We've all seen them. There are all kinds of memes about loving your dysfunctional family and finding a way to fit into the strange brood you came from. But let’s face it. Not everyone is able to do that.
Maybe they don’t have a family anymore. Or perhaps the thought of cozying up to those folks during the holidays just isn’t as humorous as Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon find it in the movie Four Christmases. Not everyone comes from a family like the Walton’s or the Brady Bunch. And for others who are just too far away from their loved ones, geographically speaking, coming home for Christmas is just a dream.
But I've never been a fan of bumming people out or bringing down a crowd with sad news. So, let’s talk about how we can cheer people up for the holidays –including those of us who might fit into one of those groups above. Here are some solutions to putting some “family” cheer into the holidays.
· Organize a cookie swap. This is a fun way to get some holiday baking done and spend time with others. You don’t have to bother getting dressed up on Christmas Day because cookie swaps can be done leading up to it. Send a call out to anyone you want to share cookies with, find some recipes on Pinterest, and get baking. Then, on the appointed day, bundle up those baked goodies and head over for a bit of socializing and cookie trading.
· Plan a Friendsmas. I’ve heard of this being done in place of Thanksgiving (Friendsgiving) and think it’s a great idea. You round up some close friends and together plan a meal and gift swapping for the holiday.
· Volunteer at a soup kitchen or shelter. Sometimes the best way to find Christmas cheer is to give to others. Is there a soup kitchen or shelter nearby that needs a volunteer or two? If so, sign up and spend some time giving back to the community.
· Be part of the Christmas and Easter crowd at church. If you’re the religious type or are interested in learning more about it, there are lots of denominations that have Christmas services. Some on Christmas Eve and others on Christmas Day. Do an internet search for a church near you and drop in. The kids in Christmas pageants love performing for big crowds.
· If you’re looking to get away from the snow and cold weather, consider a Christmas cruise. You can head out for warmer climates and say bah humbug to all the traditional Christmas tidings while working on your tan.
· The dinner & a movie plan. My family did this for several years and loved it. Instead of spending the day in, find a good movie on the big screen and locate your favorite Chinese food restaurant (or other restaurants –it’s becoming more common for food places to stay open on the holidays) and enjoy a day on the town. Traffic tends to be lighter and who can resist movie theater popcorn?
· Go caroling. Gather up some friends or your kids and their friends and cruise the neighborhood spreading a little holiday cheer to others.
· Visit the elderly at the nursing home. Distance, travel, and lack of family members can make the holidays a tough time for those in nursing homes and hospitals too. So, head over and spend some time with them. Bring your knitting or a board game and help put a smile on someone else’s face. You might just end up with a friend.
· Maybe you want to enjoy the holiday, but for whatever reason, the thought of being around others this year is just too difficult. If that’s the case, find a quiet way to spend the day, but still be sure to enjoy yourself. Tackle your “to-be-read” pile or put on a favorite movie. Cook up your favorite dish or order something the day before and heat it up on Christmas day. It’s okay to go it alone, just make sure you’re doing something to put a smile on your face.
· Get outside. Whether you live in a cold climate or a warm one, there is always something to do. Go play in the snow, build a snowman, or go skiing. Take a swim, go biking, take a walk or a hike, or go golfing. Get your blood pumping, enjoy the great outdoors, and have a good time.
There are many reasons that people spend the holidays alone. If you’re one of them, try something from this list to brighten your holiday. If you are blessed with (sane and friendly) family members and have plenty of fun things already planned for Christmas, consider inviting someone along or breaking out of your tradition to do something fun with him or her. It’s not all about gifts, it’s about spreading Christmas cheer.