Spending holidays by yourself can be quite wonderful. Yes, even the ones that are supposed to be all about togetherness, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
I could try to explain why this is so. For example, I could remind you of all the times when you feel overwhelmed with things you need to do, and wish you could just have some time all to yourself to do whatever you want – even if what you want to do is nothing at all.
But I bet there are more people than anyone realizes who intuitively get what I am talking about. They need no explanation because they already realize the joy of spending holidays on their own.
Maybe you’ve never heard anyone say anything like that. I don’t say it often enough myself. There is so much pressure to want to be with other people, it seems sacrilegious to not want to.
I think it is also true that even those people who love their time alone (myself included) can feel a little badly about being alone on a holiday because of that pressure. No matter how great a day you have planned, you know that you aren’t supposed to be alone over the holidays. It is like going out to dinner alone – you worry that other people are judging you. (I did some research on that and found, much to my surprise, that such fears are unfounded.)
If the weight of social expectations could be removed, many more people would experience pure joy, without that underpinning of self-consciousness or even shame about being alone.
I’m not against spending holiday time with other people. I have a friend who visits every other Thanksgiving and I love those visits. I’ve also done the traditional family Thanksgiving as well as Thanksgivings with a whole collection of people, some of whom I know and others I’m meeting for the first time. I have also taken trips to special places, with other people, and enjoyed that, too.
But no one ever feels the need to apologize for spending holidays with other people. It is only the person who is alone who is at risk for feeling defensive.
That’s why I wanted to write this post. I want to let you know that it is not just okay to spend holidays on your own – it can be glorious.
Every year, when the holidays are approaching, I hear from reporters who want me to offer suggestions for people who feel lonely over the holiday season. I don’t mind doing that. I realize that some people really do want to be with others, and it is tremendously painful for them if they end up alone.
But I wish they would also ask me the flip side of those questions. For example, “Bella, do you have any advice for people who want to spend the holidays alone but don’t know how to manage that?”
Yes, I do have some ideas. Of course, you can always politely decline any invitations you get, though it can be hard to do so honestly if the real reason is that you would rather be alone than with the persons who extended the invitations. What works better is to try to duck the invitations in the first place. For example, I try to avoid the topic of Thanksgiving altogether as that day is approaching.
One of the things I greatly enjoy doing when I am alone on a holiday is to read something just for fun. I do so much reading that is professionally relevant, I rarely just get to read something I’m not going to review or write about or incorporate into my research.
If you are interested in writings about single life that are affirming, clicking this link will take you to hundreds of possibilities, organized by topic. You can read more about being single over the holidays, for example. You can read about solitude, living alone, happiness, health, friendship, singlism and matrimania, pets, popular culture, and lots more. You can also read about different categories of single people, such as lifelong single people or older single people.
Enjoy! And happy holidays.
[UPDATE: Here’s an article I wrote that was just published at Slate: “Thankful to be alone: If I had surrendered to society’s expectations, I’d have a life I never wanted.”]