Loneliness is the biggest elephant in the room when it comes to Christmas. We all like to pretend we believe the adverts and the posters proclaiming Christmas to be filled only with presents and turkeys and family, but it’s time that we look at loneliness properly and try and tackle the issue head on. This isn’t a call for aggression, but instead compassion.
I will be the first to admit I have had lonely Christmases. When I was younger my family would drive up to a remote village in the Yorkshire Dales where my grandmother lived, and we would spend Christmas in front of an open fire which my stepdad worked so hard to bring to life. Because she lived so far up north, we would often get snow and a white Christmas was something I just assumed would always happen.
My grandmother and my stepdad have both since passed away. The first Christmas I spent without that open fire and without snow felt horribly lonely, despite my mother and sister and everyone being so supportive. I remember being angry and confused, but most of all I remember being sad because I had secretly bought them both presents I knew they wouldn’t be able to open.
I already know how lucky I am to have my little sister and mum and everyone else around me at Christmas. Nothing makes me happier than seeing them open the gifts I got them (Yes sis, I did buy you socks. You’ll thank me in the future, I promise) and I stand by a firm belief that no one can double stuff a goose at both ends like my mother. I love Christmas, when it’s cold outside and I’m warm inside, drinking mulled wine and eating copious amounts of custard.
But something I noticed since moving to London is how many homeless people there are and the numbers don’t stop in winter. I think of how cold it is outside and how many of them don’t even have a sleeping bag. I think of the army’s worth food my family will make, and then I think about that one sandwich I gave to the guy by the subway four days ago.
Sometimes I think about my brother in Vietnam who doesn’t celebrate Christmas and so he doesn’t miss it. That doesn’t stop me missing him not being able to be in England with me though. I think of all the people who aren’t able to see their families for Christmas and will miss it. Those that can’t get the time off work, or don’t have the funds to travel home. Those that don’t have a home or a family to travel to. I think about them and my heart breaks because I don’t know what I could do for them.
In New York, there’s an organisation that pairs groups of people who are alone to spend Christmas together. I know several friends in London who spend Christmas together when they can’t see their families abroad. This year, we will be sharing dinner with our elderly who lives next door and who’s daughter moved to New Zealand back in July.
This year, I will also be doing what I did last year and open up my email account email@example.com on Christmas day to reply to any and all emails from anyone who might want someone to wish them a Merry Christmas. You don’t have to be completely alone this year, and you can help someone else not be completely alone this year either.
There’s so many things that we could do, and I’m still trying to think about more. If you have any ideas, please tell me! Christmas means different things to different people, but for me, it’s a time when everyone tries a little bit harder to be a little bit better. A little compassion this year will go a long way.