To the ones who are spending holidays without family,
I know that this is a lonely time for you. They say that year ends should be spent surrounded by those we love, people who have had our backs and have picked us up every time we have fallen. These are the people who have, time and again, unleashed their light on us to dispel every bit of darkness that engulfs our souls.
Everyone is right when they say that our childhoods are the happiest times of our lives. Our biggest concern then would be what Santa was getting us this year, or whether mum would let us have hot chocolate to keep our tiny selves warm. When you’re a kid, believing in magic seems much easier than embracing reality. It is easier to believe that you are made entirely of stardust than to believe that homework is a real thing that needs to be done before school closes for Christmas. Santa and his elves were closer to our sense of reality than taxes and insurance. Magic seems to be the order of the day and everything seemed imbued with magic when the year had nearly run its course. Snow angels and freshly baked cookies and the gleam of fairy lights and warm sweaters and the crunch of leaves under your boots and the joy of always having hands to hold on to and friends to share laughter with- isn’t this what magic is all about, anyway?
As a child, it is also easier to stick to traditions that have been running in the family for ages. Every year, in the beginning of December, you’d help mum bring out the dusty box full of shiny Christmas tree ornaments that you have collected over the years. You would add one new ornament to your tree every year and each year your tree would be a little bit brighter than it was previously. Getting the tree was always dad’s responsibility. Every year, old and frail grandma would knit scarves for you and all your cousins. She knew everyone’s favorite colors and you had lost count of the number of yellow scarves you owned. But you loved them all just the same.
Every Christmas, your uncle would gift books to all the children in the family because “reading books makes us empathetic, and God knows we need more of that now more than ever,” and every year that is the gift you looked forward to the most. You would often hear about your older siblings who were working or studying outside of the city during these family gatherings. The elders in the family would talk about them with a hint of pride mixed with a bittersweet longing to have them around. “I’m sure they’re having fun in the big city. They have so many shops there!” you’d say, hoping to lighten the mood and make everyone feel better. But all you’d get in return were sad smiles accompanied with, “You’ll understand when you’re older, dear.”
And you hate that you do understand it now. You understand exactly what they were talking about and you would happily trade this understanding for anything in the world. You always eagerly looked forward to the holidays, when there would be no school and no homework to do. You wish you had school now. You’d go to school every single day and do all your homework on time if it meant that you could stay in the familiar comfort of your home. How do you embrace the “holiday spirit” when all it does is remind you of the people you want to be with but can’t? How can you enjoy yourself when you’re spending holidays without family?
You never quite figured out how to bake the cookies the way your mum did (something always seems to be missing from them) and your aunt’s recipe for the perfect mashed potatoes seems to work only when she executes it. But you’re not alone in your loneliness and failed attempts at mashed potatoes. You’re not the only one missing home, even though home doesn’t really feel like yours anymore. Find solace in the fact that there are people out there who feel just as you do, who are trying their hardest to replicate their family traditions in foreign places, just so they can transport themselves back home even if it is for just a few moments.
No matter how much we crib and complain about home and try to get away from it, nothing comes close to spending these holidays with your family and loved ones. These are the times you realize how important they are. But home is not just one particular place and family doesn’t only refer to the people you are related to by blood. These words hold much more meaning than that. Throughout our lives, we build homes in several places and all of them are just as special as the ones we are born in. Whether it is in the arms of a lover, in the tiny studio apartment you rented with your own money, in the fluffy cuddles your dog showers you with, or in the dilapidated public library which houses all your favorites- home is a place where you feel at peace with yourself. It is any place where you have experienced warmth, solidarity and a sense of belonging.
I have always believed that we’re all given two families – one that we’re born in, and one that we gather throughout our life. The latter arrives into our lives at the strangest of situations and promptly makes a corner for itself in our hearts before we even realize it. This Christmas, look out for that other family- the one that comprises all the misfits but somehow is perfect for you. Look around you and you will realize that even if you don’t have your own family with you, you will always have your friends. For everyone who will be spending holidays without family this year, let’s promise to try finding them in the people around us. It could be the person in your office who always shares their stapler with you, or holds the lift for you every time you’re running to get in. It could be the neighbor who always shares with you the cakes that her mom sends for her, or the old lady downstairs who always compliments your outfits every morning on your way to work. We’re always told that the world is a terrible place and human beings are cruel, but if you look hard enough you’ll eventually learn to find your Christmas miracles even in the darkest hour. All you need to do is believe.
There is no dearth of misery in this world, each one of us lives with a baggage that sometimes gets too heavy for us to carry. This holiday season, try to help someone by relieving them of their load, even if it is temporary. We don’t have the strength of superheroes to save the world and to make it a happier place for everyone, but we do have the power to make a difference in the life of at least one person. And that’s honestly all it takes for you to become a superhero. Remember the warmth of your home and the love and laughter and happiness it seemed to be engulfed in whenever the holidays were around the corner? If that’s what you’re wishing to experience this Christmas, then take charge yourself. You are in charge of your own holiday spirit; go out of your way to make someone’s day better, volunteer at a shelter during Christmas, offer to cook up a special meal for the homeless and poor in your neighborhood, fill as many people as you can with little bits of kindness and compassion, make yourself into the home you long to go back to.
Suggested read: #Pride Month: A Love Letter To The LGBTQ Community
Being alone for Christmas and the holidays may seem like the saddest way to spend this season, but it might just turn out to be the most fulfilling and meaningful Christmas you will ever have. You’d think that spending the holidays on your own means you have to be lonely and sad, but this could be a great exercise in self reflection and growth. Growing up forces us to do a lot of things on our own, and for some reason we’ve been taught to feel miserable whenever we find ourselves in such a situation. But growing up also means being dependent on nobody but yourself for your happiness and well being; and while that may seem taxing and exhausting at times, Christmas is the perfect time to reward yourself for how far you’ve come. Reward yourself for all that you have endured throughout the year, create your own Christmas traditions and have yourself a merry little Christmas. It’s possible to feel joy by yourself, I promise.
Someone who is always rooting for you.
Featured image source: Pixabay, under Creative Commons License