How to spend Christmas alone
When my friend recently asked me what I was doing for Christmas, and I answered, “nothing,” she gave me a look of concern and said, “that is hard.” I told her, “I am very fortunate to be free of any obligations.”
When Christmas approaches every year, I get reminded of things lacking in my life even though I have a lot. The stable and comfortable job that pays for an apartment in the most expensive areas in the world, a healthy and able body, friendship with some people I appreciate, and unusual experiences of living in different countries.
People have love/hate relationships with their families. They keep a distance from their home most of the year, but spending Christmas with family is a matter of life and death. People traveled in 2020 when the COVID-19 ran the wildest because they needed to spend the holiday with family. They also feel showing up on special occasions like Christmas is an obligation regardless of the level of affection toward them. The same sentiments apply to the New Year in Japan, when family members are expected to visit and greet each other and pray for health and wealth for the new year.
My flimsy bond with my parents kept me away from home ever since I left home at 18. There were years I didn’t go home for New Year’s, telling my parents I’d rather go out with friends. Some years I did so, but other years I stayed in my apartment alone. But I had to tell myself the night of NYE was the same as any other night to avoid feeling like I dropped out of the world.
I was fine spending the first Christmas in Europe alone, but there were logistic issues. Unlike Japan, where most businesses were open on New Year’s Day, everything closed in Germany on 24th, 25th, and 26th. So I had to feed myself for three days without leaving my apartment. I know this is easily done now that I have been home-bound since March 2020, but at the time, three days felt like a long time. So I made a pot of stew and bought plenty of bread, ham, and cheese for sandwiches to sustain me for a few days. I had some dried noodles I had brought from Japan, too.
Stuart messaged me every day to tell me what he was doing with his family. I was going to fly to the UK on 28th, the day after he returned from his relative’s place. So at least there was something to look forward to, to survive the hibernation. I also made the most of the empty road to practice driving. I checked the map in my neighborhood and drove back and forth several times every day.
So the Christmas holidays came and went peacefully, and I flew to the UK to spend the rest of winter break with Stuart. But when we came back to the office the following year, one of the managers with whom I had no close rapport messaged me, “I can’t believe you had to spend Christmas alone, no one should have to go through that. You must come spend with my family next year!” Eyeroll.