By Jessica Bufkin, Crosswalk.com
I’m the only one in my immediate family who is not married, so my Thanksgivings and Christmases are planned for me based upon a rotation system that’s been in effect in our family for about a decade.
Both holidays usually involve traveling and lots of people sharing living space, wi-fi, and beds. It all sounds fun until after a good 48 hours of non-stop togetherness when nerves start fraying over another round of Settlers of Catan.
And then there’s gift giving, meals with extended family members, endless amounts of leftovers, and how it seems that the tv is always on a sci-fi movie or a western. It’s sanctification at its finest really.
I have a love/hate relationship with the holidays. I love what they represent, but I hate what they have the capability of bringing out in me. I’ve seen over the years that if I go barging into them without much forethought and prayer, I’m often left disappointed in how I handled them and mostly in how I handled my self.
While I certainly haven’t completely figured out how to navigate the time period from November to early January, there are a few things I’ve learned as a single adult that make the season more enjoyable. It’s certainly not a definitive list—mainly because everyone’s situation is different—but it’s a good place to start.
1. Get some rest or alone time.
If you find yourself blowing up (or simmering beneath the surface), it might be time to take a step back. I’m an extrovert, but I still live a fairly quiet life. When my entire family is under one roof, I realize how much I am recharged in my moments at home alone. Sometimes, over the holidays, I’ll escape for a little while. It might be to read at a coffee shop, to watch tv in an empty bedroom, or to volunteer to run an errand. It’s amazing what a few minutes to regroup can do for my attitude.
2. Celebrate Advent.
Whether it’s reading daily devotionals, a book, or following your church’s guide, celebrating Advent is a beautiful way to dwell deeply in the Truth of the Christmas season, the birth of our Savior. Focusing daily on the Christ child and the prophecies and promises He fulfilled helps prevent our tendency to stray and focus on ourselves.
And, it needs to be said: Go to church. Sure, there will be tons of family-focused events and lots of children singing, but if those things are painful to you, allow them to make you press harder into Him. The baby Jesus—the Immanuel, the God with us—grew into a man who can identify with your pain (1 Peter 2:21). He is with you, and He hears you (Psalm 62:8).
3. Start a new tradition for yourself.
So many singles subconsciously (or maybe even purposefully) put life on hold until marriage. Many of us don’t put up trees or really get into the Christmas spirit because we figure we’ll do that when we have a spouse and kids. James 4:14 reminds us that we don’t even know what will happen tomorrow.
Resist the self-pity. Don’t avoid the holiday festivities because you’re feeling like Scrooge. Of course no one has to put up a Christmas tree, but we can’t be blinded—at any time of the year—by the idea that life will begin at marriage.
Try something new this Christmas: find a cookie or candy recipe you love and make it for co-workers, go to a Christmas concert, get some friends together to look at lights, host your own New Year’s Eve party. And then, do it again next year.
4. Make the holiday special for someone.
It really is true that when you invest in others, your own problems seem to lessen. I work with college students at my church, so last year I invited three college girls out for a surprise Christmas evening. I took them to view Christmas art displays in a nearby town followed by dessert at a nice restaurant they had never been to. I invited three more girls over to work on gingerbread houses another night.
It wasn’t about the Christmas season as much as it was about intentionally building relationships with these girls; the holiday just gave me an outlet for doing so. Who have you wanted to reach out to? Your nieces and nephews, a little old lady at your church, a neighborhood family who just moved to town? Resolve to do so before the New Year.
5. Create a holiday budget.
The last thing any of us need to add to the potential stress of the season is the depression that post-Christmas debt can cause. It can be a lot easier to overspend when there’s no one else looking over our shoulder at our financial state, so create a reasonable budget and stick to it.
I collect holiday coupons and guard them like they’re gold at Fort Knox; I also have a game I play with myself that involves trying to not buy anything that’s not on sale. However, lest you think I have mastered this holiday budget thing, you should also know I sometimes I find such good sales I end up following the TOMS model and buying “one-for-one.” I’m still growing into this budget thing, you see.
6. Choose to give grace.
The stupid comments are inevitable, so decide ahead of time to give everyone grace. You can set the record straight another day. But for now, choose to believe that people mean well, choose to ignore the invasive questions, and choose to enjoy the time with your family.
A former junior high English teacher, Jessica Bufkin currently serves as Editor for SingleRoots, a website that encourages Christian singles to be intentional with their lives and offers many resources for to assist them, including a review of Christian dating sites.
Original publication date: December 5, 2013