A couple of weeks ago I was invited to be on 'Woman to Woman' on Premier Christian Radio, being interviewed by Maria Rodrigues along with Daphne Clifton. We were talking about what it's like being single (well, specifically being a single woman - apologies guys!) at Christmas. I've been meaning to blog about it ever since but being Advent (& having been ill for most of it!), I've not got round to it till now.
If you want to listen to the whole interview, you can do so here - http://www.premierchristianradio.com/Shows/Weekday/Woman-to-Woman/Episodes/Woman-to-Woman134?utm_medium=email&utm_source=Premier+Christian+Media&utm_campaign=5115194_IGNITE%3A+9%2F12%2F14&utm_content=w2w-single&dm_i=16DQ%2C31MWQ%2C9KKG1C%2CAXYXO%2C1
Interestingly a recent BBC report states that 7% of people expect to spend Christmas Day alone this year (that number rises to 10% among the over 65s). http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-30432939
That's totally fine if those people *want* to be on their own, as of course many do. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-30512529?ocid=socialflow_twitter
The point is, though, that an awful lot of those people don't want to spend Christmas Day alone, and will find it a very difficult and painful day. This is a tragedy. I really think that no one should have to spend Christmas Day alone if they don't want to.
I love this story that I heard today, of a woman who didn't want to spend Christmas alone, and didn't want others to have to either, so paid for 40 people to have Christmas dinner in a pub. (Admittedly it was today, not on Christmas Day, so some of them might still be alone then). http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-30586667
In the church where I was curate we used to do lunch in the church hall on Christmas Day. We'd get around 35 people each year - some families, some elderly couples, some people who lived alone. There was always great food and a great atmosphere. We've thought about doing it at my current church but unfortunately we don't have a church hall. Maybe one year we'll manage it in a different venue. I do know though that some people invite in others who might otherwise be on their own - and I'm very glad they do.
My very lovely best friend and her family have invited me every year since we all moved to Liverpool to have breakfast with them on Christmas Day. This is such a lovely, thoughtful thing to do, and it makes such a difference to the day for me. Even if I have people I'm going to see later, being on my own in the morning before church isn't much fun. But now I get to wake up early, drive to their house, eat a yummy breakfast, watch their 3 gorgeous little people open their presents, and have my very own stocking, all before coming back in time for church. What an absolute joy!
I have spent most Christmases of my life with my parents, but twice in the last few years I've spent the day with good friends and their families. That's also been a joy, to be welcomed in to someone else's family and home.
It isn't just Christmas Day itself that can be hard though, is it? There are lots of social events at Christmas that can be tough if you're single. Going to parties alone can be hard (and for extroverts, like me, going home afterwards can be even harder, with no one to debrief to!).
Church can actually be quite a hard place to be for single people at Christmas too (well, I know that sadly church can often be a hard place for single people...!). But Christmas particularly is often seen as a real 'family' occasion. There are lots of services and events for families and for children, and single people can feel left out of this. (Of course, this is also true for anyone for whom 'family' is difficult for whatever reason).
I've said this before, but for those of us connected in any way with church, surely we should be doing something about this? Surely as church, as community, as family, we should be able to make sure that no one is lonely, especially at Christmas, that no one is on their own if they don't want to be.
I realise it can be hard sometimes to accept these invitations even if they come - we don't want to impose, we think people are only inviting us out of politeness, we think we'd be in the way of a family time. I really get that! But honestly, if you're fortunate enough to have been invited by someone (and if you want to go!), then do say yes. Don't miss out on what could be a wonderful day for fear of imposing on others - chances are they wouldn't have invited you if they didn't actually want you to go!
As single people we can also make the decision to be proactive. We don't need to just sit and wait and hope for invitations or whatever. As a single vicar I can't really invite people round on Christmas Day as I don't think I could quite manage the service as well as the cooking! But I can invite people round at other times. For 10 years now I've had a tradition of inviting round a group of friends on the Friday before Christmas. There's anything from around 12 to 25 of us, all ages, and we eat a gigantic amount of cake, play games, and have lots of fun. I absolutely love it! I love being able to be the one who does the cooking and the hosting (it is absolutely not allowed for anyone to bring anything!).
So yes, Christmas can be tough if you're single. Is it harder than every other day of the year? I guess different ones of us will answer that question differently, and of course it depends on our own personal circumstances. But let's all (whether married or single) look out for one another, especially at this time of year. Let's love one another, bear with one another, empathise with one another. Let's extend an extra invitation to someone. Let's do our best to make sure church is really family.