Being a stray at Christmas

Isn’t Christmas such a wonderful time of the year?

Everyone is being kind to one another. People are being generous in buying and exchanging gifts. Delicious food is served. Houses are beautifully decorated and countless fairy lights are twinkling away against the black canvas that is the night sky. The warm fireplace radiates a cosy warmth that is in stark contrast to the bitter winter cold outside. Families are gathered together and there is love, laughter and happiness all around.

But Christmas can be really difficult when you are a “stray”, like me. One living in a foreign land far away from family during this family-oriented holiday time.

Every year, as Christmas time comes around, I get quite anxious when conversations come to the inevitable “What are you doing for Christmas?” I used to find it SO incredibly hard to say “nothing”… I have too much pride to tell people that I have no one to spend Christmas with, that I will not be enjoying Christmas merriment the way everyone else is. I do not want the asker to pity or feel bad for me, or worse, to feel obliged to invite me to spend Christmas with him/ her (esp if I don’t know them well).

Over the years, with much practice and a thicker skin, it has become a little (just a teeny wee bit) easier to tell people that I will be spending Christmas alone. It seems sad, but I cannot lie. So I just have to put on a brave face and say “nothing, probably watching TV at home alone.” (Cue sad, depressing music). I absolutely hate it.

And so it is always lovely when someone comes to me early in December asking “Do you have plans for Christmas? I’d like to invite you to come and spend it with our family.” Note: it has to be early in December, as this shows a thoughtfulness and genuine desire to have me round, which makes it VERY sweet. Obviously, it is nice for people to extend invitations up to and including Christmas Day- it is good enough to be picked up, whenever that is (and I am very thankful). I just prefer not to be an afterthought, whereby the kind asker is just doing their best to pick up any “leftover strays”.

Being a leftover stray really hurts my pride, and often makes me wonder how much of a social failure I am to not have any friends care about how I am going to spend Christmas. It hurts to be completely forgotten (which has happened a few times). It hurts to be an afterthought, receiving invitations from people I don’t even know well on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day itself.

I guess what I really want to say is: J, I want you to remember how much you hate being a stray at Christmas and how difficult it can be. When you have your own family in future, please be generous, please be kind, please be thoughtful and sensitive. Consider the strays and welcome them into your home (early). Nobody likes spending Christmas alone. Nobody likes being an afterthought. Share your family with the strays, because you have been a stray yourself before.

P.S. I got picked up 2 weeks before Christmas this year, by a couple of friends whom I have known and loved for years… so it really wasn’t bad at all for me this year, thank God!

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