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Ideas for Spending the Christmas Holidays Alone

Updated on January 20, 2012
embitca profile image

Emma wants you to get the most out of your holidays all throughout the year and loves to help you come up with new holiday traditions.

Doing the Holidays Solo

Most of the seven years I lived in Los Angeles, I elected not to return to the East coast and my family during Thanksgiving or Christmas so I usually wound up spending the holidays by myself. Since I've becoming something of an expert at surviving the day alone without feeling wretched, here's my Christmas Alone Ideas for getting through the holidays when family and loved ones are far away.

Skip the Pity Invites

If you can't spend your holiday with your own family or significant other, spending it with someone else's family usually sucks. I've done it a couple of times and have always regretted it. You'll spend half your time answering questions about where your family is and why you aren't with them, so it's not exactly a way to make your forget you aren't with them. The rest of the time you'll spend uncomfortably witness other people's holiday dramarama. Skip it!


If you really need to celebrate with other people, there are two options:

Spend it with other people who are also alone for the holiday. Start talking to your friends and find out who isn't going home and then start planning your own celebration. Pass the word around your office and social circle that anyone who is going to be alone is welcome to come to your party -- I suggest making it a potluck or a buffet of some kind. Just make sure it doesn't turn into a couples party. It's fine to invite some couples, but balance the guest list.

Or spend the day volunteering with strangers:

Just keep in mind that homeless shelters and other places that need holiday volunteer help tend to look askance at volunteers who only call them once a year. They have regular volunteers who are committed year round and frequently have all the volunteers they need for the holiday itself from their regular pool. So if you want to go that route, call them in September (or call them NOW!) and start volunteering immediately. Don't wait until the week of Christmas to call. It is too late by then.

Make a Plan - Especially for Dinner

If you're determined that you are going to spend the day by yourself, then start making plans for your own holiday meal. If you decide to eat at home, splash out and get yourself a nice bottle of bubbly to go with your dinner. Find the local upscale supermarket and see what kind of holiday meals they are putting together. You'll save yourself the annoyance of cooking for one and get the same home comfort tastes.

Would you prefer to go out? There are always restaurants open. The trick is finding them. If you want a traditional menu, try a fancy hotel. Most hotels will have at least one restaurant open on Christmas day. But I would start calling around and checking menus early in December. You may need to make a reservation. If you're okay with non-traditional, many Chinese and Thai restaurants, and some Indian restaurants, will be open in the evening. You may want to check out some local Jewish delis as well if you have a sizeable Jewish community in your area. They may be open as well.

Other places that stay open are chains like iHop, Waffle House, Bickfords, etc. but I usually only go to places like that as a last resort.

Rent some Movies or Go See a Movie

In every major city, all of the movie theatres will be open Christmas Day, but they may not always do the matinee shows.

You will not be the only one in the theater. It will be packed! Get there early or pre-order your tickets.

or Rent some movies and stay at home

My suggestion for fun movie rentals are Christmas-themed action movies. Avoid all the soppy family-themed Christmas movies. Skip It's a Wonderful Life and the Miracle on 34th Street. They will get you nowhere.

Rent LETHAL WEAPON instead. That one is my personal favorite. You can watch Mel Gibson totally lose it in a Christmas tree lot.

Or rent Die Hard, Die Hard II, or Reindeer Games. Ooh, and don't forget Strange Days. That one's good through New Years!

More Christmas Action

Christmas Action Movies


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    • profile image

      Marie 5 years ago

      Although I like downtime, the holidays alone for prolonged periods of time are not productive enough. This Christmas I took it upon myself to relax and then get busy with music in the background, though not at all Christmas-y in any way. Getting some unfinished projects done. Ruminating on the right side of what I CAN DO and what I DO NOT want to do. So I realize, it's become a choice that I am alone because- that is what I want despite how I articulate it to others. REALITY CHECKed my reasons. . .

    • profile image

      Bruce 5 years ago

      I do not like spending the holidays alone. My personal theory is that since most people have never spent a holiday alone, they never consider that some people will be alone on a holiday. I am now working on Thanksigiving. Most of the people with whom I have regularly associate would be surprised that I will be alone on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

    • profile image

      Tania 6 years ago

      Great ideas! happy holidays to all (specially those speding them by ourselves) :)

    • profile image

      SweetBlueSue 6 years ago

      Oh Boy, these stories are hard to read, even the "positive" ones. What to do when your siblings/nephews/nieces don't visit and you are tired of spending the time/money to do that for them and see them in their home country when they could do that at least once in a decade? Siblings are also toxic - mainly thanks to our Dad who started the tradition of domestic violence, disrespect and now they are married to spouses who do the same. Sick of being blamed for any family upheaval b.c they don't take responsibility in it also. Parents are seemingly separated and have a Mom who came back for the holidays as a pity party for me and ordered by Dad to do so and take care of the bills and business...sad - he gets to celebrate with my siblings and their families but Mom and I don't - she's stubborn and won't go there to save money, not leave me alone and also not be a burden as a guest in their households and to save them from horrible me - the person who apparently causes all the fights. Really?

    • profile image

      kso 6 years ago

      " Am I lonely?" is the question I ask myself often lately especially when work pressure has been relieved lately around the holiday eve. I think I agree with all the posts here. Be good to yourself and even learn to be yourself alone. Lastly, count the blessing. Remember, Christmas is the season that shows God's mercy to us through the birth of Jesus Christ.

    • profile image

      mak 6 years ago

      I've been alone most of the last 10 years, and they have all been hard. I've tried most of the tricks to get it off your mind but they don't really work. One year I took a lot of benadryl to knock myself out and slept a long time, and it was over, and that was probably one of the better years. I am not a drinker but that might work similarly. It is my nature though to sit around and self-pity, and ask why me?

    • profile image

      shuffles 6 years ago

      I had a falling out with my daughter, which happens alot, but I think this year I will be alone for the first time in many years. My daughter is toxic to me and she has deep seeded resentment that she can't let go of, it's just sad that I can't see my grandchildren. I have their gifts but don't know what to do with them or how to sneak them to her house. Just a sad situation, don't know why families can't seem to get along.

    • profile image

      jennifer stewart 6 years ago

      their's nothing wrong with my family they pick and choose who they want too see for the holiday's and i'm usually left out i have depression severe depression and when the holiday's come i'm alway's alone so i write do house work i even spend time with my pet's my dog is a big help i love her a lot i look at my photo album my dad doesn't spend time with me during the holiday's seeing as i'm not in the armed forces or in the navy i see my life sometimes and wonder if it's worth it at all then i call my grandfather and he cheer's me up it's been a wild ride for me but you know what it's a lousy day so who the hell care's

    • profile image

      Samantha 6 years ago

      I've spent the past few years alone during the holidays. I'm a mature, single woman, no children with only two sisters whom I know longer have a relationship with (for the better, they were toxic and harmful to me.) I do have some friends who extend the "pity invitation" but honestly I feel more uncomfortable with that. It is hard to create an extended family later in life. It's not that I'm not a nice, caring or loving person (as are the others experiencing this), but most people are set in their ways and their life at this point.

      So...I simply don't fight it any longer. I try to do something nice for myself on Christmas, if I have a little extra money I'll try and go away, if not, just hang out. Treat myself to a nice dinner, relax, maybe a nice, hot bath and breath deeply. Get through it.

      Last year I had every intention of volunteering, however I was a little late signing up. Apparently many people enjoy volunteering on the holidays, the spots fill up quickly.

      To those who are lonely and spending the holidays alone: There's nothing wrong with you, life is just what it is. Just try to keep your perspective as positive as you can. Be kind to yourself. Do something for another less fortunate person if you can. The day will pass. Don't drink too much, don't get yourself into a pity situation. Do things that bring you pleasure, and try to feel healthy and good.

      It can be hard, I know.

    • jaywhite2000 profile image

      jaywhite2000 6 years ago from Atlanta

      We are in this position this year--family on each side far away and elderly. Kids away, too. Our first Christmas "alone"..."Santa" will visit and we will have our first Christmas in 12 years at our own home. Next year, a first grandchild hundreds of miles away will make it better. But it will be a day for us with lots of music, (any football that day anymore??), and a dinner with the neighbors.

    • profile image

      Joan 6 years ago

      A Cruise is a great place to be on Holidays. Built in festivities....decorations....fabulous food.....


      ships are just loaded with singles and people who are either without family....or avoiding them !

    • profile image

      Single Never Married Female 7 years ago

      Last year, I had my first Christmas alone and it was terrible. People go on about how you can have the "extended family of friends", but it's very hard to find that. I work in a call centre - most people are so exhausted that they can't even keep up with their own friends and families let alone make new ones. I spent Christmas with one friend who chose not to visit her family, but we no longer see each other. Anyone else I know (and it's not easy when you are a 54 year old single never married female), is attached or goes to spend it with family. And I certainly don't want a "pity invite". My family lives a few hours from here - only one sibling. However, she lives in a small town which has not transportation. They would have to drive 45 minutes each way just to pick me up from the train station. They have a full house at Christmas and the nearest accommodation is about 10 miles away - nothing in their town. I don't have a car so that would be more driving me back and forth. I hope that one day my sibling will live in a bus/train friendly community.

      So I have just accepted the fact that unless some miracle happens, I will likely be alone for all holidays.

      Good food, drink, books, the internet and digital cable kept me sane.

    • Alexander Mark profile image

      Alexander Silvius 7 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      The reccomendation for watching action movies was hilarious - but I also have to say, ingenious. All your suggestions are great, and you've inspired an idea for a hub about living single. Personally, I would want to avoid the Christmas Lethal Weapon movie even though Gibson's crazy act is priceless.

    • profile image

      Tess 7 years ago

      Yes I totally agree with Fitzwilliam. I became single when I divorced and then had a relationship with a man who liked to spend lots of time on his own and picked me up and dropped me to suit his own schedule a lot. I tend to work, or read but find it hurtful when people say "you must come round" and I say "that would be lovely, just let me know what suits you ... or come to me, please, I could do with some company" and then it all goes quiet again until a few months later when they say it again. I find my heart sinking although everyone tells me I am fun to be around. What is this weird syndrome that I now find myself in. I hate it.

    • profile image

      Mimi 7 years ago

      It is not easy creating a new family. You have to make the most of everyday, not just the holidays.

      My dad is an alcoholic so last year we spent Christmas tip toeing around him. It will be the same this year until it finally takes his liver. Good stuff. That's a real family fun holiday for you. He survived cancer and still insists on drinking like a fish and when he is not drunk, he plays pity part about how he had cancer. Sick of him and sick of hearing it. Sick of being sad, sick of being alone. Thank the Lord for my mother and my brother or I would have been out a long time ago.

    • profile image

      Holi 8 years ago

      Fitzwilliam & embitca: You're both right. I wasn't clear. It's very hard to create a family of friends. You have to find friends who are not only good people & reliable but also need you to be family as much as you need them. Creating Extended Families is a service that matches people who are looking to develop new frienships into extended family like connections -- sharing holidays, special events, regular events, etc. There are others out there. It's just finding them that can be hard. That's where the service might be able to help. There's no guarantee, but at least you'll find people looking for the same thing. It can't hurt.

    • profile image

      leilei 8 years ago

      This is my 6th year of spending X'mas alone. I just work through the holidays, which makes it easier to get through it, since I also have co-workers doing the same. I go home to wind down. My kids are gone with their Dad so I can enjoy my quality time with my dog. I don't feel sorry for myself any more. My boyfriend and I broke up right before X'mas. I am glad that it happened. No more holidays with someone who doesn't evem care about me. I am alone but not lonely. I enjoy my solitude. I need this before the chaos begins once my kids are back.

    • profile image

      Runnergirl 8 years ago

      I just spoke to my 74 y.o. mother who lives in Upstate NY, I live in Miami. I would not be any place else for the holidays. I have a few wonderful chums and they are really supportive. They also are very busy with their respective holiday plans, so no offense taken. To "Manxie," great for you! Wonderful you have a therapist who you seem to value. But, don't wait for the holidays to "treat" yourself. Folks who feel bad about being solo this holiday, I can tell you there are more than afew families living true drama and not having fun this holiday. Please just think of some fun or relaxing activities for today! Remember, being alone is an art! If we can learn to enjoy our own company, take on new hobbies/skills and just deal with a day or two without NOISE, I find that art will become life form. Have a wonderful day and don't wish it away, learn from it. Jolly Holidays...

    • profile image

      manxie 8 years ago

      Hi. I'm new to this hub. Nice to meet you all.

      I'm not living in a far-off town w/o any friends or family nearby. Instead, I'm estranged from my in-town family. My friends are off to see their own families in other towns for the holidays, and my significant other always falls into an (equally) significant depression around the holidays.

      This set of circumstances has left me to fend for myself. Up until this Christmas, I sobbed my way through the day. But I've recently gotten a very good therapist who has helped me see that I too often hand control of my life over to others. I realized today (another lonely Christmas) that perhaps I need to take the bull by the horns and design my own holidays. So, next time out, I'm taking myself to breakfast (even if to the local coffee shop), then to a movie, and then, later, for a walk in a favorite park. Here's to a new holiday tradition!

    • embitca profile image

      Emma 8 years ago from Boston

      I get you, Fitzwilliam. It's not as easy as some people like to think it is to create new families or even develop new friendships. Sorry to hear things are such a bummer.

    • profile image

      Fitzwilliam 8 years ago

      "if you don't have a supportive family by blood or marriage, then create a family of friends, whose intention it is to make you part of their family." well golly gee, why didn't I think of that??? Seriously, you make it sound WAY easier than it really is. I have spent my holidays alone (unless you count the cat) for years. I'd even jump on a pity invitation. I don't want to be alone, but it seems to be my fate. I have to wonder exactly what it is about me that makes people want to just skim the cover and never want to open the book. I think I'm pretty good hearted, kind, smart, and I can tell a good joke. Anyway, I don't know why I'm even writing this - I guess because tomorrow is Christmas eve and I'm dreading it. I will probably medicate myself with sleeping meds (don't worry, I'm not planning on o.d.'ing or anything) and try and sleep my way through the next two days. Then it'll all be over, for another year.

    • profile image

      paul 8 years ago

      Buh humbug!

    • profile image

      Holi 8 years ago

      What a great explanation of the the essential problem with the pity invite! The real problem is not just finding companionship or an activity, but finding people who actually want YOU to be with them — in other words, what a family is supposed to be. Family is crucial. If you don’t have a supportive family by blood or marriage, then create a family of friends, whose intention it is to make you part of their family. Try Creating Extended Families.

    • Mark Knowles profile image

      Mark Knowles 10 years ago

      Its true. I have had some depressing Christmases alone, but it doesn't have to be taht way, Thanks.

    • Denmarkguy profile image

      Peter Messerschmidt 10 years ago from Port Townsend

      Good suggestions, all! As someone who's unmarried and have no kids, and no living relatives save for my 86-year old mother who lives 9000 miles away, I can certainly relate.

      My best Christmas memories are from a couple of years when my friend Diana would have her "orphan Christmas," which was a potluck for unattached family-less people... we had a GREAT time, both years I was there.

    • embitca profile image

      Emma 10 years ago from Boston

      Earth Angel, I think that sounds like a great idea! Hope you have a wonderful holiday!

    • Earth Angel profile image

      Earth Angel 10 years ago

      In the last 24 hours so many ideas have been flying around for the impending Holidays!! Many of my friends who will be out of town have decided to travel back home on December 25th thinking the traffic will be lighter!! About 10 locals are all arriving back to our 'hood at various hours!! So I have decided to keep a big pot of soup on the stove and fresh baked bread in the oven!! My friends will be able to stop by for a quick bowl, without having to get dressed up or worry about gifts or time constraints, and then go home to collapse after their whirlwind travels!! It ought to be fun!! Blessings again!! Earth Angel!!

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 10 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Wew! Great attitude both of you Embitca and Earth Angel!

      'Hats off' great HUB and Seasons Greetings

      regards Zsuzsy

    • Earth Angel profile image

      Earth Angel 10 years ago

      GREAT Hub Embitca!!

      I have been single for years and all my family is deceased!! I have an amazing group of friends that are like extended family and so their doors are always open!!

      I also do volunteer work at the local shelters to serve the homeless (I did it again a few weeks ago at Thanksgiving) and I always get more out of it than they do!! Right now I am collecting gently used coats to pass around as it gets colder!! Great suggestion!!

      For me, I cherish the quiet time!! I have sooooooooooo many balls in the air at any given time, sneaking away to be alone on the Holidays is the only time I seem to feel no guilt!! I turn off the computer, put my feet up, eat chocolate until my teeth turn brown, sit in a bubble bath until I look like a prune, play with the pets, leave the dishes in the sink and watch tear-jerk movies!!

      Plus, I always treat myself to decadent presents all wrapped nicely by me for me!!

      Thanks for sharing some of your Holidays alone ideas!! It does take a bit of getting used to, but I have learned to LOVE it!! Blessings, Earth Angel!!

    • gatodos profile image

      gatodos 10 years ago from Texas

      Thank you for some delightful suggestions. I will be Home alone this year for the first time. I had a pity invite for Thanksgiving, I graciously avoided this, too. But treated myself to a great dinner out. thank you, again for a great Hub!


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