“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