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Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Will it Be Lonely This Christmas? Ho Ho Ho or Hu- Hu- Humbug?

“It’s coming on Christmas, they’re cutting down trees, they’re putting up reindeer and singing songs of joy and peace. I wish I had a river I could skate away on.” Joni Mitchell knew a thing or two about Christmas in my view. Although she goes on to sing about lost love in her song ”River” and her own failings, the mention of reindeer and singing are just as important for many people who find this time of year less than easy to get through, for whatever reason.

You don’t find “River” featured on many editions of The Best Christmas Album In the World, Ever. It’s not exactly uplifting and although the beginning of the song pays homage to Jingle Bells there’s no other evidence of jingling, bells, tinsel or untold joy, so I suppose even I have to be admit this song would be a tough sell to record executives targeting the Office Christmas Party market.

Shots, Santa, Snogging, More Shots. Now that's what I call Christmas (at the office)

Yes, River is rather unique as a Christmas song, and in one more that I can think of: it tells the truth about Christmas. There are people putting up decorations, but there are also people struggling to get through December and the holiday season.

One in four people are suffering from a mental illness right now. Which one is it?

This year, mental health charity Mind is targeting loneliness as the theme of its Christmas appeal. It makes the point that loneliness takes many forms, but the key point of all is this: you do not have to be alone to feel lonely at Christmas. Someone who has recently lost someone or has had a change of circumstances might feel lonely; but perhaps someone, or many ‘someones’, are at one of those office parties feeling like the most isolated person in the world, despite the laughing, raucous crowds around them.


For the last few years Christmas has needed to come earlier for many, I have felt. As soon as Halloween is out of the way Christmas lights, advent calendars, chocolate of course, and booze, booze, booze foretells the coming not of a child or a miracle, but the pressure to consumer more, earlier, for longer.

Poorer, more pressurised, but pretty. Pretty dangerous to think spending can make us happy.

The recession has left us poorer and more pressurised. Christmas advertisements proclaim omnipresent happiness mandatory for all, and party on party is presented in ever increasing displays of glamour and splendour. Viewers may not be dashing through the snow, but through Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Yes, even though we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in the UK we’re grasping its commerciality by both reins.

Our ability to live up to the commercial expectations we might put on ourselves dwindles with the rate of inflation year on year. However, with money such an unfashionable topic of polite conversation, I’m guessing that none of the parties being created in real life to mimic the fiction of advertising include discussions of money troubles. Hardly talk of a Christmas Carol, more like Hard Times. And what we have to hide through all of this, and pretend through makes us all lonely.

A Christmas Carol. Hard Times for Some.

My hope is that Christmas will not lead us to want to skate away but to experience Christmas realistically, or in whatever way not to make us poorer or sadder than we would anyway be. So, no jingle bells perhaps; no skating. I’d settle for a silent night.


  1. To me, Christmas has always been about family. It does not matter how tight the funds may be and I have written about that in the Best Gift - Ever which you will most definitely enjoy. Two years ago was our saddest Christmas because we lost our son and his family and the entire next year was tough. Last Christmas, it still was not the same but easier. This Christmas we will be with our daughter's in-laws and their families and I couldn't be happier. Gifts are not important. Family is.

    1. Carol, thanks for your comment. I agree that funds should not matter at Christmas. I am very sorry to hear of your loss a couple of years ago and can appreciate (though not from personal experience) what a tough time that must have been - and still must be - for your family. I'm glad that you are able to enjoy Christmas with your family and gain their support and love.

      I personally define 'family' to include very close friends, as I know several people whose families are - sadly - either absent or estranged from them, for different reasons. Because of this, loneliness can often be heightened by the feeling that one cannot fulfil what the adverts are telling us to do - that is - be happy with a family around us. I hope that people will realise that there is a family to be found in good friends (and family members, if applicable) who provide and receive our support mutually. That is what family has come to mean to me.

      I wish you and your daughters in law and families a peaceful and healthy Christmas holiday. All the best, Jessica

  2. I find it a very lonely time of year and yet I am seldom alone at Christmas. I don't like to be sat around killing time with other people killing time. It feels quite sad. There is something about enforced joy and the selling of Christmas as a time when everyone is happy and glad to be spending time with family. For an awful lot of people, its a reminder of what is missing in their lives. Its also a time when many people drink too much which doesn't go well with short days and cold weather. I'm preparing myself to grin and bear it but I will be happy when the 2nd of January is here and all the hullabaloo is over for another year!

    1. Hi Ed, thanks for your comment. I know what you mean - or at least I used to. I definitely used to feel that Christmas was about killing time, and it felt unnatural to know that other friends were in the same position as me and yet none of us felt we could do anything about it. When mobile phones became commonplace I used to text my friends on Christmas day after the 'lunch' or 'dinner' had happened and we used to stay in touch that way, which provided help while we were - as you say - 'killing time'.

      I think that sadly because of the commercialisation of Christmas people are too often reminded of the fact that they might be missing something in their lives, and you're right, adding alcohol into the mix is not a healthy way to cure misery (and it doesn't work, even if we might think it will!).

      I wish you as good a Christmas as you can have and hope that the 2nd of January brings you relief when it comes. Take care of yourself. All the best, Jessica