When I discovered in late November that I would probably be spending Christmas alone, I wasn’t thrilled by the idea, but oddly, I wasn’t completely dreading it either. There is a sympathy filled stigma associated with spending Christmas on your own; it’s all well-meaning of course. Such a prospect, when most others will be surrounded by loved ones, is a difficult concept for many, and understandably so.
In previous times, when facing the idea, I too have been shaken. A few years ago now, I was prevented from travelling to a huge family get together in the North by unrealistic work expectations and severe rail flooding. That was traumatic. Fortunately, at the time I was still in close contact with a family I had lived with, and spent the day there, Skypeing (is that how you spell that? Is that even a legitimate verb?) with my family throughout the day.
However, due to unrelenting stresses during advent, I barely had time to think about Christmas before it was knocking on the door. And I know I wasn’t the only one; Christmas this year seems to have leapt from the box too late. A lot of my friends didn’t erect their decorations until mid-month, and I played close to the line by finally getting a tree sorted only a week before.
Anyway, I’m rambling. Suffice to say, I spent Christmas Day alone and I didn’t hate it.
I did have options; people did invite me into their homes to partake in their festivities and join them around the banquet, and until Christmas Eve I had every intention of taking someone up on it. Laying in my bed late at night, though, I began thinking, and I figured the only reason I was going anywhere was because I felt I had to. I felt I had an obligation to not be alone on Christmas Day. Then I remembered, it’s not a law. If I’m not feeling super festive, I don’t have to pretend to be. There was no point whalsing off to someone else’s family gathering wearing a false smile and trying to be involved. Possibly just ending up being a miserable git for doing so.
So, yes, I made the active decision to just spend Christmas by myself at home, and I don’t regret it.
I woke up relatively early, turned on the tree lights, and lounged around in my pj’s sending various season’s greetings. Called my Grandmother and Skyped my sister in Yorkshire. I spoke to my parents later in the morning in Spain. I opened my presents and was happy with my moderate haul of new items. At about 14:30 I started a ‘roast dinner’ of pesto salmon, rosemary potatoes, and a few vegetables, and made a very respectable gravy from scratch. Then I poured half a pint over the dinner, and ate at my table to candle-light and Christmas music and the Queen’s annual speech. I sang carols along to Classic FM, at the top of my lungs.
In the midst of all this, I didn’t have to eat a sprout, or watch crappy TV because someone else wanted to, or wear the crappy cracker hat, or hear a single argument. And, thanks to modern technology, I didn’t feel lonely. I was just alone. And that’s okay. I reaped the benefits of an easy, peaceful day, as much as missing out on a family filled exciting one. The experience was peaceful and relaxing, and completely self-indulgent. And I actually liked it.
I couldn’t do it every year; I think my mindset leading up to Christmas was a real boon. I enjoy the big Christmas affair. I’d like to have a ridiculously massive celebration one year, getting everyone together, and filling a banquet table with a spread which would impress the court of King Henry VIII, and decorate to the nines and play board games into the night. One day I will feel up to that; the stars will align, as it were, and I’ll be prepared for it. Chris will be home and maybe we’ll be married with children, with a house of our own to accommodate everyone, who will all be available to come. Maybe. But that wasn’t this year.
Being honest with myself, I perhaps needed the peace and lack of stress. The Universe gave me a quiet space in the hurtling demands of time, to re-group my own thoughts. I remembered that underneath all the pomp and circumstance, Christmas was about the coming of light and hope. The approach of the new year, of the warmer seasons. Of new joy and adventure. I needed hope more than I needed lots of people and lots of sympathy, and while I love and am grateful for everyone in my life, I don’t feel bad or wanting or requiring time away, even at this time of year.
I am filled with hope and gratitude. And the knowledge I can make amazing vegetable gravy.
My prayers were with those who are lonely, and suffering, and did not choose to be alone, but rather had it thrust upon them. My heart was with the lost, and with those who work hard to save them, and to the people grieving, and those who are afraid, or sick, or emotionally stricken. They are the ones deserving of great sympathy upon Christmas, not me with all my blessings. But I know, even they, whoever they are, can at least have hope if nothing else.
My Christmas was merry, and I hope, in whatever way you chose to spend the day, yours was as well. May the candle of your hope never dim, no matter what your darkness.