Christmas is a time of magic, family, tradition and post—overeating snoozes. I love it every bit as much today as I did as a child. But for people who are on their own, and not by choice, the season serves as an omnipresent reminder of their situation. It’s like Valentine’s Day when you don’t want to be single, except you get a whole month of it, and it’s EVERYWHERE. And back in 2013, there were 450,000 people who were spending Christmas alone. That figure has only grown since.
So here are some ideas for helping anyone you may know who’s facing Christmas alone feel slightly less isolated.
It’s a sensitive time of year and loneliness is a real, persistent and complex problem, so if you want to genuinely help someone feel more connected this Christmas, make sure you mean it. Last minute cancellations and excuses can be tremendously damaging to a person’s sense of belonging, so if you make an offer of company, make it a concrete one.
Also, don’t forget that some people do actually like being on their own (remember Captain Introvert), so make sure that any invitations you make are casual ones that people will feel fine declining (this is not a contradiction with the previous point: offers need to be concrete on your end but casual on theirs).
So, how can we help?
Christmas celebrations start before November’s even over and carry on right through until the New Year. Carol concerts, Christmas markets, walks, coffee mornings, special film showings, late night shopping evenings... there are dozens of things that’ll be going on in your area that you could invite someone to join you for. As it’s a pre-existing event you’re already going to, invitations are both concrete and casual, making it easy for someone to accept or decline without feeling bad. Think about reaching out and including someone in your pre-Christmas adventures.
Christmas parties are a really good way to include people in your celebrations. They’re not on Christmas Day and the person won’t be the only one you’re inviting, so it’s a casual set up. If you’re having a party over the Christmas period, consider popping over and inviting anyone in your neighbourhood who might be facing the season alone. Even if they decline, or if they only pop in for a little while, your gesture will make a difference.
The big day itself is both the loneliest and most difficult to include people in. Christmas Day is often hectic and family-orientated, so it can leave you little time to think about the people nearby who might be facing it alone. Inviting someone over for the whole day can feel like a burden and, perhaps more importantly, can make your guest feel like a burden. It can also make you feel isolated to sit with someone else’s family: the fear of intruding on a family day can make you feel unwelcome, however considerate your hosts are. So consider inviting someone over for a specific part of the day: lunch, perhaps, or for drinks and games in the evening. Or pay a visit to them. Dropping of a present and staying for a cup of tea (or champagne... I mean, it is Christmas) will make someone feel important and wanted.
With all the good will and thankful heart in the world, there will be people you care about who you might not be able to be with this Christmas. Whether it’s a parent who can’t travel, or a neighbour who you can’t see because you’re away over Christmas, there are things you can talk to them about in the run up to give them some ideas about how to deal with the season if they’re feeling lonely.
If they’re a Twitter user (and don’t forget that it’s not just the elderly who get lonely at Christmas... actually, or that old people can’t use Twitter) then let them know about the bloody lovely Sarah Millican’s #joinin campaign. Each year, people who are alone on Christmas Day take to Twitter using the #joinin hashtag to let you know you’re not, in fact, alone. More that you’re all alone, together. Lovely chat, supportive ears and some truly heart-touching stories come out of this. It’s in its eighth year and is one of the most wholesome and human uses of social media I’ve ever seen. You can find out more in this news story.
A more active option is to do some volunteering over the Christmas period. There are countless good causes that could really use help, and it brings with it a great sense of community and worth. You can search for local volunteering opportunists at
If there’s a person you know aged 75 or over who’s isolated and lonely, take a look at the remarkable work of ReEngage. They work within local communities to set up regular social gatherings for small groups of people over 75 and are always trying to find new ways to get out and about that suit them in their later life. They run community Christmas events throughout December to give people a place to go and spend time with other folk in their situation. You can refer someone to ReEngage, you can donate or you can volunteer to host or help with an event at their website: reengage.org.uk
Christmas is hectic, demanding and tiring for us all, but it’s also a time to think of others and to band together against the dark of winter. If you can do just one thing this year that makes a lonely person feel included, if we can all do just one thing, what a Christmas present that would be to our society in these difficult times.
Wishing you all a peaceful and loving Christmas.