I've Spent The Last Ten Christmases Alone. Here's My Advice On Getting By

You may have seen Christmas with loved ones as a sort of consolation prize, I’m here to explain that it may not need to be as blue as you think it will be.

For most of my life, Christmas has been a strange time.

As one of four kids to a disabled single mum, the disconnect with ‘other’ families was most stark at this time of year. Although we’d get Christmas hampers and gifts from various local organisations, which definitely helped, that feeling of ‘otherness’ was always there. When returning to school after winter break, I remember my classmates telling stories about their trips away and the dreaded question ‘what did you get?’. Though we had our own looser traditions, the feeling that this time was very different for us was always evident.

When I was a teenager, I was put into care. At 19, I moved halfway across the globe from the country in which I was raised. Despite managing to build a decent career, lovely friends and some great partners, Christmas time still takes me back to my unconventional upbringing – every time a well-meaning acquaintances asks about my family, I’m once more running through the mental rolodex of appropriate ways to signal that it’s a bit of an awkward subject.

Aside from the odd year that I’ve spent with friends or been in a relationship, the reality is that I often spend Christmas alone. I won’t pretend I’m always completely fine with that, but I can confidently say that I have grown to see Christmas in a new light. Sometimes, I even look forward to it.

Though a solo Christmas is something I now choose over spending it with a friend’s family or a generous acquaintance, I realise that this year it may not be a choice for many. It’s undoubtedly been a very difficult year for much of the world, and though you may have seen Christmas with loved ones as a sort of consolation prize, I’m here to explain that it may not need to be as blue as you think it will be.

“I’m not saying that any of my tips below will totally make up for not being able to be around your loved ones, but hopefully they soften the blow.”

I’m not saying that any of my tips below will totally make up for not being able to be around your loved ones, but hopefully they soften the blow. So to those who may be getting festive with a bubble bath and forming a solid throuple relationship with my old friends, Ben & Jerry, gather round and take notes.

Films, films and more films

Let’s think about all the great stuff about Christmas. I would go as far to say that a good chunk of it comes down to chocolate and cheesy films. Fortunately, these can both very much still be enjoyed solo. And perhaps even more so when you’re the sole ruler over the remote control – plus you don’t have to struggle into appropriate dinner attire after 14 Terry’s chocolate oranges and being horizontal for days on end.

Do some good!

Many of us know of the call to help out at soup kitchens and homeless shelters around this time. But in 2020, that may not be as easy. Have a think about the smaller ways to support those vulnerable at this time. OnHand is a brilliant app that allows you to connect with local people who require help with small tasks such as picking up groceries or collecting their prescription. Simply open the app and see local requests, contact the person in need and agree to how you can help them. If you’d rather volunteer digitally, there are tons of ways to do that too. For example, VocaliD hosts online voice drives where anyone can register to donate their voice to help build its database of voices that are gifted to non-verbal individuals, ensuring they have plenty of voices to choose from rather than being limited to the default robot-esque option.

Video calls (in moderation)

By this point, it’s almost certain that your older relatives will have gotten to grips with FaceTime or Zoom, meaning a virtual dinner or cringe family quiz will be slightly less traumatic than attempting one in previous years. Plus, you can secretly WhatsApp your cool cousin about how Auntie Barb is rumoured to be having an affair with her colleague, an

d no one will know! Another unexpected plus: you can claim wifi issues when you need to go off the call to scream into a pillow in the middle of your dad’s Brexit speech.

Do. Your. Taxes.

I’m pretty convinced that the true meaning of Christmas is to give freelancers an allocated time to complete their tax returns. Why not take over the sitting room floor, pop on a shitty Christmas film, grab your calculator and get to it. It’s what baby Jesus would have wanted.

Bring on the LOLs

I can honestly say that Zoom comedy gigs have basically single-handed carried me through some of the darkest times of the year. Comedian Catherine Bohart (the Irish princess of my dreams) has been hosting Gigless, a comedy night every Thursday evening, since the first lockdown. Alongside her co-host Helen Bauer, Bohart spotlights a range of both well-established and up-and-coming performers with past line-ups including Bethany Black, Felicity Ward, Nish Kumar and Kemah Bob. Bohart also ensures that the gig features plenty of queer performers and absolutely smashes it when it comes to creating a welcoming space to all LGBTQI+ folks with a good wifi connection.

‘Self-love’

Right. It’s been a super stressful year. What better way to let the worries melt away than with a bit of good old-fashioned self-pleasure. 2020 has been a year of exciting innovations on the self-pleasure front, including the rise in audio porn, for example. The best part? No awkward eye contact with your childhood teddy bear while letting off some steam.

Reflection with a capital R

I challenge anyone to claim that they haven’t learned anything from 2020. So, now is the time to reflect on those things. I have my own tradition of writing down some of the memorable events of the year, what things I was slightly obsessed with and more general lessons, etc.

Allow yourself to take the time to look back and reflect on what you’d like to hang onto from 2020 (sourdough skills) and what you’d prefer to leave behind. And what about ‘the old world’? What things do you fancy getting back into when guidelines allow and what will you make a thing of the past? Good luck trying to convince me that being in an office from 9-6 is completely essential to my job, for example.

Grace Johns is a freelance journalist and copywriter

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