This week, as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Our Lord on Sunday, Trish Diewald offers some ways that singles might find more peace at Christmas.
By: Trish Diewald, Staff Spotlight
We hear that “Christmas is for family” so much that people can feel despondent or ashamed if their Christmas falls short of Hallmark-movie togetherness. Those who are unmarried and without children are particularly vulnerable to this because many singles yearn for their own families, and Christmas can intensify that yearning.
Moreover, we singles can be overlooked at Christmas even more than at any other time of year simply because we are single. After all, it’s the singleton who travels to family and not the other way around. And in terms of deciding on traditions and plans, singles generally get less input than those who are married with kids. We really love our families, and they mean well, but this is just how things work out.
We might wonder, why shouldn’t singles get more of a say just because we don’t have little ones in tow or in-laws to visit? Yes, we get it: it makes perfect sense, for example, to work around relatives with spouses, kids and formidable in-laws. But for singles who perhaps already feel left out at Christmas for lack their own families, sensing that they have less of a voice than their married counterparts can leave them feeling doubly overlooked.
No, I don’t mean to gripe, only to offer my sympathy to my fellow singletons, to say that I’ve been there, and to offer for your consideration three solutions that have I’ve found helpful.
The first is reminding myself that Christmas, in fact, is not primarily about family, at least not in the way we tend to think of it. Yes, quality time with family is great, but in the grand scheme of things, comfortable, cozy family time is not the meaning of Christmas. Christmas is about family, but really only because Christ’s coming expanded the meaning of what “family” is. He became our Brother, making us all adopted children of the Father—not to ensure we’d have lazy Christmas mornings together, but to restore our fractured, dysfunctional human family by healing us of our sins. So it’s OK if our Christmases are decidedly un-Hallmark-ish, and we singles can find great interior peace on Christmas by focusing on being instruments of healing in the situations in which we find ourselves. This year, for example, I’ve carved out time for one challenging relative who is particularly lonely, to try to help this person feel a little loved when she otherwise wouldn’t. Other singles choose to volunteer on Christmas, bringing joy to the more neglected brothers and sisters of God’s family, such as the residents of a nursing home or women’s shelter. Others quietly work to repair feuds and grudges at family get-togethers. And others invite their other unmarried friends over and celebrate with them.
The second solution is to meditate on Jesus as my Brother and to spend some serious time in prayer with Him. After all, it’s His birthday! This isn’t easy in a house full of people (especially if you’re sharing an air mattress with your Aunt Matilda who snores), but if you can, try waking up a bit earlier than everyone else for quality time with your Brother who will never fail you. Maybe sneak out for a half hour for a walk alone with Him. Or maybe during a big, chaotic family moment when you’re feeling overlooked, just imagine Him sitting there on the sofa next to you, chuckling at the chaos with you over a glass of eggnog, and remember that He definitely hasn’t overlooked you.
Third, in the words of Scripture, Go to Joseph. St. Joseph knew a thing or two about a less-than-stellar situation on Christmas. Imagine – he’d just arrived in Bethlehem for a census, having traveled 70 miles from home with a very pregnant wife, and the only place he could find for her was with the animals. He’d totally understand your situation and can sympathize with a Christmas that’s not what we wanted, and so it can be really helpful to turn to him and ask for his prayers. He won’t let you down.
These three things – remembering that family isn’t the primary meaning of Christmas, focusing on Jesus as our Brother, and going to Joseph – have helped me, and I trust that they will help you as well.
And if you, dear reader, are not single, consider finding ways to help those who are to feel fully welcome and included. Maybe call up that bachelor buddy of yours who can’t travel this year and invite him over to your family’s dinner. Or during the Great Christmas Sleeping Arrangements Orchestration, maybe fight for both your single sister and your snoring, single Aunt Matilda to get real beds in separate rooms this year instead of sharing that old air mattress.
Have a wonderful, blessed, peaceful Christmas!
Trish Diewald serves as Administrative Assistant to the Bishop’s Delegate for Evangelization and Media.