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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

Navigating the Holidays as a solo-ager

Oct 31, 2022 03:58PM ● By Jan Weeks

Holiday commercials flood the televisions once again. Happy families, gathered en masse around the turkey or the tree, laughing and cooking and toasting each other. Yet what if you’re solitary in a celebrating world? 

My family was small, just our widowed mother and three little girls who moved to a town a thousand miles away from everything familiar. I learned early that Hallmark doesn’t have a corner on holiday celebrations. You have to make your own version of happy. 

I never had children and neither did my partner Rocky, so no grandkids. But our great-nephew, Jax, brought us so much joy all year long. As a toddler, he came for sleepovers, and when Thanksgiving and Christmas rolled around, he helped decorate the tree and set out other seasonal decorations. He loved coming to visit and seeing his name on presents under the tree. 

My change jar provided Jax’s shopping money, and the three of us spent hours at Target as he picked just the right gifts for his folks, his grandma and Rocky.

By the time he was 10, Jax’s family had made their own traditions and we didn’t see much of him anymore. Then Rocky died just before Christmas. With him went any inclination to decorate. 

By the next December, downsizing looked pretty darned good. All the Santas, door hangers and mistletoe that Rocky and Jax had loved went to charities, churches or yard sales. Writing cards, taking hours to decorate and spending the morning in the kitchen vanished in the morning river mist. 

Letting go of “the season” and all its accoutrements brought a few poignant regrets, then a sigh of relief. As Ecclesiastics says: To everything there is a season. 

Now a permanent wreath displays silk flowers changed with every season. A rustic log candleholder decorates the bookcase with colored tapers and festive ribbons. The antique angel tree topper sits on the piano, surrounded by gold tinsel, her tiny candles glowing. A crewel Christmas tree with ornaments and gifts welcomes guests at the front door. Hours of preparation have turned to minutes. 

I have new customs now. Each holiday morning, I take a long, early walk. A blessed silence and the smell of woodsmoke on the chilly breeze takes my mind wandering to memories and future plans. I kick through leaf windrows or fluffy snow, breathe deeply and appreciate the moment.

A friend and I alternate hosting Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. The hostess cooks the main meal, the guest brings dessert and wine. For several hours we laugh, eat and celebrate our friendship. Maybe we watch a Netflix movie.

Even if you’re alone, you can create your own new and different traditions. Take a trip down Memory Lane with photo albums and enjoy times past. Let old expectations go; make new plans for the New Year. Spend time in meditation or other spiritual practice; maybe attend the midnight service on Christmas Eve. Volunteer to serve dinner at a homeless shelter or to deliver meals to those who can’t get out. Most importantly, treat yourself with kindness and love. You alone get to decide how to honor this special time of year, and that can be the greatest gift of all. 

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