12 ways to enjoy Christmas alone

I’m inserting this post in the middle of Heather-Marie’s, My Divorce Shower series because it occurred to me that with Christmas Eve just three days away, some of you may be spending Christmas alone for the first time and feeling a little anxious or nervous about what to do.

Last year, my children were with their father for Christmas Day and it was the first time in my life that I had spent Christmas Day alone. In the lead up to it, that voice inside me told me it would OK, that I could find ways to make it a special day and that I wouldn’t be miserable. Then I friend of mine, who I’d served with on the board a non-profit, invited me to her open house that she hosts each year and another friend invited me to have Christmas Dinner with her and her family. I accepted both invitations and had a very enjoyable day.

This year the children are with their dad on Christmas Eve and are scheduled to come to me on Christmas Day morning.  However, my 16 year-old-daughter is having all her wisdom teeth out Monday and so our holiday schedule could change depending how that goes. I have a strong suspicion any free time I would have had will be taken up playing Florence Nightingale. If I was going to be alone though, here are my 12 suggestions for how to enjoy your time alone.

  • Attend a candle light carol service – if you’re not a regular churchgoer, then you could ask a friend if you could accompany them to their church or you could find a church to go to on your own. There’s something very magical about the candlelight and the hymns. I invariably shed a tear or two as I remember Christmases past.
  • Go for a hike, a walk, or bike ride on a favorite trail or go skiing. It’s a bonus if the weather is nice but otherwise, just bundle up, enjoy the fresh air and take in the scenery. If there’s snow on the ground, then you could snow shoe or cross-country ski.
  • Accept any invitations to an open house or even to share in a Christmas feast, even if you don’t know the people very well. Remember what Elsi said in Proverbs 31 Woman – life is about being the best you can with the skills you have. It’s about taking a risk and getting out of your comfort zone. If you’re really not comfortable going for the whole dinner, ask if you could come for dessert.
  • Offer to work – do you work somewhere that is open over Christmas? Could you switch shifts with someone you know who has children at home or family visiting from out-of-town? I debated about including this one, because this is not about avoiding being alone. This is about enjoying being alone. However, this is an opportunity for you to be generous to a colleague and if you can enjoy your time at work and be cheerful with your customers, then go for it.
  • Watch a movie – Go see a new release – Have You Heard About The Morgans? Invictus, Up In the Air, Sherlock Holmes, Avatar, Young Victoria – there’s lots of good ones out now. Don’t feel like that? Rent a Christmas classic – It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street or a recent one like Polar Express and watch it at home.
  • Volunteer at an organization serving Christmas dinner to needy families.
  • Tackle a home project – is there a project you’ve been thinking about but have been putting off? Maybe a bathroom that needs a fresh coat of paint or a chair to recover?
  • Write your plan for the new year – no, this is not about New Year’s resolutions but what do you want next year to look like and how are you going to get there? Chris Guillebeau at the Art of Non-Conformity has a very helpful post to walk you through how to do this.
  • Make a digital scrapbook – do you have photos you’ve been meaning to organizing? Maybe some photos of your children during the school year, a trip with some girlfriends or a family reunion?  My kids now both have party plans for New Year’s Eve and I’m thinking I’m going to spend the evening making a scrapbook of my recent Cornish getaway and then sending copies to my two girlfriends. You can do this from the comfort of your own home using an online company such as Shutterfly or Picaboo.
  • Put on a musical performance. Are you a musician? Offer to perform at a local hospital, nursing home, shelter or assisted living. Not sure about performing solo? Invite anybody you know who plays an instrument to come with you. Maybe you used to play an instrument years ago, in middle school but would like to take it up again. This would be a perfect time to dust it off and start refreshing your memory. Maybe you could have tune ready to play for your children when they get back. Now, that would be an inspirational surprise for them.
  • Read a book.  Got a book on your night-stand that you just haven’t found time to read? When else would you have hours of uninterrupted time to curl up on the couch and dive into that book ? Don’t know what to read? Try the New York Times Bestsellers at Amazon.com. A great way to feed your reading habit is to join The Paperback Swap – for each book you mail out to another member, you get to request a book free of charge.
  • Treat yourself to a Christmas Dinner – just because you’re on your own doesn’t mean you have to miss out on your favorite foods. Check out your favorite restaurants and see what they’re serving on Christmas Day. If eating alone in a restaurant is outside your comfort zone (it is, for me), then take that book with you or you could sit at the bar to eat and strike up a conversation with bartenders or get the meal to go. If you’re eating at home, then how about setting yourself a Martha Stewart styled place-setting – use the good china, your favorite wine glass, a place mat, and don’t forget a candle.

Hopefully, these suggestions will get you thinking. If none of these appeal, then consider this – you probably have a friend who isn’t Christian – maybe she’s Jewish, or Islamic or Buddhist? Ask her how she’s spending her time. She could be a great source of information about the hidden treasures in your town. There’s also a Guide to Surviving the Holidays over at So You’ve Been Dumped.

Now are you looking forward to Christmas? Are you excited to have some alone time?

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  • http://headintheclouds.typepad.com Kathleen Christensen

    After my first husband and I divorced, I was contemplating my first Thanksgiving alone. I decided to join my housemate in voluteering to serve Thanksgiving dinner to the homeless. When I got there, though, they didn’t need any more servers! I was bummed, but I did eventually find a friend to go to a movie with (Dance with Wolves).

    What I’ve learned about myself is that I often think I’ll just be fine spending a holiday on my own. But then the day arrives, and I’m bummed to be by myself. The key for me seems to be having a plan. Which doesn’t necessarily mean being with other people actually–it means deciding on something ahead of time that will give meaning to the day. For example, on one holiday (maybe it was Valentine’s Day?), I gave myself the gift of cleaning off my cluttered stairs.

    Thanks for the post!

    • Mandy

      Thanks for the insightful comment, Kathleen. I think I’m the same as you – if I have a plan, I don’t get anxious about it and I’ll have fun.

  • http://www.santa.com Santa

    Hey mate, nice blog Happy Holidays!

  • Kim M

    I love being alone for the holidays! No stress, no hassles. I always have something to do around my old house, but on the holidays I often give myself permission to do nothing but indulge. Movies, books, surfing the net, my favorite foods. I actually look forward to an extra day off that I can guilt free pamper myself.
    Sometimes I will accept an invite to dinner with friends that don’t include kids. But, and this is a big but, they have to be damn good cooks! Don’t get me wrong my friends think it is hilarious as they know this is one of my holiday requirements. Nothing kills the holiday spirit like a bad meal :]