Home alone this Christmas? It doesn't have to be miserable...

Louise Morse has written on her personal blog some helpful advice for all of us who will, maybe unexpectedly in this year-of-years, find ourselves on our own this Christmas:

For believers, the essence of Christmas is worship, celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. It is the centre of our thoughts and preparations. Everything else – the gifts and the Christmas tree, are peripheral. Our mood music includes Christmas carols like ‘Silent Night’ and ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’, all underlining the church notices and billboards declaring, ‘Jesus is the reason for the Season’.

The other goal for Christmas is the Great Annual Get-Together. Family and friends sometimes travel thousands of miles for it. It is ‘Holy ground’, says a line in Chris Rea’s ‘Driving Home for Christmas’. It is ‘the most wonderful day of the year’, says another seasonal song. The Great Annual Get-Together is a wonderful thing; being with friends and family strengthens our sense of belonging and our worth.

But this year, sadly, double the number of people as normal are expecting to spend Christmas alone. A solitary Christmas is more likely among those aged 65 and over, with as many as 1.7 million people saying they expect to be alone on Christmas Day, according to a survey by The Observer. If this includes you, there are things you can do to make it a blessing.

First of all, put it into perspective. Realise that millions of others are doing the same. It is the way circumstances have unfolded this year. See it as a special time when you can be good to yourself – give yourself a special treat.

Put the lights up and make sure you are cosy and warm. Making sure the room is bright and cheerful, and that you are warm, even if it means hot water bottles and wrapping up in layers.

Use the technology. Telephone your loved ones, make the most of the technology. If you have a smartphone or computer you can use different apps like FaceTime, Skype or Zoom to see them in the moment. WhatsApp is easy to use and you can even make calls abroad free of charge. Families regularly keep in touch this way.

Volunteer with a local charity. All over the country volunteers will be helping others on Christmas Day; some will be cooking and serving Christmas dinners. Find out what is happening in your area, and if you are able, volunteer. You don’t have to commit the whole day, and you will find company and a rich reward!

Check with your church pastoral team if anything is happening that you would like to be part of. For example, has your church arranged to telephone people who will be spending Christmas Day alone? A few years ago, a 94-year-old lady whose husband had died earlier that year spent much of the day playing over and over again her answerphone messages, just to be able to hear a human voice.

Use your telephone. Call friends and family. If you are short of friends or relatives to call, make a note of Help Lines you can use to speak with a real human voice. Premier’s helpline telephone is 0300 111 0101. Esther Rantzen’s Silver Line is 0800 470 8090. There may be local organisations with Christmas Day helplines, too.

Be thankful. Write a list of things to give thanks for during the past year. Research shows that feelings of gratitude have a physical as well as an emotional effect. Put simply – being grateful makes you feel good!

Enjoy the church service. The lockdowns have seen the emergence of hundreds of online services, and if you can’t get to your church or it is not open, there will be a host of church services on-line to choose from. There will be services on radio and TV also.

Have a special Christmas meal. If you don’t want to cook, you can buy a ready meal from a supermarket – or perhaps from a restaurant a couple of days earlier. Arrange a cheerful table setting.

Go for a walk, weather permitting. A brisk walk in the fresh air is good for your brain, your body and your soul! Be attentive to the beauty of God’s creation all around you.

Make space to worship. For many, Christmas Day would not be complete without Carols from King’s College, Cambridge. And there will be services and worship music all day. If you have a smart speaker, ask it to play Christmas music and worship services.

Listen to the Queen’s Speech. Queen Elizabeth includes in her Christmas day talks uplifting messages of hope, and places Christmas Day within its faith context.

This pandemic will pass, and life will return to normal. Christmas 2021 will probably be the best for years, as we make up for 2020. But in the meantime, let us enjoy what we have!

Louise Morse MA (CBT) is media and external relations manager for the Pilgrims’ Friend Society. She is a writer and speaker, and author of books on issues of old age, including dementia, published by Lion Monarch and SPCK. She is a cognitive behavioural therapist, and her Masters’ dissertation examined the effects on close relatives of caring for a loved one with dementia.

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