Home alone this Christmas?

This year I’m spending Christmas at home on my own – and I’m quite happy about it. In fact, once I realised that this was my Christmas scenario, I actually started to look forward to it and get down to some planning. My menus for 3 days are finalised, the shopping list almost purchased, the TV highlights selected, a pile of new novels by my bed and a list of jobs that never get done compiled. Sorted. I’m ready.

These days I don’t have a traditional or regular Christmas period routine: last year I was the guest of my brother and sister-in-law; the year before that I went on a holiday to Portugal; the year before that I stayed home but entertained or went out with friends each day. My first plan this year had been to stay with family members who had just become grandparents to two adorable babies. But the spare room was already taken.
Never mind, I thought, I can handle a couple of days left to my own devices. After all, I do it most weekends! When my mum, years ago, said she didn’t like to think of me being alone at Christmas, I pointed out that, to me, the 2 days of Christmas are just like any other 2 days living alone – but with turkey and Christmas pudding.

There are millions of people just like me who – Solo Success style – are capable of organising their own time and activities over Christmas – just like they do all year round. These may include spending time with family, friends or complete strangers, whether for a special meal, a day or two, or a week away on holiday, at home or abroad, for the festive period. Over the years I have done all the above. If, like this year, I have chosen to stay at home, the important thing for me is to have a focus activity for each day, for example a walk with friends on Christmas Day, or a new release film on Boxing Day.

Not everyone shares the same idea of what Christmas should be. And if you can’t share or indulge in a Christmas all about “family” (hopefully not as portrayed across the TV channels to devastating effect) – then you are likely to invent your own. So, every ‘solo’ will have their own idea of what, for them, would make an ideal Christmas at home alone. They might think that nothing could be better than eating whatever and whenever you like, choosing what to watch or listen to on broadcast media, and wearing jim-jams all day. Many couples, or people gathered with dysfunctional relatives on Christmas Day, might envy this freedom of choice to do exactly as they please.

Of course, people like me understand how lucky we are. Because there are many people who live alone who are much older, more infirm, vulnerable, or incapable of looking after themselves, and may be incredibly lonely. I’ve noticed this year that there are many more organisations, local businesses and individuals who are not just expressing concern about the large numbers of people who might be alone at Christmas, but who are actively involved in helping to make Christmas better for them, in a social context. This is great progress, as long as what is offered is welcomed and meets the wishes of those being “rescued” – see above.

Before rushing in to ‘rescue’ someone from their own company over the Christmas period, bear in mind that people who live on their own can develop a resilience that they wear like a shell; may be suspicious of the sudden offer of support from strangers; and might be afraid of, and crippled by, being seen to be visibly alone – as described in my book Solo Success! And as for loneliness, well thanks to a government campaign and a new focus on the mental health of the nation, we know that loneliness is not the preserve of those who live alone. People can feel lonely in a crowd, in a relationship and at a Christmas party. So don’t presume. And bear in mind that people who are lonely may need a different kind of, and possibly professional, help.

But above all remember that people who live alone, live on their own all year round, not just at Christmas. The 2 days of Christmas are just like any other 2 days living alone – with or without turkey and Christmas pudding – so just as good or bad as normal. Those who need support, need it all year round, not just for 2 days of the year.

Christine Ingall
21 December 2019