holidays are hard

I love this time of year — the lights, the giving, the celebrations, the sparkles! — but for the first time in a long time, I’m single for the holidays. When you’re coupled up, you hardly take notice of how many aspects of the holidays are tied to having someone to share them with romantically, but when you’re single, it seems like the whole world is a big, neon, green-and-red sign blinking: YOU’RE ALONE. YOU’RE ALONE.

I’m not technically alone for the holidays. I’ll still spend Christmas with my family. I’ll be with friends on New Year’s Eve. But there’s something about this time of year that makes you feel as though, if you’re not in a romantic relationship, you’re completely on your own. After my break-up earlier this year, I had hope for the holidays; I was certain I wouldn’t be single when Christmas rolled around. I had grand (romantic…) plans for what would happen, but things haven’t worked out quite as I’d hoped. (Though there is still time till Christmas… who knows what could happen!)

I was tempted to blow off the holidays this year. I contemplated leaving the decorations in their boxes, cancelling the DVR recordings of the holiday movies I love so much, sleeping through New Year’s Eve — just skipping the whole season. But then I realized: that was pretty much the opposite of what I’d recommend to a Positively Present reader. Though it might sound counter-intuitive, facing the negative emotions like sadness and loneliness (and trying to make the best of things) is the best way to stay positive and present. Avoiding the season would only make things worse.

Facing the holiday season single for the first time in a long time hasn’t been easy, and I’m well aware that being alone on the actual holidays won’t be easy (I’m sure there will be moments when I look quite similar to the image above…), but I’ve taken steps to make the most of where I am right now. It might not be the most wonderful time of year this time around, but it needn’t be the most miserable either. Here’s my advice for making the most of the holiday season when you’re single (and, to honest, most of these tips work for those coupled up too!).


When you have a change in relationship status, some of the holiday traditions you had previously won’t necessarily continue. This can be tough (especially if you love traditions, like I do!). When I found myself feeling down about terminated traditions this year, I decided to do two things: (1) keep up some of the traditions on my own (like downloading a fun advent calendar app instead of feeling sad about not receiving a candy-filled advent calendar from my boyfriend) and (2) focus on traditions I had before I was in a relationship (like decorating my tree with ornaments I’ve had since childhood). Keeping up with traditions, particularly those I had long before I was living with someone else, reminds me that I’ve had many wonderful Christmases in the past and the holiday joy I experience isn’t tied to being part of a couple.


It’s hard when you have to give up some old traditions, but one great thing about being single is you can do whatever you want — including starting your own, new traditions. There are so many great ideas for festive holiday traditions (just check out Pinterest!) and starting one on your own can be kind of exciting. I’ve added a couple new traditions to my holiday season this year, and even though I still miss some of the old ones, it’s been refreshing to do things a little bit differently this year. Another tradition-creating idea: recruite friends or family to be involved in a new tradition. Just because you’re single doesn’t mean you have to do things all alone, and it can be fun to initiate traditions with those you love.


And speaking of loved ones… Connecting with those who love and care about you is essential for single people during the holidays. (If you’re not single, but know someone who is, reach out to him or her!) There are so many things pushing the romantic elements of the season — couples cozying up in commercials, sentimental holiday tunes — and sometimes it’s hard to remember you don’t have to have a partner to experience love during the holidays. This year I’ve been doing my best to connect with friends and family, to enjoy the holiday experiences I have with them. When you’re feeling lonely, it can be hard to reach out to other people and connect, but it’s so helpful to spend time with others and celebrate the season with those who bring positivity into your life.


Do you know how many Christmas songs are about romantic love? A lot. Maybe I’m just more aware of them this year, but there are a lot of love-based holiday tunes out there, and a lot of them are quite sad. I have mixed feelings about these songs. Sometimes I want to avoid them, listening instead to cheery, non-romantic holiday tunes. But sometimes I want to crank them up and belt them out, reminding myself that I’m the only one who feels lonely at Christmastime. The great thing about holiday tunes is that there are options. If you’re feeling really down, upbeat tunes might help you feel more festive. If you’re feeling like you want to embrace the loneliness, you’ll want to put this Single at Christmas playlist on repeat. Either way, use the seasonal songs to your (emotional) advantage!


The most important lesson I’ve learned this holiday season is to keep the loneliness in perspective. Yes, I had to decorate the tree by myself. Yes, I will have to attend parties without a partner. And, yes, I will feel lonely sometimes. But, even though I’m single this holiday season, I still have so much to be thankful for. And that’s something I keep reminding myself every day. It’s not easy being single during the holidays (especially if it’s the first time in a long time), but it’s important to focus on what you do have, not on what you don’t. The more I focus on how lucky I am — to have friends who make me laugh, to have family to share traditions with, to have the basic necessities in life that so many are without — the less important being single becomes, and the more I’m able to realize that, even without romance, my life (and my holiday season!) is still filled with love.

Comments (3)

  1. I definitely needed to read this post. My ex and I (we were together 2.5 years) broke up a little over a month ago, and I too didn’t realize how hard the holiday season was going to be when we broke up. I’ve definitely been feeling lonely these past few weeks and I love your tips about staying positive and reconnecting with friends and family.
    I hope you have a great Christmas and New Year’s – 2015 is going to be great for both of us!
    ~ Christina

  2. Ten years ago I spent my first single Christmas after the end of a 27 year marriage. I grieved for several more Christmases but finally had high of being in a relationship again. Now 7 years later I’m still spending Christmas single and I resigned myself to that is the way it is in my life.
    Merry Christmas.

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