Lonely this Christmas?

 

‘As a single person, I dread Christmas. I don’t get much time off work over the festive period and my family lives too far away to visit. My friends disappear to spend time with their own families. Christmas is the loneliest time of year for me.’

‘The worst thing about Christmas is not seeing other people. I’m disabled and housebound, and last year I didn’t see or speak to anyone for ten days.’

‘Since my divorce, I dread Christmas – especially when it’s my ex’s turn to have the children. I miss them dreadfully and I just don’t know what to do with myself, rattling around in an empty house.’ 

Many singles struggle with loneliness. For some, Christmas offers blessed relief from the solitude, as they get to spend a few days with family and relatives. For others, it’s the loneliest time of the year – perhaps they don’t have any family to spend the holiday with; or family relationships have broken down; or they’re unable to travel to visit relatives. Meanwhile, friends and community tend to disappear to spend time with their own families.

Likewise, events throughout the festive period – carol services, parties and midnight mass – can be a good social time for some singles. But with their emphasis on families, events can also serve as a painful reminder of the lack of a partner and children.

However, there are things we, as singles, can do to help ourselves – as long as we don’t allow embarrassment, fear and self-pity to hold us back. Here, we suggest some ideas you can use as a starting point to help you plan for a happy Christmas. If you’re dreading the festive season, why not take time now to pray about it and ask God to guide your preparations?

Let people know you’re open to invitations

If friends or fellow church members know you’ll be spending the day alone, they may be keen to invite you to join them for the celebrations. However, in the flurry of Christmas preparations, it may not occur to them to ask about your plans. Don’t be embarrassed to make your situation known – you may be pleasantly surprised by the reaction.

This can also apply to friends and wider family who live further afield. Many people would be delighted to have a visit from a valued friend or relative they don’t see as often as they’d like, and would be glad to include you in their celebrations. As a single person, you may have more freedom to travel than you would if you had a partner and children, so make the most of your independence.

‘A couple of years ago, I was upset to find myself facing Christmas on my own, but I didn’t want to invite myself to anyone else’s family celebration. However, when a friend told people at church that I was going to be alone (she was going away herself), I got several invitations. I had a lovely day with a family from church.’ Lindsay

Host Christmas for other singles

Perhaps there are other singles in your church who also struggle over the festive period (your minister might know). Or maybe you have friends, colleagues or neighbours who are facing a lonely Christmas. You could consider hosting Christmas Day for anyone who’ll be on their own. An invitation in the church notices and a post on social media may find people coming out of the woodwork, keen to find company for the big day. Don’t forget others who might welcome the hospitality, such as single parents, who may not have their children with them at Christmas, or those whose spouses are away or have to work over the festive period.

If you’re not confident about laying on the full Christmas dinner, ask others to pitch in with the preparations, or suggest that each person brings one course or side dish (make sure you coordinate it so you don’t end up with too many sprouts and no stuffing!). If you fancy something different, you could suggest a kind of ‘safari supper’, where each course is eaten at the home of a different person in the group.

If no one feels confident about cooking, or people prefer a day off from the kitchen, you could opt for Christmas dinner at a restaurant or hotel. However, this is often a pricey affair, so be mindful of those on a low budget.

‘Every year, I host a bring-and-share Christmas lunch for anyone at church who doesn’t have anywhere else to go. The first year, it was just me and one other person. Now we usually have five or six people. We do the whole bit – crackers and silly hats, and a secret Santa gift swap. It’s something we all look forward to.’ Annabel

‘The singles in my church have formed a support and social group. We brainstorm ideas and have an activity every week, including Christmas celebrations for those on their own.’ May

Get away from it all

Some singles, when facing Christmas alone, treat themselves to a holiday and leave it all behind. A number of Christian holiday companies offer short breaks, house parties, skiing and winter sun trips over Christmas and New Year, so you can enjoy the festivities with like-minded people and make new friends. Some events are designed specifically for singles; others are aimed at people of any marital status, but are often particularly attractive to singles.

The following Christian holiday companies are offering Christmas or New Year events this year (Single Friendly Church cannot endorse any company, so please do your research and decide what’s best for you):

Christian Guild: www.christianguild.co.uk

Oak Hall: www.oakhall.co.uk

Richmond: www.richmond-holidays.com

Gold Hill Holidays: www.goldhillholidays.co.uk

Christian Endeavour Holiday Centres: www.christianholidays.co.uk

‘A friend and I spent Christmas at a hotel in Devon last year, and had a fantastic time.’ Celia

‘I’ve been on Oak Hall skiing trips over the Christmas period twice. I recommend it – you get to spend Christmas with other Christians and make new friends.’ Don

Use the time for good

If you’ll be alone with time on your hands, perhaps you could consider volunteering over Christmas. There are many people worse off than us singles, and charities are often crying out for volunteers at this time of year. Homeless shelters, drop-in projects for the elderly or vulnerable, Salvation Army Christmas lunches, hospitals, hospices – the possibilities are endless. Overseas projects may also be an option if you have the time.

Many people find volunteering over Christmas to be a life-changing experience. As Jesus said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ (Acts 20 v 35). When we focus outwards, we forget about ourselves – and are often surprised by the blessings we receive in return.

To find volunteering opportunities in your area, check community noticeboards, local libraries, the local council, community centres or search online. You can also contact Christian charities or projects in your area to find out what voluteering needs they have – your church leader may be able to point you in the right direction.

‘I was stranded in London over Christmas. My family lives in Scotland, and I didn’t have enough time off work to get home. I’d recently split up with my boyfriend, and was feeling very sorry for myself. After some thought, I decided to volunteer at a local homeless project rather than sit at home alone. It was one of the most special Christmases I’ve ever had, and I hope to do it again in future.’ Theresa

Enjoy some me-time

There’s nothing in the rules to say you have to spend Christmas with other people. For some of us who have busy and stressful lives, and perhaps live with housemates, the chance to spend a few days alone, enjoying the peace and quiet – and full ownership of the remote control! – is surprisingly appealing.

If you’re an introvert who relishes time alone, feel free to do your own thing. If a few days curled up on the sofa, eating nice food and enjoying bad telly appeals to you, then do it! Take the opportunity to pamper yourself. Some people also like to use the Christmas break to meditate on the previous year, and to pray and make plans for the year ahead.

‘A few days of peace, indulging in treats and curling up with the cat to watch my favourite shows, is blissful compared to my usual frantic and demanding life. I genuinely love it. There have been times when I’ve kept quiet about spending Christmas alone so I don’t have to dodge invitations from kind families at church!’ Kathryn

 

With thanks to: Anne, Annabel, Celia, Don, Kathryn, Lindsay, Madeleine, May, Theresa and Tina (some names have been changed to protect privacy).

Catherine Francis, 30 October 2017

 

Related information

We also have an article for church leaders, to help them support single members of their congregation who are struggling at Christmas.