I know, I know, Christmas was aaaaaages ago now, but forgive me for this late post, I’ve been in France and I’ve been in hospital. And A&E. Yep! But that’s not what I’m here to talk about, I’m here to talk about my favourite holiday of the year, and the fact that this year I was HOME ALONE FOR CHRISTMAS.
I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about being Home Alone for Christmas. I mean, I’d not experienced it before. Was I going to be miserable? Was I going to be okay? Or was I going to love being on my own? Being the anxious type I am, the apprehension and the wondering if I’d be okay was the worst part, as it turned out being Home Alone for Christmas was pretty damn great!
I’d not entirely planned to be on my own, but circumstances (read: the toughest year of my life so far) meant this was how it was going to be. I’d lost my fourth job for the year, so travelling to NZ was out of the question and nearly all my friends were jumping on a plane and going home for the holidays. There were a couple of friends in London on the 25th, and I thought about what I wanted to do. Do I stay with one of those friends, sit on their sofa, eat food and watch trashy tv, or do I tick off one of my longtime bucket list items and sign up to volunteer? The second option felt right, and after researching online, and finding somewhere within walking distance, I printed off my application form and sent it off to volunteer at the Hammersmith Town Hall, where they serve Christmas Day lunch to 300 senior citizens.
I woke up on Christmas morning and my first thought was ‘It’s Christmas. I’m alone. And I’m okay’. I often think we have too much expectation about what Christmas Day should be, who it should be spent with, even down to what we should eat and drink. And if our day doesn’t seem to measure up to these expectations, then we haven’t celebrated Christmas the ‘right way’. Well this is absolute bullshit. I adore Christmas, but the actual day itself is often full of so much stress, because of this ridiculous expectation. My best Christmas Day memories include one year visiting Disneyland in Paris, and another watching an NBA game in NYC. Strangely both of those days involved a very un-Christmas lunch of burgers, but there was no stress, no need to prep turkey/chicken/lamb and a bunch of desserts. Those holiday memories were so much fun, they still felt festive and I didn’t feel like I’d missed out in any way just because I wasn’t sat next to a decorated tree or scooping cranberry sauce onto my plate. Christmas is what you make it.
So Christmas morning, I got up, pulled on my ugg boots, walked into the kitchen and made myself an eggnog latte, then played Christmas carols on YouTube and opened a few of my presents. I ate a raw cheesecake for breakfast, because A. I love them and B. I could do what I damn well wanted, Christmas Day was all MINE to do it how I wanted.
After opening half of my gifts, it was time to think about getting ready for the day.
I went with a thoroughly festive outfit, hoping it would bring a smile to some of the guests faces. The guests are there because they live alone, with no family or friends to celebrate Christmas Day with. The very thought of that makes my heart hurt. This year I’ve felt intense loneliness, working from home and having so many friends leave London, this city surrounds you with so many people, yet it sure knows how to make you feel alone. The difference between myself and the guests I was about to meet, is that I’m young and able, I can get about the city and fill in my day. They on the other hand may not be so physically able, which means they could go days or weeks without seeing a friendly face. If I could make even one of those guests leave with a smile, then my Christmas Day would be nothing less than perfect.
After a half hour walk I arrived at the Hammersmith Town Hall, where approximately 75 volunteers were given a run down of the day and how everything would work. As I looked around at the other volunteers, I first noticed that I wasn’t the only one wearing a Christmas jumper, others had also dressed for the occasion. And then I noticed children. Families had signed up to volunteer, along with their kids, and I just couldn’t get over how amazing this was. Watching those kids work throughout the day was so awesome, they worked as hard as any adult serving and clearing food.
We spent the next couple of hours, pouring drinks, serving a turkey roast dinner, clearing plates and serving pudding. It was busy, and slightly chaotic, but there was instant camaraderie amongst the volunteers, which made the day so great.
I spotted Santa in the town hall, and he was more than happy to pose for photos with me!
And these guys, well, it doesn’t matter how old people are, there is always the ‘naughty’ group. These men would have been the kids that sat at the back of the school bus, throwing things at the other kids. They may have aged, but their cheekiness certainly hadn’t left them. In fact I can’t even repeat some of the jokes one of them told!
After lunch was served and cleared, live music was played and the enormous task of getting all the guests into taxi’s was sorted, it was time to call it a day. One of the volunteers happened to live down the road from me, and kindly dropped me home, where I was planning to sit on the sofa for the rest of the day. I was exhausted from volunteering!
Settling in on the sofa, I spent time opening more gifts.
There were so many, it took me about an hour, and that reminded me how lucky I am, even when I do feel lonely, there’s still people thinking about me.
I suddenly remembered I needed to visit my neighbour and drop off some Christmas gifts for him. He’s a man, in his 50’s (at a guess), on a walking stick, living on his own. He has lived in that flat since he was born, and sadly a few years ago his mother, who also lived there, passed away. When he opened the door on Christmas Day, I was the first and only person he saw all day. He hugged me. I’ve lived next door to him for 2.5 years and he’s never hugged me before. I handed over some gifts, and had a quick chat, and in that time, I could see in his eyes how grateful he was for my visit. It reminded me again, what Christmas is about. For me it’s about giving. Not about the turkey.
I spent the rest of Christmas evening, admiring my gifts, watching a movie, and eating Christmas pudding. And I was happy. Every bit of me being Home Alone for Christmas turned out great. I made the most of it. I got up, dressed up, and showed up, for a day of giving. What you give out, you get back in return. I ended up with a Christmas that I will always remember.
If you’ve ever thought about volunteering, I am telling you, in the words of Nike, JUST DO IT. You don’t have to volunteer for the full day, I worked from 12-3.30pm. You will find plenty of volunteering opportunities in London via your local borough website.
I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!