There is no rule that says you have to be with family during the holiday season, but it feels like there is. There are loads of reasons you might find yourself flying solo on Thanksgiving. Maybe your family is toxic. Maybe you don’t have the money to fly home. Maybe you’re burned out and want a year off from all the expectations. Maybe it doesn’t make sense to travel home in November just to do it again for Christmas in a month. Maybe you have to work.
No matter how legit your reason is — and it doesn’t even matter if it’s that legit, honestly — you might still feel weird about being alone. Let’s fix that.
Plan a special day just for yourself
Think back to holiday celebrations with your family over the years. Did you stay at a certain aunt’s house, play football at a particular time, have the same meal every single year, or follow some other traditions to the T every godforsaken fourth Thursday in November for as far back as you can remember? Maybe this is the year you break free of the old ways!
Take some time to think about what you really want to do. Even if the reason you’re alone is a sad one, you can find a way to make the day joyful in your own way. If you’ve always wanted to walk a certain part of your city, check out a special restaurant, or just take a day to lounge and watch movies, this is your big chance.
Kat Fajardo, a 31-year-old single mum whose child spends Thanksgiving with her ex, knows all about using this holiday for maximum self-care. “One time, I just watched every Friends Thanksgiving episode,” she said, “and once I made it through those, I moved on to other TV-show Thanksgiving episodes: New Girl, Parks and Rec, Gilmore Girls… I picked strong female-lead shows, so it didn’t feel like I was alone. I was with my friends Monica, Phoebe, Rachel, Jess, Leslie, Lorelai, Rory…”
You don’t have to feel bad about missing out on the traditions you’re used to. Whatever you do, you don’t have to spend the whole day moping or wishing you were somewhere else.
Spend time with a different kind of community
It’s understandable if you’re really missing the people you’d normally spend this holiday with, but there are others out there who would love to spend it with you. Throw an “orphan’s” holiday party for all the other people you know who are on their own this year. Tap into your pandemic habits and host it on Zoom, even.
Call up local churches or community centres to find out if they’re hosting holiday meals. You could either attend or volunteer to help out at one.
Don’t forget your online community, either. One 28-year-old named Kat told Lifehacker they plan to spend the holidays alone this year for the first time ever, but will be logging into Twitch and other websites throughout the day to pal around with online friends.
Your chosen family can be every bit as meaningful as your biological one — sometimes even more meaningful. Incorporate the people who make you feel loved and understood into your holiday plans, no matter who they are.
Embrace some of your old traditions
You don’t have to totally ignore your family on the holidays, even if you’re not there eating mashed potatoes with them. FaceTime, Zoom, and Skype exist, do they not? Video chat your loved ones. It isn’t the same as being there, no, but it might feel good just to see them.
Don’t feel pressured to make yourself a whole turkey or anything like that. You totally can, but you don’t have to. If you want to stick to some of your old traditions or favourite Thanksgiving fare, try the simple ones, like mashed potatoes or corn. Boxed stuffing is great!
Fajardo once even found a TV dinner that had all the classic holiday foods, like turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, and carrots. Some restaurants offer holiday meal specials that include the standard offerings, too — we’ve even got a list for you right here.
You’re charting a new course here, but you don’t need to totally overhaul what you know. Embrace the opportunity to do something new.