The holidays are both the best and worst of times. They are traditionally a time for family and friends to come together to celebrate, but it can be a different story for people who are alone.
Fortunately, with some advance thought and planning, a single person's holidays can be turned into a memorable time of year.
One idea is to arrange a get-together for friends who are also alone for the holidays, according to lifestyle transitions coach Inez Bracy.
"The best advice is to arrange well in advance to get together with as many friends as possible during this time. There is scope for making someone who is also alone, perhaps a neighbor, happy by inviting him for a meal and making him feel special. Few situations in life give more pleasure than making someone's day," she says.
Another popular idea is to volunteer for a charity, such as one that provides a meal or a Christmas celebration for the homeless.
"Charities welcome people, especially during the holidays, and the people who work for them are among the finest you could wish to meet. New contacts are made, and this is also an opportunity to make new friends," Bracy says.
Anne Griffin of Bulgarian Pottery and Gifts says, "Get involved with local charities and clubs. Many may be planning Christmas bazaars or charity dinners. This is an excellent way to meet new people, keep busy and do something good."
Travel over the holidays is another option to consider.
"Go away. If you are away from home because of your job, you may not have had time to explore the city you live in or the nearby area. Treat yourself to a few days of skiing, a local spa or whatever interests you," Griffin says. "Though you might have to miss out on the traditions you are used to, use the time to try something new."
The most important thing is to take care of yourself first, according to Bracy.
"Give yourself permission to have 'alone time,'" she says. "Use this time to decide what you want to do and with whom you want to share your time, and then follow through. Select wisely; attend functions that bring you joy and peace. Remember that it is OK to say no."
This attitude also counts when it comes to attending holiday parties or other events.
"If there are functions that you feel obligated to attend, go with a time limit in mind," Bracy says. "Using a time limit frees your mind, and you can interact with others warmly, knowing that it will soon be over. Once you've reached your time limit, leave, or if you're having fun, stay longer."
Hobbies that have been shelved because of lack of time can provide something else to do during the holidays.
Griffin, who has lived in Bulgaria and Russia, has suggestions for people who are overseas during the holidays: "Living abroad presents two types of holiday challenges, celebrating American holidays not celebrated abroad and celebrating family-oriented holidays. The bottom line is that holidays are about getting together, sharing and having fun. The key is to reach out and be proactive. It took me a few years to figure this out."
When it comes to Thanksgiving, Griffin suggests hosting a traditional dinner for foreign friends. She sends out invitations two weeks in advance and asks who wants to get involved in dinner preparations.
"Most foreigners have seen Thanksgiving dinners on television or in films, but few have had the opportunity to participate," she says. "I am fortunate that quite a few of my friends enjoy cooking and trying new recipes."
If you don't want to host Thanksgiving dinner, Griffin suggests checking out the international hotels where you are living. "You might be surprised to find that quite a few prepare special Thanksgiving menus," she says.
"The important thing to remember is that you must claim your own holiday rituals as a single person," says Michele McKinney, founding consultant for Biltmore Inspirations. "I enjoy cooking a big pot of gumbo during the holiday season, and I enjoy each tasty spoonful. Also, baking cookies for loved ones far away can make family members seem a little closer. Knowing I've created a memory for those family members on the receiving end of my home-baked cookies warms my heart."