I’m a fan of the Hercule Poirot TV series. In one episode, The Theft of the Royal Ruby, the famous Belgian detective is getting ready for Christmas. He prepares by visiting his favorite chocolate shop and by making other arrangements to spend an indulgent Christmas by himself. Of course, his carefully crafted plans are thrown into disarray when he’s called upon to solve a knotty crime.
That aside, I’m with Poirot. Spending Christmas alone does not need to be isolating or depressing; it can be uplifting, as well as a time for personal indulgence.
It seems to me that two versions of Christmas have come to dominate the media, and therefore our lives, for decades. The first is of a jolly, wholesome family-centred activity, involving log fires, lots of food and nice gifts. The other is basically a season of parties, eating and drinking. It’s no coincidence that these two versions — which frequently overlap — are promoted so strongly, because both involve us spending lots of money. Neither version is a reality for many people, but it’s an easy message to buy into because it is so heavily promoted.
Here’s an alternative message: There is no rule as to how Christmas should be spent.
Don’t for one moment think that Christmas spent alone marks you out as a loser, because a Christmas alone can be hugely rewarding. There’s a big difference between being alone and being isolated and lonely. You can be alone and yet still be very socially involved. What follows is my personal list of ideas of ways to spend Christmas to yourself. I’m sure there are many more things you could add to the list, and I encourage you to take some time to do so this year if you can.
Working over Christmas
I’ve spent Christmas with family and I’ve spent it at work. In my experience, they are equally rewarding. There are many occupations where the wheels continue to turn on Christmas day, and many of these involve shift work. If you’d prefer to stay active on Christmas day, why not offer to swap with a colleague? They’ll probably be happy to trade with you, and the bonus for you might be extra cash for working over the holiday.
There are so many options here: Nursing homes, help-lines, animal shelters, hospitals, community centers, charities and more. Don’t expect to be able to walk in on Christmas day in order to volunteer your services. Some places may require a degree of vetting and possibly a little training, so if you’d like to volunteer, plan ahead by finding who needs help and then apply. This will also help the organization or charity to plan ahead.
An indulgence day
Don’t feel guilty about organizing your perfect day of indulgence. If that means staying in bed all day, watching DVDS and eating cake, well, that’s your choice. Indulgence doesn’t have to involve eating and drinking, of course. It means doing exactly what pleases you, so if that means going for a walk, listening to music and taking a leisurely bath, then it’s as simple as that.
If you happen to live in a city or busy town, there’s every chance you’re living in a multicultural environment. This means some shops and restaurants remain open because different cultures celebrate events at different times of the year. Just because most people don’t consider curry a Christmas day meal, why shouldn’t you?
Christmas day often brings out runners, walkers, swimmers, cyclists and hobbyists. Take part or join other spectators to cheer them on, and don’t forget that some of the simplest activities ease depression and lift moods.
Christmas has become increasingly secularised, but even those who never visit a church during the rest of the year will attend at Christmas and remind themselves what Christmas really stands for. It’s something to consider.
Just another day
I know a couple of people who treat Christmas as just another day. They use the time to catch up with work or housework. And no, they don’t have Scrooge-like personalities. They simply choose not to buy into a particular version of Christmas.
Spending Christmas alone has a lot of potential. It doesn’t require effort so much as a certain mindset. There’s little doubt that many people find Christmas an isolating and depressing time of year because it’s a season loaded with memories and emotions. The Holiday Blues are fueled by high expectations and various dissatisfactions, but I’ve tried to make a case that there are other options for dealing with the pressures of what’s always been expected.
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Jerry Kennard, Ph.D., is a chartered psychologist and associate fellow of the British Psychological Society. Jerry’s clinical background is in mental health and, most recently, higher education. He is the author of various self-help books and is co-founder of positivityguides.net.