Some Thoughts on Spending Christmas Day Alone

I’m reposting my previous holiday posts, as part of my holiday tradition thing. Enjoy!

I’m not spending Christmas Day alone. I’m spending it with Ingrid. I’ve spent Christmas Day with Ingrid for as long as we’ve been together: sometimes with her family, sometimes just with the two of us. And I love spending Christmas with Ingrid, whether it’s with her family or just with her. I’m greatly fortunate in my in-laws — I like them as well as loving them — and we have a whole set of wonderful traditions both silly and touching: some from her family, some that I’ve brought to the table, some that Ingrid and I have created for ourselves. And of course, I’m fortunate beyond words in Ingrid.

But I was single for twelve years before I fell in love with Ingrid. For ten of those twelve years, I was very happy to be single, was single very much by choice, was actively and adamantly resistant to the idea of not being single.

And during those years, I almost always spent Christmas Day alone. I could have visited my family, but I chose not to: I preferred to see my family at times other than Christmas, without the stress of holiday travel/ high expectations/ December in the Midwest. And I could have visited any number of friends who were having Christmas Day gatherings. But I didn’t.

Because when I was single, I loved spending Christmas Day alone.

In my Bay Area circle of friends, the weeks leading up to Christmas are almost always a bit of a wild social whirl, with parties and gatherings starting the first weekend of December and not ending until New Year’s Eve. A big part of that social whirl is a Christmas Eve dinner that I co-host/ co-organize most years, about half the time in whatever apartment I’m living in: a Christmas Eve dinner that’s hosted as few as eight people and as many as twenty-one. I’m one of those freaks of nature who actually loves Christmas: the December social whirl is fun and awesome, the Christmas Eve dinner is a high point of my year, and I look forward to all of it for months. But it’s also kind of exhausting. And when I was single, Christmas Day was the eye of the hurricane. Christmas Day was my day of peace and quiet. Christmas Day was the day I spent reading books people had given me, listening to CDs people had given me, eating leftovers from Christmas Eve dinner. I’d talk to friends and family on the phone — but otherwise, Christmas Day was the day that I fed my introverted brain with all the downtime it wanted.

Here’s the reason I bring this up.

The one thing that sucked about spending Christmas Day alone was the way other people reacted to it. The one thing that sucked about spending Christmas Day alone was the expectation that of course you want to spend Christmas Day with family and/ or friends — and that you were a big sad loser if you spent it alone. The one thing that sucked about spending Christmas Day alone was the cultural trope that the only possible reason anyone would spend Christmas Day alone was that they had no family, no friends, nobody who cared about them, no other choice.

I remember in particular one phone conversation I had on one particular Christmas Day. I was doing the rounds of Christmas phone calls, and one of the people I was talking to asked what I was doing that day. I said that I was just hanging around reading books and eating leftovers. And they said, in a voice filled with horror and shock, “ALONE?!? You’re not spending Christmas alone, are you?”

Up until that moment, I’d felt fine about spending Christmas alone. I’d felt more than fine about it. I’d felt positive and happy about it. I’d been looking forward to my Christmas day alone almost as much as I’d been looking forward to my Christmas Eve of food and festivity and boisterous social chaos. But as soon as I heard, “You’re not spending Christmas alone, are you?”, I suddenly felt ashamed. I actually wound up lying, just to stop the horrified sympathy: I told them I was alone at the moment, but had plans to go visit friends later in the day. This person’s concern — and I do think it was genuine, well-meaning concern — about me not being a big sad loser on Christmas… it was exactly the thing that made me feel like a big sad loser. (And if I had, in fact, felt sad about being alone on Christmas Day, this would have made me feel even worse.)

I know, from what I’ve been told, that I’m not the only one to feel pressured about not spending Christmas alone. I know that this pressure to not spend Christmas alone is felt even by people who don’t care about Christmas. Even people who don’t come from a Christian background, religiously or culturally, get hit with this “You’re not spending Christmas alone, are you?!?!” thing. And I know I’m not the only one who’s been made to feel ashamed about spending Christmas alone, even if they personally were fine with it.

So I want to say two things.

One: If you have people in your life who may be spending Christmas alone — please don’t make them feel bad about it. Sure, extend an invitation if you’re having a gathering. But please don’t frame it with, “You don’t have to spend Christmas alone.” Please don’t frame it with the “You don’t have to be a big sad loser who can’t even find anyone to cadge an invitation from on Christmas” trope. Please don’t frame it as “You poor thing, we’ll invite you to join us out of charity.” Frame it as, “We would love to have your company if you’d like to join us.” (And if they say “No, thank you” accept it.)

And two: If you’re spending Christmas Day alone, I hope you have a good one. Whether you care about Christmas, or you don’t give a damn about Christmas and as far as you’re concerned today is Thursday and why the hell are all the stores closed — I hope you have a great day today.

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Coming Out Atheist
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Greta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.

Some Thoughts on Spending Christmas Day Alone

2 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on Spending Christmas Day Alone

  1. 1

    Halleluiah and Amen!

    Yesterday was the 5th Christmas I’ve spent alone since breaking up with my ex.

    Her family isn’t particularly militant atheist but is strong in its values and they taught me how to properly “do” Christmas. They didn’t get together until Boxing day and there were no presents allowed, which meant each smaller family unit got to do Christmas day they way they wanted.

    Through out the year we would save the loyalty points from the supermarket we used (don’t know if this is something other countries do) so by the time it came to the Christmas food shop we would have £200-£250 worth of points, which all got spent on food and Alcohol.

    Christmas day we would lock down the house and watch the Christmas films projected onto a 2×3 mtr wall while stuffing ourselves with the most fabulously decadent food you can think of, in our PJs.

    Although money is a little tighter for me alone at Christmas, I do follow this tradition for Christmas day as best I can and absolutely look forward to it. Its my Christmas the way I
    want to do it.

    This doesn’t stop the very well meaning friends, who I love for misguidedly caring, from asking if I’d like to spend Christmas with them. In one case offering to get all their single/ away from their family friends together at an unspecified location, because surely spending Christmas in an off season hotel with a bunch of strangers must be better than spending it duh! duh! duh! ALONE!

    So this year was the year I cracked, and instead of make up stuff about staying out of town with an old friend they didn’t know, I actually told the truth about how I would be spending Christmas day…

    …I will be starting at about 9:30 with Cava and Caviar and sour cream on blinis, in bed…once I’ve watched Shrek I will open the Belgian chocolates…and a glass of Cognac to see me off to sleep.

    To be fair, the friends who were inviting me to their houses started asking if they could come to mine.

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