How to Celebrate When You Are Alone for the Holidays
I hope you noticed that I didn’t title this article, “How to Survive the Holidays, Alone.”
No! This is about making sure to celebrate the holidays if you are alone.
A Moment of Realization
It all started like this. Last September I was strolling down the aisles of Costco and came upon the Christmas decorations. This is one of my pet peeves, Christmas in September… grrr!
Suddenly I was knocked over by a wave of nostalgia — by memories of all my family Christmases, the magical ones I enjoyed as a child, and later, the magical ones I created for my children.
Then, dare I say it, a tinge of dread crept in. Oh no! Who me, dread? This is a new one for me. I don’t do dread.
I live alone at the moment. I had a big family life, with husband, parents, children and extended family. I have always loved the holidays — the cooking, baking, decorating, shopping, and wrapping that went along with each one of them. Whether it was Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Easter, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, or Labor Day, I was Miss Cornball with the lights or bunting and appropriate food at the ready.
But times change of course and my children have grown and flown. I felt a bit iffy — for a moment. Right then and there, in Costco, I made a promise to myself, “I don’t want to ‘get through’ the holidays. I need to find a new way to celebrate them.”
Don’t Let the Holidays Creep Up on You: Plan for Them
Just as I used to plan for holidays in the past — all those lists I used to make! — I realized it is just as important, if not more important, to make a plan for being alone, and not just let the holiday ambush me. I deserve a plan for one.
Now that I no longer “have” to do certain activities or bake certain things, I’m free! In the past, I had my rituals, my kids expected certain foods, etc. Now I’m free to invent new moments, discover new ways to mark a day that can be difficult for so many of us.
Survival Isn’t Good Enough: I Deserve to Celebrate
So I asked myself: Liza, what do you really want to do on… fill in the blank: Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day?
Then I remembered how last January at the Sunday symphony matinee, I spied a couple I hadn’t seen in ages, “So, what did you guys do for Christmas?” I asked.
“We decided to escape from all the craziness, the parties, the food, the booze,” Grant said with glee. Clifford continued, “We went to the beach and got away from it all. It was marvelous. We drank champagne and stared at the ocean.”
The words from the Christmas carol, “Silent Night” came to me: “All is calm, all is bright.” Sounded perfect to me!
You Can Say “No” at the Holidays, Too
I can say “no” now! What a concept!
What I will say no to: Parties that I really don’t want to go to. Socializing with people I don’t feel like seeing. No to: “But Liza, maybe it would be ‘good’ for you to get out.” No to eating too much (because it’s there) and drinking too much (because it’s there). No to inviting someone over simply because I feel sorry for them or because I think it will be cheerier if someone is at my house. If it’s someone I really want to see, great. Otherwise, no thank you.
And most important, I will say no to: Wishing I had planned something. Because I will plan. For me.
Plan for Yourself, Just as You Would for Others
I adore Christmas Eve. The day is palpable with love, desire, wishes, expectations. Just because I’m alone, that won’t change. So I will participate in the collective consciousness by doing the kitchen prep work for my Christmas Day meal.
I love to cook, not “even for one,” but rather, “especially for one.” So whilst everyone in the world is wrapping and cooking I will be too. I’ll do the kitchen prep and then reward myself with a steaming cup of tea, one of my favorite Dark Chocolate Crackles, a recipe I share every year, and a Really Good Book. That’s my idea of heaven.
In the evening, I will sip from a bottle of Very Good Wine and write a gratitude letter for the year past and a wish list for the year to come. For my Christmas Eve supper, I will sup happily on Julia Child’s French onion soup complete with all the gooey cheese and toast floating on top. How sumptuous is that? And how clever are those French for making something so sensually delicious from water and onions?!
I liked the beach idea. It feels fresh and cleansing to me. So whilst the world is sleeping late after the revelries of Christmas Eve, I will wake up early, drive to the beach and go for a long walk. I will enjoy a thermos of hot, creamy cafe au lait and delicate sandwiches of smoked salmon on pumpernickel with honey mustard as I breathe deep the fresh salt air and give thanks for all the goodness in my life.
When I get home, I’ll open a bottle of bubbly and then have a feast. No bowl of cereal for this singleton. I’ve decided to make my Christmas classic but in mini style. A mini beef wellington is so manageable with a small beef tenderloin and the Boxing Day leftovers will be wonderful. Even though he’s a scoundrel, I adore Gordon Ramsey’s recipe. Doesn’t it look easy? Guess what, it is!
Treat Yourself Like the Most Cherished Guest in the World
You deserve to treat yourself like a queen on any holiday. Because if you don’t, who will? If you don’t honor the day, the day won’t honor you. No need to feel left out. Light the fireplace, cue up a good movie on Netflix, open a bottle of something special and cozy down. Gemutlichkeit, Hygge, it’s all about comfort.
My New Year’s Eve Readathon
I have never been a fan of New Year’s Eve, the false gaiety or sudden moroseness that can come upon everyone who’s trying to be of good cheer. Celebrating something so arbitrary is not my style, so I use the occasion to suit my way.
This year, I’ll stay on home New Year’s Eve. I plan to light candles and sup on creamy scrambled eggs dolloped with caviar and sour cream as I watch the New Year roll around the world on CNN. The next day, I’ll have a few friends over for a big pot of comfort food, chili con carne with all the fixin’s.
Friends, all I ask is this: This holiday season, take good care of you. Wishing you peace and love, and wherever you are, whomever you are with: celebrate yourself!
What will you be doing this holiday season? We’d love to hear about your different customs and activities. And if you will be celebrating alone, please tell us your plans. Please join the conversation.
Elizabeth Dunkel is a writer and novelist who has lived in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico for 25 years. She is the Creative Director of Camp Liza www.campliza.com, a personal blog about stylish and creative living. “A thoughtful life is a luxe life.” Elizabeth is the proud founder of the Merida English Library. She discovered a second career as a CELTA certified teacher of ESL and is Merida’s first, only and best college coach www.superenglishmerida.com.