Christmas dinner is a difficult conundrum for families all over the world.
Where are we having it? What are we eating? The family members you’d rather not see and those you wish you’d see more often. These quandaries only intensify once you have moved out; and even more so when you pack up and leave for an entirely new country on the other side of the world.
Subsequently, I spent last Christmas alone.
Yes- I know it sounds depressing.
Most people’s immediate reaction is to be aggrieved on my behalf and to enquire what I’ll be doing this Christmas.
Last Christmas pandemic restrictions shut down travel plans worldwide and as all my family and friends were overseas there was no real way to get home.
Additionally, Christmas has always been a holiday I’ve struggled with.
Everyone I knew in Stirling had somewhere to be.
So, they left.
I only really had Stirling to be in.
So, I stayed.
In the weeks building up to Christmas, the sun was nowhere to be seen. I spent most of my time working and avoiding thoughts of the festive season.
However, Christmas morning eventually appeared and so did the sun.
I went for a walk and collected a free Christmas dinner from the university to eat alone in my flat.
I watched Christmas movies.
I called my parents.
I went to bed.
Was it the best Christmas of my life? No.
But did I wish I was home? No, I didn’t.
And now I’m here, almost a year later, and my life is unrecognizable from what it was and yet I still feel this pit in my stomach thinking about it.
I feel a weird combination of “I am my own independent person embarking on a journey.” and “I wish I were home.”
To all the aggrieved well-wishers, I’ll be spending Christmas with my friend and her family this year.
It’s not that I am not looking forward to it, nor that I am not appreciative that they’ve welcomed me to spend this day with them.
But, in the back of my mind, it’s hard not to feel out of place.
This disjointed sense of belonging makes the festive season blue for me- especially when my friends leave to go home and I’m still in Stirling.
Left to fester, this feeling makes everything pretty miserable.
Subsequently, I am determined to try and have some control over how I spend the festive season.
I went to the Christmas Markets in Edinburgh for the first time with some friends last week and I’ll be rewatching the Christmas movies that I watched alone last year. I’ll also be setting goals for this time and finding things about Christmas festivities to enjoy by myself.
If you google what it’s like to spend Christmas alone, you’ll find a lot of different depressing platitudes like: “Well at least you get the day off” and horrific blog posts about it feeling like the end of the world.
The truth is many people spend Christmas alone or have difficulties around the holiday season. It’s one of those unfortunate realisations that one comes to after all the childhood Christmas magic has rubbed off.
Growing up means having to realise that the picturesque story you were told of a perfect family, Santa’s sleigh and all the presents you could ever hope for in return for good behaviour doesn’t always happen.
But the beauty of adulthood is the ability to choose in ways one never could as a child.
So, this Christmas I’ll be choosing to be kind to myself and I’m hoping that if I keep choosing things and people that bring me joy, I’ll wake up on Christmas mornings in the future with the festive season redefined.
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