By choice or chance, there are millions of people who will be spending the holidays alone. It’s natural to feel emotional during Christmas time; more so if it’s going to be a solitary Christmas. But even if you are by yourself, there are tons of ways to enjoy the festive season. The upside is that you don’t have to deal with preparing an elaborate meal or rushing about trying to take care of guests.A solitary Christmas is the perfect excuse to be a little selfish and celebrate your independence. London is a great destination to get festive and there are loads of things you can do by yourself in this vibrant city. Here are some ways to survive Christmas as an expat alone in London.
Join an expat club
This one is for those who are alone at Christmas, but would like to enjoy the company of others. Joining an expat club as a new expat in London is the perfect way to make new friends. London consists of several neighborhoods, each with its own social clubs, associations or societies where like-minded people can gather together to share common interests. Most clubs and associations are likely to have some kind of event or celebration at Christmastime.
London can get cold and snowy around Christmas time. This is great weather to simply stay indoors and get comfortable. You can slip into your favorite pajamas and have a movie marathon all day. List out your movie favorites and enjoy watching them one after another. You can even select a television series you’ve been interested in, and binge watch it. To improve the mood further, maybe throw in some sitcoms or comedy series. Another great way to stay engaged is to watch a foreign film with subtitles and practice your language skills. If you’re more of a book lover, snuggle up with a beloved book and read away. You can even listen to an audiobook while curled up on the couch. Make a quick snack to go along with your activity, such as cookies and hot cocoa. And for some additional self-pampering, adorn a homemade facemask while you watch or read.
An important part of Christmas celebrations is decorating the home. It’s a great way to get into the Christmas spirit and brighten up the place. If you haven’t packed any decorations, go out and buy some new ones. If you like making things, you can even make your own decorations for a more personal touch. Don’t forget to put up a tree, and also place some lights out the front, to lend some Christmas cheer to passers-by. If you’re an expat living in a hotel or a place that’s not your own, you can still put up some simple decorations.
Christmas can be a great time to unleash your inner creative genius. Explore your passion, whether it be baking or knitting or craft. Try a new recipe, or take up painting. You can even make paper snowflakes to adorn your home. The aim is to try something different and memorable. When you’re done cooking or crafting, you can get out your paper and pen and write notes to near (or far!) and dear ones. In these times of instant electronic communication, it’s delightful to receive a personal handwritten note in the mail. It’s an ideal way to spend your time fruitfully, and also make someone else’s day when they receive your warm handwritten note.
Explore the outdoors
If you’re more of an outdoorsy type and prepared to walk for a bit, take a map of the city and choose any place you like. To add more of a surprise element, close your eyes and point to a spot on the map. London has a few buses and trains working on Christmas day. Walk or commute to the place and see what you find. Usually busy places like Oxford Street are more or less empty and tranquil on Christmas day, and there’s a certain kind of magic in experiencing London’s streets in silence. You can also take in the sights of the shop windows, all done up for Christmas.
Another way to spend a solitary Christmas is to volunteer at a shelter, hospital or soup kitchen. This is a great way to share and spread the festive cheer. Your own Christmas will not be so solitary anymore, and you can even make someone else’s day by simply spending time with them. If you’re feeling a bit low for being alone at Christmas, volunteering will also bring your situation into perspective. There are dozens of people spending Christmas alone in places such as homeless shelters and old age homes, and helping out at these places will enable you to make other people’s Christmases special. Christmas usually brings out the best in people and you can use some of this cheer to brighten up someone else’s Christmas. You can even volunteer at a local animal shelter. Another heartwarming tradition you can start is to invite someone else who is lonely for a Christmas meal with you.
Go on a walking tour
London is a big city with a number of interesting sights, and exploring the city can sometimes be overwhelming for new expats. But with a knowledgeable guide, the city’s history and culture come to life. There are different types of walking tours ranging from foodie excursions to musical jaunts. London has some of the best walking tours scheduled around Christmas time and this is an excellent way to spend the day, and explore your new city. Since the streets are mostly empty, you can make the most of the city sights. Most walking tours end at a cozy pub for a drink, which marks a great ending to a well-spent Christmas day.
Some of the best London walking tours include ‘Hampstead: Making a Modern World’, which explores the lives and work of the most renowned personalities of the last century who called Hampstead home, such as John Keats, George Orwell and Sigmund Freud. Another interesting walking tour is the London end-to-end walk by the Thames. It begins in Hampton Court Palace and traverses the river up to the Thames Barrier. A particularly festive walking tour is the Christmas Carol Walking tour that takes you through the alleyways and courtyards haunted by Ebenezer Scrooge, the star of the beloved Charles Dickens’ novel ‘A Christmas Carol’. It begins at Monument Station and finishes at St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Have a hearty Christmas meal
Christmas by yourself means that you can prepare and eat all of your favorite foods. Just because you are alone doesn’t mean that you should forgo a delicious meal. Stock up on ingredients in advance and cook yourself a hearty Christmas dinner. If traditional recipes are your thing, make them yourself. You can cook smaller portions or keep the leftovers for the following days. If you don’t like cooking, you can order in some food. Ask if your favorite restaurants have a special Christmas meal on offer. Remember to leave space for desserts, maybe something you remember enjoying at home or else some traditional Christmas pudding. Take things up a notch by setting the dinner table with a special tablecloth and candles. Remember that it’s easy to overeat when you’re celebrating on your own. Also, as well as the Christmas cocktails, make sure to drink enough water.
Connect with family and friends
Just because you are away from your loved ones doesn’t mean that you can’t send them your love and best wishes. There are a multitude of options available such as calling, texting, email and Skype. With just a few clicks you can be on Skype, seeing familiar faces. You can even watch them open up presents you sent them or sit at the family table watching them have their meal. If you don’t have access to the Internet or Wi-Fi, you can schedule a time to call home. Doing these things will help you stay connected with those who matter and make your Christmas special. Remember to buy a calling card to save money.
It takes a love for adventure and excitement about new cultures to become an expat. It’s a good idea to remind yourself of this during the holidays. The experience of spending Christmas alone may be a new and unfamiliar experience, but you can still bring that same sense of adventure and explore your new city. Embrace all that London has to offer. Spend time taking in the sights and sounds of the city. You can even find out when London’s neighborhoods are turning on their Christmas lights, and pay them a visit. Many neighborhoods also have Christmas parties that you can attend.
London’s outdoor ice rinks look almost magical around Christmas time, with decorations and lit up trees set against the stunning backdrops of the city’s architecture. You don’t even have to actually ice skate if you don’t want to, because taking in the sights is a rewarding experience in itself. If you like ice-skating, you can glide away at any of London’s beautiful ice rinks. The Somerset House Ice Rink is one of London’s best ice rinks. Skate by day in the spectacular courtyard or visit after dark for the popular Club Nights where many international DJs play their music. The ice rink also has a skate school where newbies can attend a series of skating lessons over the weekend. Another much loved ice rink is the Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park. Surrounding this ice rink are carousels, fairground rides and a Christmas market. Winter Wonderland is done up with nearly 100,000 lights and has a Victorian bandstand at the center.
Watch The Nutcracker
Running from 14th December to January 7th, the English National Ballet will perform The Nutcracker, a tradition that has continued since 1950. It has over 100 dancers and musicians participating and some of the most beautiful sets against which you can see some elegant dancing, to the tune of Tchaikovsky’s eternal score. The story begins on a glittery Christmas Eve in snowy Edwardian London when Clara and her enchanted Nutcracker explore a magical world. Performed at the London Coliseum, the entire performance from the orchestra tuning up to the finale is a memorable Christmas treat.
Visit Christmas Markets
The festive season would be incomplete without Christmas markets. London has a wide variety of Christmas markets to explore. One of the most popular Christmas markets in London, and also the busiest, is the one outside the Southbank Centre. Taking place from mid-November to January 8th, the market even has a 21-acre site filled with Nordic-style chalets offering food, beverages and presents. For those who prefer a more subdued setting, ‘Christmas by the River’, from November 30th to January 3rd, is the ideal place. It is a sophisticated affair by The Scoop amphitheater without the usual crowds that are characteristic of Christmas markets. Scenic wooden chalets are set up along the stretch of the Thames outside Tower Bridge, selling everything from handcrafted gifts to festive eats. There is even a winter-themed bar!
Host a party
Everyone loves a great party, so why not host one of your own. You can invite colleagues, other expat friends, neighbors and any local friends you may have made during your time in London. It’s a great way to share traditions. Plan in advance so that you don’t get overwhelmed. You can set the time and duration depending on your guests’ preferences as well as yours. You can even throw a party for one (yourself!). Start by taking a relaxing bubble bath and then dress up a bit. Stock up on food and drinks, and get out your best tableware. Play some festive music and even buy yourself a present to open!
Have compassion for yourself
One of the best things you can do for yourself when you are alone at Christmas is to acknowledge how you feel. You may be missing your family and friends back home, and it’s important to acknowledge that it’s perfectly natural to feel a mix of emotions.