This blog was first published, with an introduction, online in Life Labs for Psychologies Magazine, 12 April 2018
Today I’m talking about whether, for me, being alone at Easter is worse, just the same as, or better than being alone at Christmas. Now, I realise that, for people who have lost a loved one such as a spouse, or have especially fond memories of them at one of these celebratory periods, they are more likely to dread or favour either Christmas or Easter more than the other. Whether or not this applies to you, I hope you will think about your own perspective, and feel free to agree or disagree with me.
Logically, Christmas and Easter have so many things in common that you would think the impact on solos would be just the same. They are both religious festivals (whether or not you observe the religious element), and family-centred celebrations involving traditional food and the exchange of gifts, over a public holiday period.
The crucial similarity for me is the family focus at the heart of both. This has by far the most impact on solos without a partner and/or children. Families naturally and inevitably extend with every new generation. As we grow older, solos whose parents are no longer alive, without children and therefore their own family unit, more often than not have no family to go at Christmas or Easter. And if invited, can sometimes feel more keenly than ever, that they are visibly alone. That can explain better than anything else a solo’s tendency to plan a trip away for the festivities, and to spend time with a group of complete strangers, often solos themselves.
So far, so much the same. But I’ll put my cards on the table here: Christmas is far worse than Easter as far as I’m concerned. Notwithstanding the commercial maelstrom, from around mid-October, I also feel pressure from around the same time to get my festive plans and arrangements sorted as early as possible. How can I ensure a preferably low-key, low fuss Christmas amongst a few good friends and family? So, I spend months hoping for confirmation that local friends will be around, or an invite to share a part of a family relative’s Christmas might be forthcoming. At the same time I keep my mouse hovering over the details of short breaks in the Cotswolds and tracking flight price changes on Travelzoo. The Christmas season makes me feel as if I want to be in a secure haven with people I know well. And if that’s not forthcoming, the alternative is to escape into tourism.
In comparison, I’ve always felt more relaxed about Easter: less intimidated by the promotional bunnies or conformity. By that I mean, that there is not as much pressure to meet up with family. But, if I am and they have children, I’m likely to take along Easter eggs for them. If not seeing family with children, I don’t need to buy Easter eggs at all. (Except, of course, one for me!) Even taking into account the stacked shelves of chocolate eggs and bunnies, Easter has always felt to me less commercialised than Christmas. Apart from chocolate goods, it isn’t common for children to receive expensive gifts to commemorate Easter, such as a bike, games console or trip to Disneyland.
The Easter period appears to me like an aged and genteel aunt, who is happy to be taken out for afternoon tea with Simnel cake. Unlike the gross and greedy Christmas uncle who needs to be stuffed with food, showered with gifts and entertained for at least a week. Easter doesn’t need to bankrupt a family, and that helps considerably to keep away stress!
My favourite characteristic of Easter, however, is that it coincides with Spring and therefore with birth and rebirth, the new, promise, change and an improvement in the weather. (Usually!) The sight of lambs gambolling in the fields, daffodils blooming along the grass verges and the first touch of sunshine on my cheek, literally puts a spring in my step and enhances my mood. That feel-good factor means that I’m quite happy to be alone, with a chocolate egg, for a few days at Easter.
So the key difference between Christmas and Easter seems, for me, to be in the way each makes me feel. Christmas makes me feel as if I need to create or be with a family unit. But if it looks like I’m destined to be alone over Christmas, I’m likely to run away on an escapist trip. Whereas Easter doesn’t stress me at all, in fact, makes me feel positive, cheerful and unfazed by the prospect of a few days alone. For me, being alone at Easter is far better than being alone at Christmas. How about you?