Surviving the holidays alone
My first holiday season alone and away from home started out normal enough, I rented a couple movies, bought some snacks, things I don’t normally buy like Doritos and Cheetos and planned to prepare my favorite home cooked meal: bake macaroni and cheese, stir fried broccoli, carrots and mushrooms and stewed red beans . But when I told my work friend of my plans she was horrified and 'rescued me' by insisting I spend the day with her family. It was nice, but other times since, and now again this year I choose to spend the holiday alone.
Holidays are a time when people come together, especially families. I've found that people talk in equal measure with joyous anticipation of holiday journeys home as much as they complain about having to do something as stressful as spend an entire day or more with extended family. This family time, depending on the level of disfunction can range from amazing to downright maddening. But, whereas maybe back in the day it was unbearable after a few hours, it can now be enjoyable even after the meal is over thanks to Hollywood with their much hyped new releases on Thanksgiving day and Christmas, and the NFL's strategically slated football games, not to mention the general shopping frenzy that amplifies during the holiday season that demands black Friday sales starting earlier and earlier, now commencing the very afternoon of Thanksgiving Thursday. This all can be a respite from inevitable awkward conversations at mandatory family gatherings. If we’re all bonding over discounted shoes and outerwear or laughing and sharing popcorn while watching the latest thriller there’s just no time left to lament about real life tragedies, like, say the recent election, or each person's latest malady. The modern day American holiday season is a way to bring families together while simultaneously keeping them distracted enough so that sanity prevails.
So what about those of us with the freedom to spend the holidays solo? Well, it depends on the reason for this freedom and whether it’s something that you’ve embraced.
Are you facing holiday solitude because you’ve alienated everyone all year and now nobody invited you over even for a plate of cooked food? Does this make you sad? If this is the case it’s okay, don’t panic, there’s still chance for redemption (there always is btw). First, remember that no matter what you’ve done or how much you think your family hates you, leading you to retreat into your own personal cave of doom, they will likely always welcome you back with open arms when you decide to come around. Unless you’ve done something unforgivable then I can’t guarantee they remember your name, but if you did a bad thing but now you're sorry, and prepared to make amends it’s worth a try. Or maybe you’ve just had a bad year/years and needed to be alone- you can still reach out and get a chance to be welcomed back like the prodigal son/daughter you were meant to be. Yes, they might rough you up a little bit, be prepared for a couple jabs: ‘So you really were too busy to call us these past 11 months/years?’. ‘Not even a text message???!’ Just take it in stride and be glad you’re back where you belong. Remain humble and gracious and don’t get upset with anyone. If the questions persist and you can’t come up with any proper answers a simple ‘Well, you know.…’ with a sheepish and repentant smile usually does the trick
But those of us who have no family to even try to avoid in the first place and really do NOT want to spend the holiday alone? Don’t despair here are a few suggestions for last minute holiday companionship:
- Visit a church ASAP. Churches, especially the non denominational ones are especially welcoming to new people. If you show up alone around the holidays you don’t even have to look forlorn, they will probably consider you a lost sheep from the get go and feel extra inclined to welcome you into their flock. Guaranteed at least one church mother will invite you to a Thanksgiving/Christmas dinner or other church related holiday festivities. If you go this route be prepared to tell your entire life story as they will definitely want to get to know you for real, for real. But if you feel affronted by the barrage of well meaning questions you can always change the focus off you by asking them questions about themselves. A good place to start is asking ‘So have you done any missionary work overseas?’ If the answer is yes, be prepared to accompany the storyteller down a minimum 2 hour walk down memory lane and if you even dare to feel bored or annoyed remember that if not for these good samaritans you would be alone in your apartment crying into your pillow that was already wet to begin with because you didn’t wrap a towel around your hair after you took that 90 minute shower to try and wash away your sadness.
- If there are no churches available or you are too much of a heathen to take this route don’t give up yet, oh ye of little faith! Join a dating site! This is a complete 180 but TRUST ME as lonely as you think you are there are countless other people EVEN LONELIER than you who don’t even have people to talk to outside of work and other structured activities, much less families to invite them over for home cooked meals. And people who are alone feel more inclined to get out and meet others especially around holiday time when there is so much to be shared, not just misery, but the general sense of good tidings makes people want to be kind to each other and share experiences, meals etc. Who wants to sit around a fire with a cup of hot cider alone? Well, I actually wouldn’t mind but I probably wouldn't want to do this day after day after day! Hence dating! I don’t have any dating sites to recommend unfortunately but google. And remember, don’t feel sorry for yourself because the fact alone that other people are on these sites/apps with you means they are just as alone as you are. And if your chief aim is to not eat thanksgiving dinner alone, note in bigger cities especially there are numerous restaurants that have special thanksgiving day menus. Otherwise, what better way to really get to know each other on a second or third date than cooking a meal together. Bon appetit!
Okay, if neither Church nor dating is your things then you need to put in a bit more work and SPEAK UP!
- If you want an invitation to someone’s house for thanksgiving or you want to host thanksgiving dinner yourself then ask to be invited or invite others! If you ask to be invited don’t come with any sob story though, it’s distasteful. Instead broach the topic by saying something lighthearted 'I can’t wait until NEXT year’s thanksgiving because we are all meeting up at my sister’s house in Arizona... this year everybody is so spread out we’re all doing in alone ….*crickets*…What about you what do you have planned?’ And take it from there! This might especially work with an acquaintance who is married with children, or an older couple. These two demographics seem to always love extra company, decent company at least so make sure you’re a decent person before you try this. Skip couples or single people you don't know that well as this might be awkward, Although, on second thought keep your single friends in mind as recently theres been a new wave called ‘friendsgiving’ where friends get together for the thanksgiving tradition either before or in place of the traditional family gathering. Try and get in on one of these gatherings by considering any acquaintances you may have that seem especially social.
Finally, if you’re feeling the way I feel this year, like spending the holiday on some solo adventure and enjoying your own company kudos to you! Don’t allow anybody’s questioning or unsolicited words of pity and dismay make you feel sorry for yourself or like you’re doing something wrong. Here’s an opportunity to do something out of the norm, see a new place, explore somewhere close to home or take a road trip somewhere new. As most places might be closed pack yourself a nice picnic - treat yourself! Depending on where you live you might find that many other people are out and about on thanksgiving as visiting tourists or simply other people like you who are doing it alone. Be open and friendly and always with a spirit of adventure. Happy holidays!