And, for the most part, I was happy with that. As a bit of an introvert, a day spent completely on my own, doing whatever I liked, not even having the option of interacting with the outside world held a lot of appeal. I would stock up on non-Christmassy books and DVDs, buy something simple for dinner and crash on the sofa. And it was lovely.
But that's not to say that there weren't moments when I felt lonely. And most of those moments were brought about by other people's comments.
So, if you have a friend who is spending Christmas alone this year, here are my tips for helping them make the best of it:
Invite them for dinner (but don't be offended if they say no)I found that workmates and acquaintances who were celebrating locally would sometimes invite me to spend the day with them. A whole day is a big ask; it's hard not to feel in the way if you're having breakfast, lunch and dinner surrounded by somebody else's celebrating family. It's also hard not to feel left out when they're all opening mountains of presents and you have a chocolate orange. An invitation to join them for just the one meal is a lot less daunting.
That said, I only ever accepted one invitation and that was for a get-together of other Christmas loners, rather than a family do. Between a lack of public transport, not wanting to impose, not wanting to spend all day checking the clock and actually quite looking forward to spending some time on my own, although I really appreciated the offers, I generally preferred to stay at home. It was helpful when acquaintances accepted that and didn't push me to change my mind.
If you don't want to invite them for dinner, shut up about itIf you can't invite them round, that's totally fine - just don't mention it and they'll assume it's not an option. No hurt feelings.
If you could invite them round but you don't want to - just don't mention it and they'll assume it's not an option. No hurt feelings.
If you could invite them round but you don't want to, what you shouldn't say (and, yes, this was a real statement) is anything along the lines of, "I would invite you round but my husband and I don't like other people intruding on our romantic time. It's so nice to spend Christmas on our own." Yeah... well... luckily I agree...
Don't get angryI was constantly surprised by how many people would shout at me because I wasn't doing Christmas the standard way. They seemed to feel genuine rage, as though by doing anything at all differently from them, I was trying to spoil their day. Perhaps it was guilt or pity being expressed in a confused kind of way, but being called selfish because I had nobody around to celebrate with was more than a little bizarre and, frankly, I didn't see how screaming at me was supposed to help either of us to better enjoy our days.
Don't dollop on the pityIf your friend is even the tiniest bit sad about spending Christmas alone, cooing, "Oh, poor you!" will most likely bring on their tears. Unless they are clearly hoping to confide in you, let them keep a brave face on. Statements like, "By about eleven o'clock I'll be sitting around bored so if you want to give me a call, please do," are much more helpful than sympathy.
Don't rub it inOn Christmas morning, when you send out your group texting crying, "Merry Christmas! Hope Santa was good to you!" don't copy in your solo friend. The only time I ever felt sorry for myself on Christmas Day itself was when I received one of those merry messages. Spend an extra thirty seconds composing a friendly but non-festive text message just for them - something along the lines of, "Hope you're having a relaxing day. See you soon!" is much less likely to ruin their mood.
Don't turn it to your own advantageI was more than happy to nip round a few local friends' homes to feed and entertain their pets on Christmas Day. I was not happy when two vague acquaintances informed me that they "needed" me to stay at their place for three nights to walk their dog. "We have a big TV," they said. Where most people would have said, "please".
If anything's going to make somebody feel lonely over the holidays, it's sitting in a strange house with somebody else's remote control. Just because somebody doesn't have standard plans for that one day doesn't mean they don't have things of their own they would like to be doing; don't take it for granted that they're at your beck and call.
Finally: Consider showing you careI'm normally against excess gifts at Christmas. I see no need to buy presents for everyone you ever interact with. But if you have a spare few quid, dropping a (non-Christmassy) DVD or a bar of fancy chocolate through your friend's letter box a couple of days early can be incredibly touching. Resist the urge to turn it into a beautifully wrapped Christmas gift - leave it as a little something to let them know that they're loved, not just at Christmas but all the rest of the year.
Have you ever spent Christmas on your own? Did you love it or hate it? Is there anything you would add to this list?