Thanksgiving dinners. Holiday light shows. Buying presents for loved ones. New Year’s Eve kisses. Hallmark Christmas movies that half convince you to move back to your hometown to meet the love of your life, even though you’ve swiped through some dating apps when you’re home for the holidays and never once has a burly carpenter showed up (just that one weird kid from high school).
Being single during the holidays can be difficult.
The bon mots of well-meaning relatives and friends don't always help:
“Live your life!”
“Enjoy being independent!”
“Fall in love with God and He will give you the desires of your heart - namely sending you to Vermont to go leaf-peeping and meeting a rugged someone who makes a living tapping maple trees for syrup.”
Kidding! Kind of.
My family lives half a country away, and spending $800 on a round trip plane ticket for a four-day weekend isn't always possible. So it can be difficult to not feel lonely during the season when we literally sing songs about being home for the holidays.
In honor of this festive season of the year and this single season of my life, I’ve rated my top suggestions of holiday activities that you can enjoy with or without a significant other.
1. Going to see Christmas lights (6/10)
Seeing Christmas lights: highly festive. But it can also be cold. And, while you’re enjoying the lights, you also are most likely going to see a gazillion couples snuggling up because (like I said) it’s cold. And it's nighttime, which somehow makes everything more romantic.
However, Christmas light-spotting is usually free, and if you can get some other girlfriends to go with you, it’s fun to see what the department stores downtown are doing or what the Jones’ have done to win "Most Lit House in the Neighborhood" this year.
Pro-tip: Bring hot chocolate. Preferably spiked with Baileys, Jameson, or Kahlua (drink responsibly).
2. Friendsgiving (7/10)
The ultimate “friends are the family you choose” ritual. The best thing about Friendsgiving is that it’s not called "Significant-Others-Giving," so you can be reasonably sure that you can maximize on food offerings while enjoying being with your friends. The rating goes up if Friendsgiving is actually hosted on Thanksgiving. You can impress your friends with that lauded family recipe that in all honesty came from a newspaper clipping your grandmother cut out in the 30’s. The trick is always more butter.
Pro tip: Don’t call it Orphans Thanksgiving – you can FaceTime your parents in the morning.
3. Go to a friend’s house for the holidays (8/10)
An extended stay at a friend's house has some serious Jane Austen vibes. One step up from a Friendsgiving, because a multigenerational gathering gives it that extra ‘family’ feeling. Plus, mom hugs are always the best hugs, whether you’re 8 or 28. Staying at your friend's childhood home can give you insight into the childhood stories of your best friends. End the weekend with their parents loving you more than they love their own kid.
Pro tip: Bring flowers for your hosts, everyone loves receiving flowers. Also, wine.
4. Ice Skating (9/10)
Who says ice skating is a couples activity? Ice skating is a take-your-hands-in-your-life activity. Especially during free skate: teenagers whizz past you, or a toddler falls with their fingers splayed and you have to pivot at the last second to avoid amputating their digits. Despite the Hallmark movie scenes, couples can never skate in sync anyway so someone ends up yelling the same thing over their shoulder three times in order to be heard.
No thank you.
Ice skating is exercise, it's Christmas-y, and it's an awesome solo activity – which means it’s perfect for the single woman in a tinsel-filled city.
Pro tip: Download Christmas music on Spotify for maximum single enjoyment.
5. Volunteering (10/10)
This may be the best reenactment of a Hallmark movie we can do without leaving the big city. One of my favorite volunteer events to do is Christmas caroling at a retirement home with cookies. It’ll warm your heart just like they tell you in Elf.
If your local parish (or local retirement center) doesn’t already have a volunteer event like that, make one! I can guarantee you will find other people in the congregation who would love to join. You can make friends and sing songs, and it feels extra Christmas-y without worrying about meeting under the mistletoe.
Pro tip: Wear a Santa hat. Lean into the moment!
One of my favorite parts of a serious relationship is having a companion for the holidays: bringing someone home for Thanksgiving, making Christmas cookies together, soaking up the joy of the season. Whenever I find myself feeling too sorry for my single self, I reframe it.
Advent, for Catholics, is a season of waiting and preparing. I'm preparing myself for the next season of my life. It’s also a season of generosity. I'm able to give my time and gifts to others. Finally, it's a season of love. I'm so lucky to have friends who I love, who can celebrate with me, or welcome me into their homes. When it's reframed that way... well, it seems like this might be the right season for me after all.