Spending Christmas alone, or doing any holiday solo, is hard especially when you are used to being with a big crowd. Or even a small crowd. It’s even harder when the city is closed, everyone is worried, and media is telling you over-and-over again that you need to be with family for the holidays to be special.
I know. I’ve done it. On an island, alone.
But a holiday alone doesn’t have to be something to mourn. Sure, it can be a little melancholy, but what holiday doesn’t have a little balance of joy and reminiscence of missing family or times gone by.
But with a little planning and consideration, you can make a Christmas alone a special time.
I’m pulling from personal experience and that of my parents with these tips since we have all had solo Christmases. (And this also works if alone means just the 2 of you)
Here are my tips to make spending Christmas alone less weird
There are 3 main things that I find make Christmas Alone easier
- Planning & Introspection
- Stockpiling Joy
- Delayed Gratification & Anticipation
Planning & Introspection
I know, I know, everyone always says “planning is key” when talking about being prepared for Christmas. In this case, and especially these times, planning is actually more important since you may not be able to just zip into the store and get yourself that Advent calendar, or the spices you need for that mulled wine, or a pair of super indulgent warm cozy PJs to lounge around in for 3 FULL days. You have to plan.
First thing, think about what matters about Christmas to you. The sparkling lights? the religious celebration? The gifts? The food? The giving back? The music? The time with family? The time off? The serenity? The cookies? The goofy jokes in the Christmas cracker?
Make a list, and think about all the things you CAN have and CAN do, even if you are spending Christmas alone.
Think about what you like to do, or not do.
Think about your budget, because while that’s a fact for most people. This year, it’s extra important for many people.
Think about the little things that make you smile. The small indulgences and graces that really make a difference.
Think about how you want to give and when. Shipping homemade cookies to all your cousins may sound like a great idea, but not if you start on Dec 21st and they live across the globe. (Trust me on this one.)
Then start plannning. Start with the easy stuff.
Plan your holiday “season”
Pick a day when the holiday starts “officially” and wait until then to start in full (and yes, yesterday can be that day!) That way, you aren’t watering down your holiday or spreading yourself too thin.
Here’s the thing no one else will tell you: try and avoid anything that’s too much. For example
For most people Giving is a huge part of Christmas. There is even a character whose entire goal in life is Christmas giving.
This year, giving is a little more challenging. Thank goodness for Canada post. Remember they are going to be SLAMMED and get you packages out early.
There are other ways to plan it too. Consider getting gift certificates for your loved ones’ favourite restaurants so they can be treated and you can support their community. Lots of restaurants are doing curbside pickup and delivery over the holidays and they need your support.
But there are other ways to give too.
Do you know about Toronto Miracle? On December 5th they are doing a new kind of food drive. They are looking for food donations on your front step. And sending volunteers to go around to collect. You can register to donate or volunteer here: torontomiracle.org
Small achievable works are what makes sense for a Christmas alone. Don’t over commit, to others or to yourself. You don’t need any reason to feel blue.
Decorating for the holidays
Sparkling lights, gnomes everywhere, balls dangling, tinsel getting in everything. No one likes tinsel anyway, but decorating for the holidays, inside and out, is wonderful for Instagram.
But maybe not wonderful for you. Think about it.
Decorating the whole house might be fun with a crowd to help take it down. But when you are doing Christmas alone, taking things back down can be a downer. Or just a LOT of work. Or BOTH! Decide if it’s worth it. Maybe try something new like a crafted tree or decorate a shelf rather than the whole house.
I like decorating a corner, or the table. A small, manageable area of joy and twinkle lights.
Plan your Christmas Day
What will you do?
Binge-watch all the claymation Xmas movies? Go for a long walk by the water? Nap, ‘nother nap, followed by a nap? Make cookies? Spend the day powning that last Boss? Schedule calls with friends and family?
Make yourself a day that is filled with things you look forward to with anticipation! And give yourself room and permission to change it up if you need/want to.
Plan your holiday menus
They don’t have to be elaborate, but a little of your favourite jam on Christmas morning might be just the thing to bring a smile to your face. Spend some time thinking about what you’d really like to be feasting on for Xmas Eve dinner, Xmas breakfast, lunch and of course Christmas dinner.
Working with a tight budget?
Look at what you have in your pantry and figure out what you can make so it is a special meal. A handful of dried cranberries from the bulk barn can make a chicken breast more festive! Seriously, mixed with some cream cheese (or even better blue cheese and slit the breast and stuff it, then bake. Oh my!)
Or try a new recipe that you’ve been wanting to cook, but never found the time or space (or no one else who wanted to try it.) It doesn’t have to be elaborate or include expensive ingredients, just be something new and exciting for you and your taste buds. This is the perfect time to try cooking that puff-pastry wrapped bengali-spiced cauliflower wellington.
(See also Stockpiling Joy below)
Working with a small budget?
Shop for some special items for your holiday meals that will make it special for you. Croissant French toast for breakfast or is it quiche? Xmas cookies, a nice piece of cheese for Xmas eve with the fireplace station and a good book. A little Baileys or Brandy for your morning coffee. (Or if you prefer a little whip cream) Watch for my recipe for Reindeer Milk, not for the sober crowd, but a nice little treat in your coffee on holiday mornings.
Why not pick up some premade appetizers, if you are into cooking. Or some pate. Or some interesting dips and crackers. Treat yourself to a great olive oil and some wonderful bread.
And don’t forget a couple of Christmas chocolates.
Have a solid Christmas budget to spend?
Support your local chefs, caterers and food businesses!
If you don’t want to cook, and have the budget available, you don’t have even have to cook! There are plenty of restaurants out there that would love your business and are planning Xmas meals for home. Why not order Christmas dinner from one of your favourite restaurants or caterers. Fidel Gastro’s in Toronto is doing really nice prepared meals. But you need to order in advance!
Or if you do want to cook, pick up some great prepared elements, like dessert and do the rest yourself.
Remember, this is YOUR holiday meal. Martha isn’t watching over your shoulder and judging. And even if she is, who cares! It’s all about what YOU want and love. That means if you love sweet potato, you get sweet potato. And if you want pork chops instead of turkey, you can have pork chops instead of turkey. And if you LOVE turkey, roast a turkey! It freezes well and my godfather made one every holiday just for himself (and Boxing Day he made a big turkey curry and packaged it up so he could have it any time he wanted). And no one said you can’t have KD for Xmas. Okay, they may have said it… but who cares? This is your holiday!
What I generally do for my solo Christmas dinner
Personally, I keep the meal small when I’m alone for the holidays or make something like a steak. You can keep it simple, or go with something a little more glamorous like John’s 48-hour Sous Vide Steak with Parsley Gel Mash, Seared Asparagus and Spicy Crisp Onion Strings or Adam’s steak with Thai Coconut Red Curry, Haricots Verts, and Herb Salad. That chili caramel is amazing!
But sometimes I just get Chinese. House of Gourmet Singapore noodles and BBQ pork with gai larn is a happy holiday treat!
I do make figgy pudding though. It’s a steamed pudding that steams for hours and fills the house with the smell of Xmas. And a batch of hard sauce. The figgy pudding lasts and is lovely sliced and toasted (with extra hard sauce).
Okay, we’ve talked about planning your holiday, your holiday day and your holiday menu.
Now it’s time to start:
Start stockpiling these little treats for yourself.
Get some baileys. Make some baileys, have I shared my recipe for “Reindeer Milk”? You need it.
Buy yourself a new Christmas morning mug and keep it for Xmas morning. Here are some great links to OOAK vendors with mugs I love.
Remember when I said review your pantry above? Well, if you find something special in your pantry, set it aside for the holidays. That last jar of pickled asparagus, that will be lovely with your morning eggs. The tail end of some blue cheese, keep it around and sprinkle it on your salad. Or try your hand at making sourdough blue cheese crackers. They are crazy easy to make and so tasty!
My dad was always stockpiling joy and used to pick all the cherries from my cherry tree when I wasn’t there in season. He’d eat some, but brandy the rest so that he could have brandied cherries for the holidays. He’d drop one in a whisky, but I like them on ice cream or pancakes!
But it doesn’t always have to be about food (no, I can’t believe I wrote that either!)
Squirrel Away presents, gifts and activities
If presents and gifts are important to you, do a little squirreling away of things. (Just another name for stockpiling joy)
I’m not a huge present person, but I do like having new crafts to try, or new yarn for the holiday season for knitting. I like new cookbooks and new recipes I want to try. And I love the look of a wrapped present or two. So I’ll wrap stuff for myself. Hey, I might even forget what was in the package.
It’s also worth setting aside new books to read, new games to play, new socks to keep your toes warm. They don’t have to be big, they just have to make you smile.
Delayed Gratification & Anticipation
Here’s the hard part – delayed gratification. With the stockpiling joy and treats and little personal delights – it’s very easy to start snacking. Not just on the food but on the experiences and you don’t want to ruin your supper! Don’t!
But keep your special things special for the day. It makes a difference to have that fresh favourite shirt to pull on and your favourite cookie with a cup of tea to remind you that this is a special day for you. (It won’t feel the same if you ate most of the box binging Xmas rom-coms every night since Dec 1st. But hey, if you want to do that, don’t let me stop you. Just keep something special for the day)
I try very hard to hold all my Christmas decorating until the Solstice (Dec 21st). Then I go WILD! All Xmas music, all the time. Here’s a link to my 48 HOURS of holiday tunes on Spotify.
Snack a little though
Make sure to have some stuff to snack on for the build-up. Watch some holiday schlock on Netflix. Eat some candy canes. Hang the lights. Play the music loud and sing along.
Why not get yourself an Advent calendar. Even if it’s not to your faith, they are fun little calendars that give you a little treat every day. Even though they are usually filled with chocolate, there are ones filled with cheese, little mottos, and you could even make your own and pack it with fun things you’ve always wanted.
Or build your own with things you already own and don’t use. Blank notepads, fresh pens, fun pieces of jewelry, cookbooks you never get to try. Put them in and use them on the day you get them.
Prep for your first Christmas alone
What do you need to prep for Xmas Eve?
Now think about making Xmas Eve and day special, comfortable, joyous, relaxed, revitalizing.
There are likely some things you need to put a little effort into in order to make sure you are ready to fully relax into the holiday.
Here are some of the things I think are really helpful tips (and I need to remind myself to do):
- wash your favourite sheets and nightclothes so you go to bed fresh on Xmas Eve.
- wash and set aside your most comfortable or festive outfit to wear on Xmas. It doesn’t matter that you are spending Christmas alone, this is you dressing for you!
- save your favourite holiday movie for Xmas eve or Xmas day
- clean your kitchen
Make sure to do it early enough that you aren’t rushing.
Then Xmas Eve – let the evening be easy. Crawl between nice clean sheets in your fresh nightclothes.
Spending Christmas Alone
Wake up whenever you want!
Sit in your favourite chair and sip your special coffee nibble your breakfast treats and indulge in a day for you.
Get dressed and go for a long walk in the brisk air, or even a cycle if that’s an option. Build a snowman on your deck, if it snowed. Get some fresh air and move.
If you have presents, open them. (unless you tore through them last night) Do it at your own pace. No need to wait for Uncle Jimmy to finish telling his long story of how he got a paper cut from wrapping a gift for great uncle Rashid, before the next gift can be unwrapped. Unless you love that. In which case, why not call Uncle Jimmy and ask him to tell the tale. (He’d love that! And you might too)
We’ve always done Christmas stockings in my family – both sides, so I usually get myself a few little stocking gifts to enjoy before breakfast. Because that’s how we do it. Usually, if budget allows, it includes a book, a game or puzzle, a personal gift – jewelry, something funny or silly, some chocolate, maybe some gilt (chocolate coins), some nuts, and a clemetine in the toe. Since my in-laws joined the family (or was that the other way around), we’ve seen a magazine and a scratcher lotto ticket added to the standard stocking haul.
If I’m doing Christmas alone, I usually have these things on hand but rarely put them in the sock… please note, I didn’t say “never”.
Give yourself some room for the melancholy. Even when you are used to being alone, for the holiday or otherwise, there is value in sitting with it on a holiday. Think of those you miss and why you miss them. Think of what you miss and why you miss it. Follow those thoughts. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay not to too. Pray if that’s your way. It’s okay to have a little blue in with the red and green.
It just makes the sparkle of the twinkle lights more joyous and the sweet-tart pop of the cranberry, brighter.
Then play a game, have a nap, zoom call family, or don’t. Meditate, exercise, try a new recipe for cranberry sauce.
Make, reheat, order in, your dinner.
I set the table and this is when I do some decorating. I set up my table with ornaments and nutcrackers and Xmas crackers. Sometimes clementines and gingerbread cookies. Depends on what I have. (See, stockpiling does help)
And I dress for dinner. We alway have and always do, and it’s one of the small pleasures for me.
But you do you.
Listen to something, watch something, read something.
Put yourself to bed early or late.
You’ve done it – your first Christmas alone!
The thing about celebrating a holiday alone is that it truly is designed for you.