This year, many people will be celebrating Christmas alone.Whether single, married, or divorced — or simply far away from family and friends — facing the holidays alone can be a daunting experience. And no wonder: Everywhere we look there are reminders that the season is for being together with loved ones. An inevitable onslaught of television commercials features large families sitting down to Christmas dinner at beautifully set tables, or couples in romantic winter scenes with the snow falling perfectly around them . . .
The fact is, for many people this time of year can be filled with anxiety, amplified by loneliness, depression, and sadness — but it doesn’t have to be. Here are a few ways to celebrate the season to make any solo Christmas spiritually fruitful and full of light.
Spend this special time in prayer. Along with Lent and Easter, Advent and Christmas are the most liturgically rich seasons in the Church calendar. So why not take advantage of the occasion by spending some serious time in prayer? Read the Bible, pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament, make a good confession, or offer a novena or two for special intentions. Think of what a powerful Christmas gift you could offer others through your prayers on their behalf.
It’s also a great time to reflect on our blessings and thank God for His goodness and guidance in our lives. Step back and ponder the deepest truths of our faith: Know that you are a child of God and that He is present with you always. Ponder the endless depths of Christ’s mercy and goodness — the great love He has for each one of us in becoming flesh for the life of the world.
If it’s been a while since you’ve been to church, let this be a new starting point. It’s not always easy to look around and see pews filled with families and couples at Christmas — but when Mass begins, single or not, we are all united in one common purpose: to celebrate the birth of Our Savior, His coming to dwell among us, and to welcome Him into our hearts.
Yes, Christmas is a wonderful time to gather with family and friends — but remember that Joseph and Mary had no large family gathering, no finely set table, no Christmas tree, no cozy fire, or even an adequate place to lay the Christ Child. We, as singles, can particularly identify with and be edified by the singularity of this night when Joseph and Mary, along with a few shepherds from nearby fields, spent the night in utter adoration, awe, and thanksgiving as they gazed upon the newborn Christ — the light of the world.
Reach out to others. We all know that these hard economic times have taken their toll on our friends, our communities, and perhaps even ourselves. What a great opportunity, then, to reach outside ourselves to others: In addition to lending a helping hand, it’s often the best remedy for loneliness. Consider gathering a group of single friends together and serving at a soup kitchen or other worthy volunteer effort. There are always myriad opportunities this time of year to help those in need, reminding ourselves that “it is in giving that we receive.”
Spend some time in personal reflection. The end of the year is a great time to take stock of your life and determine new goals and inspirations. Reflect on the past year and see how God has guided you by answering (or not answering) prayers. Consider starting a spiritual journal and outline your dreams, goals, and hopes for the future. Ask the Holy Spirit to enter fully into your heart and fill it with His holy inspirations. Whatever comes to your heart, use this special time to connect with the deepest part of yourself and with God, knowing that apart from Him we can do nothing.
Connect with old friends — and make some new ones. Christmas can also be a great time to look up old friends and family. Has it been a while since you connected with a distant aunt, cousin, or friend? Recently I went through my rolodex and called people that I’ve not been in contact with for months and even years. It was a tremendous blessing as we wished each other Merry Christmas, reconnected, and shared the latest news in our lives. Christmas can also be a great time to make new friends — whether at church, volunteering, or at any number of Christmas festivities — as we remain open to those whom God places in our lives.
Treat yourself well. Take some time to take care of you. Nourish your soul with spiritual reading materials, the sacraments, and prayer. Go for walks or take a drive out of town where you can meet God in nature. Rest, recoup, reorganize, reprioritize. If funds are available and you are free to travel, consider visiting someplace you’ve always wanted to go — a retreat house, a new city, a pilgrimage site . . . perhaps even Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity itself.
Whatever you do, remember that you are deeply valued and loved by God and His Son, who know you better than you know yourself — and therefore you are never really alone. When faced with a Christmas on your own, don’t be discouraged or give in to despondency. Remember that God Emmanuel has come to dwell among us and remains with each of us always and everywhere.
So Merry Christmas and blessings to my fellow singles. May we take advantage of our single state while we have it, by having one of the most spiritually enriching Christmases ever!