People are often surprised when I say I hate this time of year – especially when they know of my fondness for fairy lights, food and presents. And I agree – I’m always surprised by my own strength of feeling when the end of November starts to roll around, and no matter how much I try to throw myself into the spirit of things, I can’t help but look forward to January 2 with a sort of glum enthusiasm.
I didn’t always hate Christmas and New Year. As a kid, I loved it all, and in my early twenties, I certainly didn’t dislike it – it was a good chance to catch up with people and abandon responsibility for a few weeks.
And then I found myself 26 and single on Christmas Day; and then 27; and so it continued, until this year, when I’ll be 32 and on my seventh consecutive single Christmas.
There’s a brilliant Wendy Cope poem that I always think of at this time of year, that lists some of the lovely clichés about Christmas, ending with the line “and the whole business is unbelievably dreadful if you’re single.”
Being single at Christmas has some amazing advantages, the main one being that you don’t have to put up with anyone else’s family. You also don’t have to buy so many presents, and you don’t have to impress anyone by not putting on a stone in mince pies.
That’s pretty much it though, for me (and I certainly don’t profess to talk for all single people!)
All these single Christmases have taught me a few things. For example, if you’re the only single one left in your family, you have the awkward situation of being the odd number around the dinner table. You can’t help but be aware of being surrounded by happy couples, and reminded of your own loneliness.
That bit between Christmas and New Year is only really any fun if you have people to enjoy it with, and the older you get and the more marriages and children that infiltrate your groups, the less people are around to do stuff. And the same for New Year. Everyone wants to be with their significant other, and even if you do all go out together, seeing everyone welcoming the new year with the person they’ll be spending the year with, while you’re just downing cava and squinting one-eyed at your phone trying to see if an ex has text you, isn’t the most fun you’ll ever have.
Christmas get-togethers! Always more fun when you have a co-conspirator. Someone to sit and talk to easily in between chatting with everyone else. Someone to escape to when you need to replenish your enthusiasm for small talk.
I love a wintry walk through a gorgeous park, or a wander through town looking at all the lights. Those things are so much more wonderful with someone holding your hand, or with someone to go for a roast dinner or a drink with afterwards to warm up.
Don’t look at Facebook on Christmas Day. Everyone gets engaged, or they wear matching Christmas jumpers and look exactly as smug as I would in the same situation.
You’re no-one’s first thought on Christmas morning. That kind of sucks.
Christmas and New Year, like birthdays, are milestones. It’s inevitable that you get there and look back on what you’ve achieved. This year, my backwards glances are brilliant. This has been the best year of my whole life. And yet, there’s so much about this time of year that makes my heart physically ache.
Of course, rather this than being in a lonely relationship, and I’m so lucky to have family to spend Christmas with, and friends to meet for festive drinks. But still.
One day, I hope to totally love Christmas again, and not spend the last month of the year wishing time away. Until then, I’ll be making the most of chocolate for breakfast, buying presents for myself and avoiding exercise or anything requiring additional effort. BECAUSE IT’S CHRISTMAS.