‘Tis the season to be… alone?

Why some choose solitude over spending time with others on Christmas Day.

Photo by Julia Larson on Pexels.com

What could be more horrible at Christmas than spending the holiday alone? So our extrovert-supremacist society would have us believe. We often hear how difficult and lonely it is to be by yourself over Christmas. No one should be alone on the most snuggly day of the season! 

This concern for those who are alone at Xmas is entirely understandable. Loneliness can be felt quite profoundly at this time of year. It can be depressing knowing that everyone else is with somebody else, when you don’t have anyone. It is horrible to be alone when you’d rather not be. 

But what if someone wants to spend Christmas alone? What if they secretly yearn to decline their mum’s invitation to lunch so they can spend the day by themselves instead? Maybe their ideal Christmas doesn’t involve slobbing out on the sofa scoffing mince pies with their siblings, but getting on a plane to escape the whole festive scene entirely. 

There’s a bunch of reasons why someone might prefer to spend Xmas by themselves. They might have a poor relationship with their parents. There might be too much family drama, idiot relatives or insufferable in-laws, to contend with. Their family might require them to be on their ‘best behaviour’; or they might feel they can’t quite be themselves around them, that they have to put on some sort of mask, pretend everythingsalright.

Loneliness can be experienced when you’re with people too. Christmas brings with it a lot of pressure –  to emulate some feel-good festive TV advert, with the big happy family, sharing a shiny pile of presents and huge plates of food. A lot of Christmases just aren’t like that, though. Getting the family together might only make for an awful time, filled with small talk and awkward silences at best, or arguments, even abuse, at worst. 

Having to endure such company can be as hard as being isolated at home. Some choose to spend Christmas by themselves because that’s far less painful than having to spend time with people that don’t ‘get’ them, or hurt them.  

Others may choose to be alone because they miss someone – a spouse or parent, say, that passed away around this time of year. Such solitude doesn’t have to be melancholy or brooding. It can actually be a comfort, a solace. A way to ‘be’ with their long-lost loved one, in a way that wouldn’t be possible if they were surrounded by others. 

But even if someone likes spending time with family and friends, doing so at Christmas can still feel like more of an obligation than a celebration. There’s less work and longer weekends during the festive season, but the extra time off can get filled with visits to relatives or a load of parties that just end up being exhausting. A person might decide to spend Xmas Day alone so they can actually get a holiday. With the shorter, darker days comes an opportunity to wind down, switch off, and ssssssh…. There’s no more perfect time for some me-time than the Christmas hols. 

Then of course it could just be the case that some people spend Christmas alone because… they just prefer being alone. They find other people boring, irritating, intrusive, demanding. Even their nearest and dearest – and especially so at Christmas. For some folk, faced with the prospect of sitting round a dinner table, forced to make conversation with people they barely speak to the rest of the year,  they might choose to stay home alone instead, so they can eat, watch, and generally do, what they want, blissfully unbothered by the demands of company.

It’s one thing to want to spend Christmas Day alone. But it can be difficult to tell your mum or your mates as such, because wanting to be by yourself is so antithetical to the festive spirit of togetherness  foisted upon us by consumer capitalism and the media. 

Declaring that you want to spend Xmas on your lonesome might be met with concern- won’t you be lonely? is something wrong? Or it could provoke accusations that you’re being rude/selfish/antisocial. Or just downright strange. Western culture has such a sociability bias, that solitude has a stigma attached to it all year round anyway, but spending Christmas, of all days, sans company, is viewed in a particularly negative light. 

What goes unacknowledged though, is the fact that there are people for whom the social pressures and expectations of the season can prove just as difficult, and be dreaded just as much, as the loneliness experienced by those who don’t want to be alone. 

Social isolation can kill. But so can company. 

In which case (for those fortunate enough to be able to), spending Christmas Day solo might just be the most wonderful festive gift some of us could give ourselves.

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One response to “‘Tis the season to be… alone?”

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