Christmas has a way of piling on the pressure, doesn’t it? In particular, it can be a tricky time for single people, both male and female. Many people are very happy with their unmarried marital status; they see Christmas as the perfect opportunity to don their onesies and embrace some essential me-time. Others are not, however, and find Christmas tough. Mariah Carey blaring out in the supermarkets, and hoards of shoppers cramming food into their trolleys, is a stark reminder of the unanswered prayer: “Lord, send me a spouse.”
Prior to meeting my husband, I dreaded Christmas. Even as a person with bags of confidence and lots of social options, for many years I found Christmas incredibly claustrophobic. I longed to escape from the perennial drudgery of panic-buying and spending a whole day with family you only ever see once a year.
The cultural pressure to go along with tradition was, for some reason, something I felt obligated to do. The reality, though, is that if you forget the cultural pressure – and ignore the insensitive comments from interfering relatives and loved-up friends – Christmas can be the best time of the year for unmarried people.
There’s the financial bonus of not buying gifts for your husband and his massive extended family, and getting the luxury of being completely selfish for the duration of the holidays. I appreciate that selfishness is a negative term for the super Christians reading this, but alone time is truly the greatest gift you can give yourself – ask parents with very young children . And, when you do get married, you will long for those moments of solitude. Remember a spouse is for life, not just for Christmas. They are non-refundable.
I know it sounds like a cliché, but whether you’re 25 or 50, please make the most of being single. If you desire to get married, you will. Then, when your life does a 360-degree change into married life, you will be so grateful for all the me-time you carved out for yourself. Until then, you get time to reflect on your strengths and abilities, and on the progress you’ve made personally and professionally throughout the year. The festive season is yours to do whatever you want with.You can watch and eat everything you want without compromise. You can have steamy hot baths everyday, without someone reminding you about the gas bill. Yes, Mariah doesn’t sing about these small marital irritations in any of the tracks on her Christmas album.
Please resist the urge to get a ‘for now’ Christmas relationship – and don’t call your ex. The relationship ended for a reason, and they are unlikely to be who you need. If Santa doesn’t bring you someone special this year, don’t worry, Jesus will and His timing is perfect.
Volunteer or do something you’ve never done before. One of my best Christmases was spent at a homeless shelter, where I met some amazing people, and the experience brought with it a huge sense of perspective.
It’s not just about unmarried people; the festive season piles on the pressure in all relationships, and that’s because relationships are so important to us. The song, ‘All I want for Christmas is you’, is essentially what we all hope for: peace, happiness and togetherness.
There will be married people, who are going through a difficult patch, and feeling claustrophobic too. There’s so much expectation: the desire for the whole family to get along with each other; for there to be no tensions, and for problems to miraculously disappear… This adds further layers of stress. As Christians, we love God, but we are not exempt from the relational complexities that exist within families – even in the most holy of homes. Christmas also has a way of exposing the cracks in any relationship. There are some married folk, who would swap places with their single friends in a heartbeat.
The most important thing is to consider the importance in one of Joyce Meyer’s well known quotes: “Enjoy where you are, on the way to where you’re going.” Accept that you’re not going to get on amazingly well with everyone in your family this Christmas, and love your people regardless. They are your people. And let the completely unrealistic marketing power of the ‘perfect Christmas’ just go over your head. Crucially, remember it’s about celebrating the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who came to save us and redeem our lives from destruction. That’s definitely something we can all be merry about.
Have a lovely Christmas – from me and my amazingly beautiful (but imperfect) family!
love God, love life, love people.