To all the awesome unattached folks out there: I get it. Winter is coming. And you’re single—during the holidays.
That could mean spending time with family members and their new true loves, perfect partners and/or adorable babies, hauling and hoisting your bags through the airport solo, or answering all the awkward personal questions.
The good part? It’s your time. Make this holiday what you want it to be: Embracing what brings you joy, celebrating your independence, reveling in making your own decisions or being an angel for someone else.
Whatever your relationship status—newly single, worried about being alone or loving your solo life—we see you. (“We” are a group of singletons past and present.) You’re not alone. We want to share ways to not just survive the holidays, but deck all the halls, jingle all the bells and laugh all the way.
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“I find it hard to strike a balance between wanting to say yes to every fun thing versus remembering to take some time for myself, but then feeling like I’m missing out.”
“Being single makes holiday parties so easy. I decide to go or not—nobody else gets to vote. I get ready at my own pace. I don’t have to think about whether my date is having fun. And I leave when I want to.”
“My biggest suggestion for singles at holidays is to remember that connection is only as valuable as it actually feels to you. Don’t try to attend every party and accept every invitation—just having dinner or a movie with a friend or family member is sometimes the best thing you can do.”
Once, I was invited to a philanthropic gala. I definitely wanted to go, because I simply love an excuse to dress up—especially for an honorable cause—but I had no one to take. My friends didn’t even want to go.
The coordinator tried to let me off the hook by saying she had a backup couple to attend. But I dug in my sparkly heels, put on my fancy dress, drove to the venue and sat with a table full of couples I didn’t know.
A few of them said I was brave for coming alone.
I knew that already. I also knew I could have a great time without an assist. I knew I shouldn’t have to miss out on fun or fancy just because I’m not coupled up—and you shouldn’t either.
Pro-tips for attending holiday parties without plus-ones
Don’t not go to that posh dinner. Remember, you can work the room better without a partner slowing you down.
Before you respond to the invite, pause. Ask yourself, “Will I be happier going—or will I be happier watching Christmas movies in my pajamas?”
Make a plan. This includes:
- Ways to spend your time—who you’ll mingle with, who you’ll want to avoid and, most importantly, what you’re going to eat.
- An excuse if you want to leave early. Pets and work projects are inarguable reasons to duck out.
- Witty (maybe even practiced) answers to “Are you seeing anyone?” or “I can’t believe you and so-and-so broke up!” (See below for ideas.)
- A safe and reliable way home. Take a ride-sharing service or cab—especially if you’ve enjoyed the event a little too much.
“Even as a supposedly adult woman, I still like getting matching Christmas pajamas and sweaters with my mom. (I’m an only child). My mom’s family is from Sweden back in the day, so we do Swedish Pancakes on Christmas morning and have lots of Swedish holiday decorations. My mom and I only set up the tree just right before Christmas because we have cats that can’t handle the temptation of pretty, eye-catching Keepsake Ornaments.”
“My roommate and I do stockings sometime around Christmas and usually exchange gifts and cards. She usually goes home to spend the actual holiday with her family and I usually have my cousins and aunts/uncle/grandma over to celebrate.”
“At Christmas, it’s me, my parents and my sister’s family—her husband and two teenage boys—at her house. To assert my status as an independent adult, I choose one thing I’m good at and can be bossy about. One year, we made gingerbread-style houses with graham crackers. Last year, we drew names and made a sock-puppet version of the person whose name we drew. This year, we’re making nutcrackers. I will make Christmas Crafternoon a beloved tradition if it kills all of us.”
Whether you and your family love being together, do great with limited exposure or just have to get through it, being single and surrounded by relatives calls for some boundary-setting. It’s too easy to slip back into parent-kid roles or repeat performances of the same old discussions and unwinnable arguments.
Pro-tips for going home for the holidays
Get real about how many days (or hours!) to stay. This all depends on how quickly everyone can push your buttons—for me, it’s oh-very-soon—or how soon you’ll need some you-time. Don’t feel guilty about spending time in your room, sleeping in or heading to bed early, going for a walk or offering to run errands to decompress.
If you’re always the one traveling, offer to host. If you can’t fit everyone in your place, book a vacation rental or suggest nearby hotels. If folks decline, you may just opt for a quiet little holiday on your own.
Walk away from conversations you know won’t end well. Or just bite your tongue—or a Christmas cookie. Heard of gray rocking? It’s a psychological technique for dealing with a manipulator or abuser. Be boring and unresponsive—like a gray rock. Give noncommittal or dull answers. Don’t feed the drama.
Make plans to phone or text a trusted friend who will give you some moral support. So, instead of smart-mouthing your mother or throwing a biscuit at your brother’s head, go into another room (or maybe zip code) and vent to your friend. Don’t forget to reciprocate and listen to their familial frustrations. This has saved us many a Christmas.
Suggest alternatives to everyone giving everyone else gifts. Did you buy like 14 gifts for your nieces and nephews last year, and then got a candle and some questionable macaroni art in return? Offer to draw names this year so you’re not paying for Christmas for the next 10 years. (Here are more creative ideas for gift exchanges.)
Speaking of which, stick with a budget. It’s easy to get caught up in the festive spirit and pull out your credit card—picking up a family dinner, grabbing another batch of gifts. Figure out in advance how much you want to spend on travel, meals and presents—and know that whatever it is, it’s enough.
“We did FriendsGiveMas—like a brunch with drinks and a potluck of foods—for people who like to celebrate but don’t have family to celebrate with. Or for people who aren’t talking to their family because they want to be themselves…and can’t be around certain relatives.”
“Make one-on-one time. Missing a holiday event does not mean having to skip conversations with those people you look forward to seeing each year. Reach out to those you miss ahead of the holiday and book some time for a good sit-down chat. You could be the one who is all caught up on the latest happenings before anyone else is.”
“I make applesauce and holiday cookies every year, and last year because of COVID, I packaged them up and sent them to my parents and brother in New York. They loved getting an unexpected, edible surprise in the mail.”
“Sometimes the holidays are a little hard because I was in a car accident shortly after Thanksgiving in 2016, and that’s when my leg was amputated. To kind of counteract any of those negative or heavy emotions, we (my friends and family) turn it into a celebration called my ‘Alive Day,’ which in the past has meant taking a day off for fancy brunch and ice cream and coming home to peach Nehi floats and the Royals World Series video that’s narrated by Paul Rudd. Kind of like an ‘all my favorite things’ type of day.”
If you get time off from school or work during December, those free days can feel a little empty. There’s no better time to catch up on sleep—and all the shows you’ve been saving to watch. But when you’ve had enough reclining, here are some ways to connect with people and things you love.
Pro-tips for making the most of your winter vacation
Schedule long lunches with friends. Or meet for coffee, happy hour or dinner. Luxuriate in having time to talk with nowhere to rush off to.
Take yourself out to dinner. Don’t let the social atmosphere of the holidays minimize your joy. Ditch the drive-through and dine at a nice restaurant solo. A table for one can be peace on earth + lots of great people-watching. Bonus fun: Tip the hardworking server like you’re paying for two. It’ll make you feel good for doing something nice for them while doing something nice for yourself.
Give your time to an individual or organization. Offer your focused attention to someone else—help a friend organize their basement, volunteer for a nonprofit, drive elderly members of your church around to see Christmas lights, drop donations off at Little Free Libraries and Little Free Pantries.
Send holiday cards with handwritten notes to friends and family. You know we have tips for making this even more fun and meaningful.
Create your own traditions. Read about the history and origins of the holidays you observe and plan personal rituals or get-togethers. Community- or solitude-focused. Sacred or secular. Contemplative or celebratory. Enjoy not having to compromise about your best ideas.
Get yourself ready for the coming year. Look around and see what needs organizing. What have you been putting off or wishing you had time for? Get a new calendar or planner and set goals. Update your address book. Make a budget spreadsheet and start saving for a special splurge. Start a journal. (Did you know you’re allowed to throw away old journals as a cleansing ritual?)
“I took time to reflect on all of my successes and accomplishments that year. I turned on some ’80s rock, fixed a drink, then made a list. I wrote down everything I could think of, too, including ‘not staying with that narcissist.’ Now that I think about it, all single people should write that one down.”
“Get yourself some good vino from Trader Joe’s, dress up and schedule a Facetime date with all your besties. Last year, I coordinated a virtual Cards Against Humanity event that was a rousing good time!”
“For New Year’s, I’m visiting New York for the first time. I spent some of the holidays alone last year because of COVID, so I’m excited to do some traveling and looking forward to making new traditions.”
True story: Once at a wedding, I ran outside with the best man to avoid the humiliating bouquet toss. I planned this, like, three weeks in advance. As I said—I’m not one to miss a good party. At a New Year’s Eve party, I’d just apply the same creativity when the ball drops: Sip champagne, get some fresh air, hide behind a large plant, take photos of pretty décor. Or find a friend to kiss on the cheek.
Whether you want to ring in the new year at a party, in front of a screen or your own unique way—you guessed it. Make a plan.
Pro-tips for starting the new year off right
Show up to any party like you just walked out of a James Bond film. Shine on, Singleton!
Or wear something you feel cute and comfortable in. The last thing anybody needs to worry about is uncomfortable shoes.
Take cash, ID, credit cards, a charged phone with a ride app with payment method set up, pepper spray and anything else you’d need in a jam. Because single people have to watch our own backs, prep in advance to get home safely.
Host a video chat party with other friends who plan to stay home. Play a game. Watch a movie (we’ve got tips for making it epic). Or just catch up on life. Blow everyone a kiss goodnight when you’re ready to call it a night.
Stay toasty warm at home. Put on your comfiest sweatpants, order your favorite food, pop open some bubbly and give your midnight kiss to the fur child.
Staying connected when you’re single during the holidays isn’t only about spending time with other people. It’s first and foremost about you. Enjoy the smart, interesting and talented person you are. Carve out time to develop your unique contributions. Make your emotional and physical health a priority…and then merry will just fa-la-la follow.
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