“It struck him that how you spent Christmas was a message to the world about where you were in life, some indication of how deep a hole you had managed to burrow for yourself”
~ Nick Hornby, About a Boy
For many people, Christmas isn’t a Hallmark moment. It’s a time of stress and dread. A time of friction and anxiety. It’s being tied up in knots about having to spend time with people who don’t like you, or who bully you, or who criticise and put you down in front of others while everyone else stands around doing nothing. It’s about worrying if your partner or parent will be rageful or drunk or mean. It’s about having to put on a brave face as you spend a whole day with your ex and the new partner they left you for – while smiling and being happy for your children.
It’s being a kid who is dragged between locations so that each parent gets them for part of Christmas day, when all you want to do is stay home where it’s familiar and safe.
It’s not having enough money and putting yourself into debt for the whole Hallmark experience, which never delivers anyway.
Or it’s being lonely and sad because you decided NOT to do the family Christmas thing. Or because you weren’t invited to the family Christmas thing. Or because you have no family close, or your family has been broken apart by death, illness or divorce.
No wonder you’re dreading Christmas.
So, I have a suggestion.
Why not do it differently this year?
It’s perfectly fine if you choose not to celebrate at all. If you’d rather just spend a quiet day at home, or the park, do that and feel glad for your choice. It’s your life and you are the Captain of your own ship.
Or create a new Christmas Tradition. One that reclaims Christmas and that allows you to do Christmas your way.
Say no to the event you’re dreading.
Have a small gathering, within your means. Start some new traditions together, especially if you have children. Especially if it’s just you, or you and your partner, or you and your pets. Do something that is meaningful for you, and that feels indulgent in some way.
Bake something together, or have a favourite movie you all watch every year. Sing songs or play a board game. One of my dearest friends, who left an abusive relationship and was in dire poverty started a ‘Christmas Nachos in front of Love Actually‘ tradition with her family ten years ago. Christmas Nachos? It was party food, and cheap, and it looked sort of Christmassy with the green and red salsa against the cheese. Time’s moved on, and her kids are grown now. She’s in a new relationship. But they still do Christmas Nachos and watch that movie. Every year.
Another friend of mine books herself into a city hotel for a few days, on her own. Her husband died a few years ago and she has no family. There were plenty of invites to other family homes, but that just underscored her loss. Now she goes shopping in the Christmassy city malls and buys herself new pjyamas, books and chocolate. Some other special gift for herself that she’d like. She sleeps in, has long bubble baths, watches cable and gets room service. A day or two after Christmas she goes home refreshed. It’s something she looks forward to now, although the first year was hard, and the second a little hard too.
Host an orphan’s Christmas, or go to one. There are plenty of people who are in the same boat as you, and who are excellent company for sharing a meal, some laughs and a little merriment.
Volunteer at a soup kitchen for a few hours, and be part of the kindness that Christmas can be.
Above all, know that it’s okay to make a different choice this year. Get support, if you need it. See a counsellor or a therapist or talk to a friend. But don’t keep suffering just to keep up appearances and make other people happy at your expense.
This year, let a better Christmas be your gift to you.
Thinking of you and sending all my love, Nicole <3 oxo
6 thoughts on “Dreading Christmas This Year?”
After a family “event” a few years ago, my husband and I started opening our doors so that people could stop by and hang out. no fuss, no need to let us know you are coming. Just a sincere invitation to share the day and relax. It’s been great not stressing about being someplace at a certain time, to spend hours dealing with the family BS, not even getting out of PJs if I don’t want to. While I would love to have the big family-do, I don’t miss the drama that always occurred or the feelings of always having to watch what was said, done, not offend, etc.
Blessings to you…you responded, once again to the strangeness of my life. This will be my first Christmas without my love and I am already feeling the dread. I always loved the holidays, and my sweetheart made them extra special for many years. The thought of not having him to snuggle with on Christmas Eve is devastating. As the holidays draw nearer and I grow stronger, i will re read this blog and follow your suggestions. Thank you
For the last twenty years Christmas for me, my husband and kids has been spent with a group of other families. We don’t see it as an orphan’s Christmas – this celebration is about the richness of our friendships, not about any lack in our lives. Sometimes we’ll catch up with our extended families, (who live interstate) after Christmas, and when my dad was alive he would travel over and join us. There’s no politics and no ancient family history dynamics, and no workload. Everyone brings amazing food to share, we hang out together and go home feeling happy, connected and well fed.
I love your ideas Nicole I’m sure they will help many people . I’m lucky I have my family and my husband. But many years ago I struggled with social phobia and Christmas was a nightmare even will thoes I loved . With the help of brilliant counsellors over the years I am now in a better place . Christmas is not all twinkly it can bring a load of pain . I hope anyone out there feeling that familiar dread to read your post because I would have loved it way back when I needed it . Bless u Nicole 😘
A couple of years ago I was on my own for Xmas. (I live alone and friends were away or doing their things) so I volunteered for the Salvos and spent time in the neighbourhood and sat and talked to locals and helped serve dinner. We decorated the area. It didn’t feel like work but was something I benefited from and I hope I was able to help others
I am so lucky that I am part of a family that loves Christmas that doesn’t have mean and nasty people in it, we all get together we all have a good time, we all have moments when get annoyed with each other but it passes quick and we all for the most part get along. That said if you are not into Christmas if it’s not a joyful and happy day then step away and don’t do it and others will just have to deal, you have to do stuff that makes you happy