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October 14, 2013

Holidays Alone – Is There a Good Side?

Inviting someone to spend a holiday with your family is not always the kindhearted act you think it is. Sometimes that holiday kindness hurts.

You already know my family was a less-than-positive environment. I was the third child in a family with two children, and never allowed to forget it. So you can be sure that the holidays were not a particularly joyous thing. Sure, we celebrated Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween, and other holidays. For me, every one of them was laced with the knowledge that everyone was waiting for me to screw up and “get Dad angry.”

Can you understand how that connects the holidays with a lot of negative experience and emotion? My experience is not unique, and, regrettably, it’s mild compared to what some children experience with their families.

When you invite someone over for the holidays because you don’t want her to be alone, be sure to listen to the answer. Try to avoid being the person who is more concerned about “doing the right thing” than they are about how the invited person feels.

A lot of people have insisted I join their family for Christmas. Their reason: It’s somehow wrong for someone to be alone on the holidays.

Here’s what it’s like from my perspective:

  • Most of your family doesn’t know me, so we have absolutely nothing in common
  • Your explanation for my presence always includes saying I don’t have family to be with which makes me feel like an object of pity
  • Even if I did have family, they aren’t people I’d want to be with – so I’m not particularly keen on experiencing yours

So there is a very good, and positive, side to being alone on the holidays.

When I’m alone, I focus on the holiday. There are no distractions, and I think about being thankful, why Christ came into the world, eating candy, or welcoming the new year. I think about the holiday and what I want it to mean for me. It helps me put away the memories as something that happened, but they’re no longer relevant.

Being alone is different from being lonely. Listen to the reasons your friend is giving. When they’re clear and definite, the right thing to do is accept their answer. No matter what their answer, if your reason for inviting them is “to do the right thing,” then you’re on the wrong track. Nobody enjoys being a charity case.

Before you start thinking I’m a Grinch, let me be clear… I’ve had several holiday invitations that were welcome, and enjoyable. There are even a couple of holidays that I look forward to every year.

Everyone – even we who are alone – knows that holidays are a time for family. You can make your invitation much more genuine, and welcome, by making someone part of the family all year long. That’s a lot to do, I know. You can certainly offer a genuine invitation without that level of involvement. Show you’re genuine by accepting “No” as an answer if it comes.

Have you experienced this? What was it like inviting someone for the holidays? And if you’re the one receiving the invite, what has it been like? Did you enjoy getting it and going?

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