Celebrating Christmas with your loved ones may be number one on your Christmas wish list but if circumstances are such that you won't make it home for the holidays, there's no need to feel hum drum and lonely. So grab a cup of eggnog, curl up next to your computer screen and read on for tips on how to have yourself a merry little Christmas after all.
1. Plan your holiday
Courtney Sidenberg, a social worker who runs a private practice in Toronto, recommends mentally preparing your itinerary so you don't become bored and lonely. She also suggests finding comfort in knowing that you're not the only one spending the holidays alone. "I think people assume that everyone's busy, everyone's got family, and that's not necessarily the case."
Be prepared to fill your time with activities that you love, be it calling, e-mailing or visiting a friend, going for a walk or pursuing a hobby. Take this time to catch up on your "to do" list or to start a new project.
2. Reinvent your holiday
Whether you're newly divorced, a cash-strapped student, working or serving overseas, you may have to break away from tradition and celebrate a different kind of Christmas this year. This could mean going on a singles vacation or accepting an invitation from your next-door neighbour.
3. Spoil yourself
The positive spin to being alone is that your time is totally devoted to Yours Truly. What could be better than a bit of pampering at your ideal spa, renting your favourite Christmas classic, or baking cookies to share with your colleagues?
4. Trim the tree
"Resist the temptation to just throw the holiday away," says Sidenberg. Do something to acknowledge the holiday, whether it's baking, hanging decorations or displaying cards. You and visiting guests will appreciate the effort. And, besides, it's fun!
5. Attend holiday arts and cultural events
Celebrate the holidays by taking in some cultural festivities. Many events are free, such as church services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, church recitals and choirs, and student concerts held at universities. Check your community listings for plays and musicals, art gallery and museum exhibits and ballet performances. Heritage homes, such as Toronto's Colborne Lodge and Vancouver's Roedde House Museum are usually decorated for Christmas and guests are invited to experience the days of Christmas past.
Page 1 of 2 -- Plan to get out and about with our fantastic holiday activity guide on page 2
6. Accept invitations
You'll probably be invited to at least one Christmas party or function. No matter how inclined you are to say "no" because you'd rather be with the family you're away from, resist the temptation and get out of your comfort zone. This is an opportunity to slip on your best outfit, get out and mingle, and have some punch and other goodies.
7. Avoid toxic people and habits
If you're feeling lonely and perhaps a little blue, there may be a tendency to fall into bad habits. You may get the urge to call an ex or rekindle a bad relationship; you may overeat or abuse alcohol. Know your weaknesses and prepare to occupy your time with other activities.
Help those who are less fortunate than you. Volunteer your time at a children's hospital, serve Christmas dinner at a shelter, walk a dog, or help at a food bank. Consult organizations such as Charity Village or Volunteer Canada to find a charity of interest.
9. Throw your own party
It can be a small affair with a few friends or you can post a sign at work, church or school and have a multicultural potluck Christmas celebration. This is a great way to meet new people, sample ethnic recipes, and learn Christmas cultures and traditions from around the world. Feliz Navidad! That's how they say Merry Christmas in Argentina.
10. Avoid isolation
If you've recently lost a loved one or close friend, it's understandable to not be in a celebratory mood, but Sidenberg says you should "be around people who care about you and [whom] you care about, with the acknowledgement that these people are going to be happier than you, that you're going to have a hard time, but it's important not to isolate yourself because that can trigger off some more serious kinds of depression."
It's no secret that being alone for the holidays can be an adjustment. It's a holiday rich in family traditions, nostalgia, connecting with loved ones, and giving and receiving. If you're celebrating away from your family this year, make the best of your holidays and create new and lasting memories. Maybe then you can share them with your family at next year's celebrations.
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