Some of us (actually, quite a few of us) detest the holidays. If you are single and childless, the constant commercial emphasis on family can make it seem like there’s a flashing neon LOSER sign pointing right at you, even if you cherish your purposely chosen independent existence. And if you’re not Christian, well, that’s another aspect of Christmas that you can’t appreciate. Throw in the sappy music that we’ve all heard thousands of times; it usually starts playing in stores just after Halloween. And then, there’s the ever-present reminder to buy, buy, buy; that also usually starts in stores around Halloween. All the stoppage of normal activities and the travel challenges due to the predictable bad weather add to the stress. What’s an intentionally single, childless, non-materialistic, non-religious person like me to do?
First of all, I go for a walk. There’s a foot of snow on the ground at my house right now, and it’s 13 degrees out, but I will nevertheless bundle up and go for a walk every day. Fortunately, I live close to miles of green belts and trails, and nature always soothes my jangled nerves and jumpy brain. The bare tree branches reveal bird and squirrel nests, and I like to watch the animals that are flitting about. Yesterday I saw a black squirrel leaping from one snowy tree to another. A flock of noisy varied thrushes was excitedly pecking away at apples still clinging to a tree; I’ve never witnessed that before.
I try to do things with friends. This doesn’t always work out so well, because a lot of them have families and are happily sucked into that holiday vortex and disappear for days, but there’s always someone who is eager to get out. I hope that families who get together actually do something other than giving gifts. I don’t remember a single Christmas from childhood for the gifts, but I do remember a few with special activities, like playing games or building snow people together.
I might give small gifts to children or the few people I know who actually need something, but I mostly resist the urge to buy more stuff that my relatives and friends don’t need. Instead, I give a nice card that includes a promise of time to help friends and family with something—an evening or day of childcare for a young couple, a miniature golf outing or beach day for kids, a helping hand with household chores or remodeling projects, a chauffeured ride for an elderly relative to visit a beloved friend in another town. Charities receive most of my year-end funds.
And I remind myself that this, too, will pass. After all, Christmas comes and goes every year. New Year’s is more my kind of holiday; a happy, hopeful start to the next year. Whatever you’re doing this holiday season, I hope you’re doing it with joy. Now, I’ve got to go out for a walk in the snow and enjoy the birds.