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Alone at Christmas

Christmas for one can be enjoyable.

Am I strange for looking forward to spending Christmas alone this year? As a single, never-married, childless woman over 40 with no nearby family, this time of year should be filling me with dread, and it would be, if I wasn’t getting to spend it alone.

What a relief! No pressure to pretend to be merry and jolly because ‘tis the season. I won’t have to be around people who do have families and feel sorry for me being on my own, and I won’t have to "celebrate" with other miserable single people just for the sake of not being alone on Christmas.

Don’t get me wrong, I won’t be spending Christmas Day crying into my pillow, drowning my sorrows with a bottle of Vodka and fantasising melodramatic ways to end it all. Sure, I’ll be a bit sad to be spending yet another Christmas as terminally single and far away from my extended family overseas, but I’ll be free of the pressure to find the "magic" of the festive season. And conversely, by being alone, I’ll also be free of the pressure to feel like I ought to be miserable about being single, childless, and alone. Most of the time I’m perfectly happy on my own; the only time I have regrets is when someone asks me if I’m married or have kids. When I reply that I don’t, I feel such a dreadful guilt for giving the incorrect answer and making them feel awkward when they realise they’ve asked something potentially very painful.

Nor am I a Scrooge or Grinch. I may prefer to spend Christmas alone, but I have no interest in making it miserable for others. Christmas is a lovely time of year if you have children and a big family. When I was with my ex-partner, we had a wonderful Christmas one year celebrating together in a big family gathering with my parents, his mother and his daughter, and her boyfriend. Though we’re no longer together, I’ll always cherish that Christmas as one of my happiest and as evoking the true Christmas spirit.

Christmases were always quiet affairs for me. I’m an only child and we lived far from all my uncles, aunts and cousins, and remaining grandparent. So Christmas was always just me and my parents, which was just fine when I was a child—it was magical then. But once I entered my adulthood, it became more of a chore—Mum would go through the same traditions every year and I felt more and more pressure to be the one to bring the magic to the day. Easy as a child, when you wake full of excitement to see what Santa left you and a rosy face beaming when opening your presents. Not so easy as an adult when all you see is the commercialism and artificialness of the season.

It only got worse when my father passed away, and I can’t think of anything sadder than an elderly parent and adult child alone at Christmas, going through the traditional motions, trying vainly to recapture that magic long lost to youth. At least my mother has at last let go of all that and doesn’t insist that we spend Christmas together. I would much rather spend time with her outside of the holidays, when that time can be spent in a more meaningful and authentic way.

Last Year's Christmas Tree

It’s more difficult to get my friends to accept that I’d rather be alone at Christmas. People are so conditioned to believe that being alone at Christmas has to be so terribly depressing. What they don’t get is that there’s no greater way to feel depressed than to be reminded of just how alone, single, and childless one is, than to be surrounded by people in high spirits enjoying time with their loved ones.

So, how will I celebrate this Christmas? Every year I say I’m not going to bother putting up decorations, and then I do. So, two weeks or so before the day, I’ll be putting up my tree and decorating the mantelpiece. I’ll place the parcel of gifts from my mother (she still insists on sending me dozens of small cheap gifts instead of one substantial item because “it’s more fun that way”, sigh, bless her) at the foot of the tree, along with any others that I might get from a friend or two. Then, on Christmas Eve, once I’ve tucked my pet rabbit Trixie in bed, I’ll place her gifts under the tree (she still believes in Santa Claus).

In the morning, I’ll make a special treat breakfast of waffles or pancakes with syrup and blueberries and a small bowl of tiny pieces of fruit for Trix. With our bellies full, I’ll make a big cup of coffee and then we’ll open our pressies, followed by a phone call or Skype chat (if she can get it working) with my Mum. The morning will be spent lazing, reading, and catching up on movies. I’ll cook myself a special late lunch with all the trimmings and a yummy Christmas pudding, and after eating too much, Trixie and I will have an afternoon nap together—our favourite bonding activity. 

Trixie Enjoying Last Year's Tree

While other people will be finishing their Christmas day with over-tired crying children and heat-induced arguments and frayed tempers, I’ll be sitting back in my favourite chair in peace and quiet, with a bowl of cherries and a few more chocolates, and watch some more TV with my rabbit snoozing at my feet until we’re ready for bed. 

A very merry Christmas indeed. 

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