• Pat Opperman

How to Spend Christmas Alone

*This article was written in 2017 for a singles magazine in Ireland. It is not reproducible.*


When I first met Joe, he was visiting a patient in the emergency room where I worked. He was very attentive to the gentleman, tucking in his blankets and helping him get comfortable.


When the patient left, Joe was still there.

“Did you forget something?” I asked.


Joe sheepishly looked down and said he had nowhere else to go right then. He would like to stay a little longer. It was Christmas Eve night.


Joe wasn’t estranged from his family. He wasn’t a drug addict or criminal with a restraining order of any type. There was no family tragedy that left him alone.


Joe was a student at the local university. He didn’t have enough money for an airplane ticket home. He didn’t want his parents to feel obligated, so Joe told them he was working.


Millions of people like Joe will be alone for Christmas this season. Nothing bad happened to put them in that situation. It is just a side effect of circumstance.

Nancy’s first Christmas alone was because she had to work right up until Christmas Eve. Her parents and siblings took their traditional week-long trip overseas without her.


Jeff’s wife was deployed to Afghanistan. The rest of their families were thousands of kilometers from the base they lived on.


Lots of people spend Christmas alone for lots of reasons. Handling the situation properly can make the difference between an uplifting, faith-enhancing, “It's a Wonderful Life” holiday experience or a dismal, depressing memory requiring years of therapy.


Well, for most of us it will be somewhere in between, but you get the point.


Waxing nostalgic


The secret to spending Christmas alone is to let yourself experience nostalgia. Too many people think memories of past Christmas holidays will make them depressed.


The smell of apple pie and cider makes them miss being home, so they try to avoid it. But the reason they make you miss home is that apple pie and cider are happy memories. They induce nostalgia.

Nostalgia is a pleasant memory that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy. You want those memories. Close your eyes and let history play out in your brain.


That means sleeping or drinking the day away is out of the question. Christmas will happen this year whether you are alone in bed or delivering toys with Santa.


People who “skip” Christmas are likely to be among the most anxious, depressed, and angry people during the post-holiday blues months of January and February.


Treat yourself better than that.


Here are some ideas about how to spend Christmas alone. Try them. Let nostalgia warm your heart and keep you among the Christmas joyful.


Embrace tradition


Nothing induces warm and fuzzy nostalgia like Christmas traditions.


One year, I did not decorate my apartment. As Christmas approached, I found myself staying later at work and hitting the holiday parties harder than usual. It was my best friend who figured out why I hated going home.


On Christmas Eve, he convinced me to buy a dismal little tree and we decorated it. He was right. It lifted my spirits to bring Christmas into my home.


If you always play Christmas music, play Christmas music. If you always attend a public tree lighting, attend a public tree lighting. Shop in your favorite stores. Eat your favorite food. Hang mistletoe. Watch Rudolph.


Make your Christmas as close to normal as possible. It is the best attitude-lifting thing you can do for yourself.


Reach out to loved ones

Think about this. In one house, there are twenty family members celebrating a holiday with great food, presents, maybe some sports, and great conversation.


In a flat 500 kilometers away is a single person watching “Miracle on 34th Street” and eating popcorn.


Who is more likely to think about calling the other?


Don’t rationalize that your family or friends are too busy. They are just distracted. Give them a call. They will be as happy to hear from you as you will be to hear the nostalgia-inducing revelry and conversation in the background.


Go for a walk


When we are home and feeling alone, the best remedy is to get out of the house. Believe it or not, you will find people on the streets on Christmas.


Stop in open marts and gas stations. Make eye contact and say, “Merry Christmas” to police officers, bus and taxi drivers. Get some air and share some smiles.


Maybe you will see something that lifts your spirits.

Bring something to share


My friend, Sherry, hands out hundreds of Christmas cookies to toll collectors, nursing home workers, security guards, and other folks every Christmas.


It doesn’t matter if they don’t observe the holiday. They smile and are thankful.


Sharing or doing good deeds always lifts your spirits. Call a nursing home or assisted living facility. Find someone with no visitors and spend some time with them. Start a conversation about Christmas memories.


Nostalgia for two… it will be awesome.

The most wonderful time of the year!


Spending Christmas alone happens to almost everyone at least once. It doesn’t have to be the worst or loneliest day of your life. Let yourself remember good times. Share yourself when you can. Let others share themselves.


Christmas recognizes the best day the world has ever known. Don’t let a lack of company keep you from enjoying its magic.

Pat Opperman, freelance writer, and BABY KNOWS ... are registered
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