What to Do When Alone at Christmas

by KathleenDuffy

People have to spend Christmas on their own for many reasons. However, it need not be a lonely time. Plan ahead for a positive experience during the Christmas holidays.

Some people genuinely relish the idea of being alone at Christmas. They break open the brandy, buy delicious food for one and order their favourite DVDs. With their feet up on the sofa, the TV remote in hand and cocooned against the outside world, they are immune to the stresses, strains and madness of Christmas.

But for many, the idea of spending Christmas alone can be a daunting prospect. Therefore, it’s best to plan ahead so that Christmas Day and Boxing Day are not dates to dread. On the contrary, they can be positive, life-changing experiences.

This article is aimed mostly at people in the United Kingdom, but I hope it will help those in other countries to explore similar options in their location.

Volunteering at Christmas


The idea of volunteering at Christmas may not appeal to some people, especially those of a shy disposition or lacking in confidence. However, volunteering at Christmas is incredibly rewarding – and fun!

There are many opportunities for volunteering over the Christmas period – homeless shelters, helpline switchboards and homes for the elderly are just a few of the places where voluntary help is welcome.

Volunteers are kept so busy that there isn’t time to feel self-conscious and the people on the receiving end are very grateful to volunteers who have given up their time. This kind of activity is a real confidence booster and opens doors to new social opportunities. Some organisations offer a short training programme.

Watch a Short Video About Christmas at a Homeless Shelter

This One's in London - But this kind of volunteering opportunity could be available in your area

There are many local churches who open their doors to the homeless over the Christmas period and would really welcome volunteer help. New helpers are surprised at the cheerful, happy atmosphere they experience when volunteering at Christmas.

Here are some websites with ideas about volunteering during the Christmas Season and after:

Crisis at Christmas


The Salvation Army

Go to a Retreat House for Christmas

There are many different types of retreats available and you don't have to be of a specific religion.
Rydal Hall in the Lake District
Rydal Hall in the Lake District

Up and down the United Kingdom there are retreat houses which welcome visitors over the Christmas period. A retreat house is a place of sanctuary, often, but not always,  run by religious organisations but welcoming people of any religion or none.

The majority of retreat houses are there to serve your spiritual needs – but this does not mean that guests need to have any particular religious beliefs or join in any services. The people who run these retreat centres are very respectful of the needs of their guests and fully understand the desire for solitude.

However, there is a warm welcome for anyone wishing to join in the Christmas festivities. Above is a photograph of a beautiful retreat centre that is open in the Lake District over Christmas. You can find out more from their website.

There are many more centres of varying sizes and prices in the UK, including a Christmas Buddhist Retreat on Holy Isle, off the coast of Scotland, where you receive full board and lodging and the chance to learn meditation, for a suggested donation of £10 a day.  Here is their website.

Buddhist Centre for world peace and health on Holy Isle
Buddhist Centre for world peace and health on Holy Isle

Belmont Abbey on the border of England and Wales is another choice for a great retreat at Christmas.  It is a Catholic retreat centre which welcomes people from all denominations or none.  If you want the full on Christmas experience Belmont Abbey is a wonderful choice.


Interior of Belmont Abbey
Interior of Belmont Abbey
c. K Duffy
Belmont Abbey
Belmont Abbey
c. K Duffy

The food at Belmont Abbey is plentiful and delicious and the wine and beer flows constantly!  You can attend Midnight Mass in the beautiful abbey if you want, and during the day take a walk round the monastery gardens.  If you have a car, the surrounding countryside is stunning.

It's a Benedictine monastery so hospitality is part of the monks' culture! 

Here is the website for Belmont Abbey.

An extremely useful book which is published annually is Retreats: Programmes and Events for over 200 Retreat Centres. It is a wealth of information, not only about Christmas retreats, but year-round retreats. 

You can find this book on the Retreat Association's website.

Retreat Association Book
Retreat Association Book

Stay at a Youth Hostel For Christmas

Elterwater Youth Hostel
Elterwater Youth Hostel

Youth hostels welcome guests of all ages. They are cheerful, lively places guaranteed to ensure everyone feels included. There are some single rooms, but this might not be guaranteed.

There will be opportunities to walk in the countryside if the hostel is in a rural location, or have a quiet read, as well as games, quizzes, good food and drink and a warm atmosphere.

There could be a number of boisterous children around the place, so bear this in mind!

You can find out all about Christmas at the Youth Hostels Association website. Rates are reasonable.

Christmas Holidays for People with Disabilities

Places that are accessible and adapted for wheelchair users
The Garden of Merton House, Rhyl
The Garden of Merton House, Rhyl

Holidays for disabled people can be found through the website, Disability Holidays, here.  Many venues will cater for the Christmas season when both the disabled and their carers will welcome a break.

An example of a particularly well-liked hotel which caters for disabled guests is Merton House, Rhyl, Wales, pictured above.   Merton House is a non-profit organisation and a registered charity.

One of the great advantages for a disabled person on their own at Christmas is that Merton House offers a door-to-door transport service.  This alleviates the stress of travelling by public transport alone or driving long distances.  Once there, you will be with like-minded guests and staff who understand your needs.

Merton House has ground floor rooms which are adapted for wheelchair users and their Christmas festivities last for either five or ten days.  Their comments section suggests that this is a very popular hotel for those with disabilities. Their website is here.

Walking Holidays at Christmas with The Ramblers

Stay in the UK or go Abroad!
Buttermere and Hassness House in distance owned by Ramblers
Buttermere and Hassness House in distance owned by Ramblers

Consider taking a Christmas walking break.   The advantage is you can walk off your Christmas dinner and get out into the fresh air as well as meeting new people.

This organisation welcomes single people and they provide Christmas holidays both here and abroad.  

The Ramblers have plenty of choice if you decide to stay in the United Kingdom.  Have a look at this link here.

Lentas Marina, Crete
Lentas Marina, Crete

If you fancy going overseas there is so much to choose from including Crete, Cote d'Azur, and the island of Samos.  To look at their full list follow this link.

Planning Ahead for Christmas Alone

Böhmische Kirche am Heiligen Abend

The problem with traditional festivities such as Christmas is that the emphasis is often on the family gathering.   But not everyone fits into this criteria.  Most people are fine with this most of the time - but even the most resolute 'loners' can feel a spasm of emptiness over the Christmas period. 

If it isn't possible to be away from home over Christmas, is there a lonely person in the neighbourhood who might welcome some company - a refugee, an elderly or disabled person or a youngster who is alone? It takes courage to approach people who are both neighbours and relative strangers, but such efforts can give life a deeper meaning.

Vintage Christmas CardEven if you are not religious, visiting a church over the Christmas period and taking part in Midnight Mass and/or a carol service puts the whole thing in its true perspective. Services are held on most days over the Christmas period.  You don't have to become involved, you won't be expected to,  but you  can soak up the atmosphere, far away from the commercial madness of the outside world.


Planning ahead and being willing to try new experiences can make being alone at Christmas a positive experience.


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Updated: 07/21/2013, KathleenDuffy
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?


KathleenDuffy on 09/28/2014

Hello dustytoes - I agree, a retreat house is a great experience. I am also at the age where I like things done for me instead of by me! :)

dustytoes on 09/24/2014

I like all of these ideas for spending the holidays alone... but not alone. The idea of attending a Retreat House, where I could join in the festivities, or sit in my room, sounds perfect. I'm at the age where I like the idea of having everything done for me, for a change!

KathleenDuffy on 10/14/2013

Thanks Raintree! Appreciate your comments

Raintree on 10/14/2013

Lovely page with some really great ideas of things to do and places to go.

KathleenDuffy on 08/27/2013

Thank you ckoneyspinner! Appreciate that!

cmoneyspinner on 08/27/2013

Lovely thoughts. Reflects the true spirit of the holiday.

KathleenDuffy on 07/29/2013

Hi lilysnape - So glad you like the article and yes - retreats make a quiet and peaceful alternative to the traditional Xmas break . Thanks for your comments. :)

lilysnape on 07/29/2013

A very positive article for some great ideas. The retreats are not so costly as I expected and it is
good they take people of any/no religion.

KathleenDuffy on 06/24/2013

Jptanabe - Hi there! I can see from your photo that you'll never be alone! What a lovely companion - I suppose h/she enjoys a good movie too with a feline theme.

KathleenDuffy on 06/24/2013

Hello Brenda - I can imagine you are only too glad to put your feet up at Christmas! I too enjoy a good movie fest and nice food. Hope you make it to england some day! :)

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