I absolutely love
Christmastime. I love baking, decorating, caroling, shopping, gift-giving,
feast-day celebrating…all of it.
Since I love the holiday season so much, most of my
relatives and family members would never even consider the idea that mustering
holiday cheer would ever be difficult for Stephanie Wood. And yet, sometimes it
I think all of us single folks, even the very strong ones,
experience a least a few twinges of loneliness during Christmastime. For me,
those twinges turn into full-blown heartache at the shopping mall of all
places. As I stroll from store to store, listening to Christmas music on the
loudspeakers, sipping a Starbucks peppermint latte, watching the line of
parents and kids waiting for their candid moment with Santa…I feel like
everyone around me is either holding a loved one's hand, doing secret shopping
for their significant other, or pushing a stroller…and it makes me feel very
I remember one occasion at the mall, as I passed by Santa
and the line of children waiting to see him, I thought to myself "if I had a
minute with Santa, I'd probably ask for a boyfriend!"
While most of you probably love the Christmas season as I
do, I'd wager that many of you also feel a bit lonelier this time of year as
well. I just received an email from a Catholic Match member who summed up exactly
how I feel at the mall, and how many of you feel during the Christmas season:
The upcoming Christmas season is making me discouraged about my single
status. Don't get me wrong, there are many things I love about the Christmas
season. However, there seems to be a lot of emphasis placed on having a
significant other this time of year, either as a married person or in a
relationship. Christmas parties and family gatherings, as fun as they can be,
tend to reinforce that belief. We single folks oftentimes feel lost in the
shuffle. My family and friends have tried to reassure me that it's not too late
for me to find "someone", but I get discouraged. I'm just hopeful that it can
be a joyful time of year, regardless of outside circumstances, and that I'm not
so self-conscious about my single status.
A Catholic Match Member
I've heard from at least two other Catholic Match members
that they've decided not to travel home for the holidays this year – they don't
want to deal with their relatives' comments and
well-intentioned-but-awfully-annoying advice for them, and they don't want to
be reminded at every turn that they are "dateless."
So is there a solution to the discouragement and depression
and loneliness that many single people feel during the holidays? What can we do
about the way we feel?
There's no perfect solution – of this I am absolutely sure.
It's a natural part of life that some things are just hard, no matter how you
dress them up or try to pretend them away. All I can offer as encouragement are
the thoughts and actions (both spiritual and practical) that have made my
experiences of Christmas as a single Catholic more joyful.
Join in the Christmas
All the songs and commercials and decorations we see this
time of year speak of joy and happiness and peace on earth. It's easy to forget
that the Christmas story is actually riddled with suffering and sacrifice and
hardship. By all means, it's a glorious and joyous story…but it's also a
difficult one. Consider Mary, who felt scared and isolated and alone as she
faced the world as a pregnant unwed mother. Think of Joseph, who worried about
ridicule and scorn not only for himself, but also for his Betrothed. Picture the
three wise men who undertook a long and arduous journey to find their king. Can
you imagine how many times Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar were tempted to
second-guess themselves or give in to the feeling that they were on a hopeless
journey, wandering half way around the world on a futile trip? And finally, meditate
on the fact that the King of the Universe chose to become human, to enter our
messy world in a cow feeder, and accept all of the suffering and hardship the
world had prepared for him.
Being single during the holidays isn't easy, but compared to
the story of our salvation, my shopping trip to the mall with a latte and no
boyfriend is nothing to complain
about. Perspective changes everything, especially our attitudes. Perhaps Christ
is offering us the honor of suffering and sacrificing with him and his family
Single People Aren't
the Only Single People…
Two weeks ago I went out for coffee with my friend Christy.
We were talking about our plans for the holidays, and I was truly caught off
guard when Christy began sharing her plans for Christmas. Christy is married to
a doctor who is in the midst of an intense residency program. Her husband
spends the bulk of his days and his nights at the hospital, and when he comes
home, he practically falls into bed in an exhausted stupor. For the bulk of the
holiday season, Christy will be attending parties by herself. She'll be
shopping at the mall by herself. She'll even be driving home for Christmas by
herself, and waiting for her husband to join the family for Christmas day.
I most definitely took it for granted that single people had
the most hardships for the holidays, but I no longer believe that is true.
There are many other people who are largely alone, even those with a ring on
their left hand. I think of my friends who are in the military, serving long
deployments overseas, away from family and friends. Those families are my
heroes…and those spouses most definitely experience a heartache this time of
year that I cannot begin to imagine.
Get together with some of these folks! Bake cookies or go
shopping together. Go to mass together, especially during the Advent season. Invite
them home with you for the holidays. While spending time with others who are
alone won't heal the ache in your heart, it will certainly give you a better attitude
and help to ease the pity-party we can so easily throw for ourselves.
Be the Hero Someone
Needs – Especially in Troubled Times
Some of my single friends truly amaze me with their positive
attitudes and giving hearts during the holidays. One of the best examples of a
positive attitude and the Christmas spirit in a single person is my friend Tim.
Tim is a single Catholic man and a successful business man.
Instead of spending the holidays at home alone and avoiding friends and
parties, Tim plays "Uncle Santa" to the families in his parish that are
struggling financially or can't give their kids a gift-laden Christmas.
Last year, Tim delivered dozens of gifts to Catholic
children in the parish. On the day before Christmas, he emailed me the story:
from delivering presents to four Catholic families. Got to watch most unwrap
the presents, but the last permitted me to do something mischievous. They left
with the door unlocked and I brought in 3 garbage bags of presents (8 kids),
turned over the coffee table and stuck an elf hat underneath. Out prominently
there is a letter from Santa with a report card on each of the children's
behavior. Now, I return for dinner in an hour. Ho-ho-ho! This is more fun than
I've ever had!
I'm sure the children in these families, who didn't have
many material possessions, had their best Christmas ever. But I'm pretty sure
Tim had an even BETTER Christmas than these children, thanks to his positive
attitude and giving heart. If we can have just a fraction of Tim's perspective
of Christmas this year, we will all be truly blessed. Spending time with young
children can be medicine for the single person's soul: kids are 100% accepting
of you as you are – they won't be nagging you for not having a girlfriend or
boyfriend for the holidays!
Submit Your Wish List
about the holidays will have an immense impact on yourself and others this
Christmas. If you sit at home and mope instead of attend a Christmas party
alone, if you refuse to go visit your family for the holidays, or if you walk
around the mall and feel sorry for yourself, then you and others around you
will most likely be miserable. Instead, if you meditate on the story of
Christmas, ask Our Lord to send you a spirit of giving and selflessness, and if
you let your family and friends love you this Christmas as they so desperately
want to….this could be your best
Christmas ever too.
Santa can't help you find a boyfriend or girlfriend. But
Jesus Christ can. In Psalm 37:4 God promises that if we delight in the Lord, he
will give us the desires of our heart. His promises are true and he will not
fail us. Renew your commitment to praying for your future spouse. Stay strong
in your faith and trust in God's promises, just as the wise men did as they
searched for the Messiah.
Those twinges might still be there this Christmas season,
but your attitude, your love, and your actions…change everything.
"But there will be no gloom for her that was in anguish. …The people
who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of
deep darkness, on them has light shined…..For unto us a child is born, to us
a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will
be called ‘Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of
Peace'" (Isaiah 9:1-2, 6).