks atop Eureka Tower (seen from my lounge-room window) and also the Sydney fireworks on my TV, at the same time! Aren’t I spoiled?! 😀
Enjoy your sleepy Christmas.
I like your blog and check in often. I think this is an important post because so many people feel guilty or isolated about not liking Christmas or suffering this holiday through. Well done for writing the unspoken – as you often do.
I was driven to comment because I practice hypnotherapy and I wanted to ask you to tell Louise that CFS often responds very well to hypnotherapy – in particular Medical Hypnoanalysis. She should check it out if she hasn’t yet.
thank you nicole for this beautiful post. this year i am experiencing a health challenge. i was scheduled to drive over 12 hours to visit with family in california, and then more driving around california to visit with friends. two nights ago i decided to pull the plug. it meant that my husband plans, who had scheduled time off from work, would change and my family and friends wouldn’t get to be with “auntie pammy”…..but i decided to put myself and my health first this holiday season. i am feeling better and better about my decision as the days go by. my mother is always telling me to take care of myself, so that is what i am doing! i can always go later when i feel that my healing process is well underway and now my husband and i can create a different christmas/new years for ourselves as we would like it. blessings on you and your husband and your wonderful animal friends! much love and wishing you a joyous holiday season. pamela
Oh, I DO love Alice’s Christmas ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Thank you Nicole for sharing your Xmas. I love the way you make it your own. You are a generous soul :)))) thank you for your inspiring stories. Xxx
Thank you so much or all those wonderful stories . I have social phobia so you can imagine ,Christmas is hell for me . It’s just my husband , my son and myself …as it’s been for many years . I sometimes feel sorry for the boys and think they wish there were more people around us but they never complain …I ‘m lucky to have them . It feel great to know you Do Christmas how you want and not what others expect of you .
peace and love Cherry x
Thank you again Nicole this is a perfect post and I am going to pass on the stories to a few suffering friends. Have a beautiful holiday . I have so enjoyed the year with you and do look forward each day to see what my “mystery friend” has to say each day . Much Aloha to you and yours especially that cute little Harry the Hound.
My orphan’s Christmases have been some of the best! This is a little off topic but I read a book the other day I have a feeling you’d love. It’s called “Mullumbimby” by Melissa Lucashenko. Maybe you’ve already read it. It’s set in and around where you live and the main character is a Bundjalung woman discovering her connection to country. It’s wonderfully written and one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Hope you enjoy it as much as i did xx
Ahhh ! Nicole I have missed you ! For some reason I lost your blog from my inbox. Now I have rediscovered you and your wisdom. Thankyou . I like the sound of your christmas.I wish you health and happiness in the new year, and warm wishes for the Festive season… and plenty of cake
Thanks Nicole. It’s a lovely thought to have an orphan’s Christmas or a ‘sanctuary’ christmas. I know your day will be filled with love, light and happiness. Bless.xxx
Nicole, this post has made me realise that next year i am going to do Suzie’s orphans Xmas. As I love Xmas. This year I have done nothing as my body has me stopped and back in bed this week .Since moving north 9 years ago we have had one family Xmas where we travelled south, was a 2 day drive. Before that except when i was overseas family xmas was so important to my mum and we had all the trimmings, along with neighbours get togethers, call to relatives. This year it will be just Des and I , family skype and there is a sadness and at the same time a joy to make it a special day of celebration of the love and abundance we have. Thank you for you inspiration and I look forward to coming to visit maybe between Xmas and New Year. Wishing you, Ben and the dogs a love filled joyful Christmas blessings xxx
Nicole – I love Christmas and I get myself so excited in the lead up to December 25! The tree goes up and my unit gets decorated on the first, Christmas carols are played day in and day out in my office at work and so much thought goes in to the presents I buy family and friends it is almost ‘brain boggling’. However come December 25 at say 2pm when lunch is over and I am own – it all hits me like a sledge hammer and I plummet into a deep sadness! Thank you for your blog today it has given me food for thought …
Merry Christmas to you and Ben, the dogs, the cows – in fact your whole family. May your day be filled with love and laughter and I don’t need to say good food! Thank you for your fantastic blogs this year and I look forward to hearing more next year. <3