How To Romanticize Being Solo for the Holidays

feature image photo by HollenderX2 via Getty Images

In the past, even though I might have avoided many major holidays with my family, I at least often had a queer partner who had vaguely similar experiences with the holidays, who was somewhat equally interested in carving out our own space. Similarly, as a witch and pagan of 20+ years, I’ve also always held in some ways to the reconstructed vestiges of Yule traditions that, if anything, make the consumerism and exploitation and waste of the Christmas season in the U.S. look like a pile of hot, plastic garbage. So, then, being in a situation where I am not spending the Christmas holiday with a partner or with family, where I’m going it solo, shouldn’t be that hard, right?

Nope, actually. Going it solo for Christmas is turning out to be annoyingly emotional. Something having to do with my inner child, probably. (I’m asking Krampus to come get my inner child I think. I’ve had it with this weepy little thing.) However, what’s helped immensely has been romanticizing the whole affair. If left unchecked, I can tend toward a sloppy kind of bachelorism, toward eating whatever I have on hand, not decorating, not doing anything special. But, no, this year, I do want to make sure I have as nice of a Yule (and Christmas) season as is possible, by romanticizing my solo experience of the holigay. And if I’m doing that, you can, too.

Shifting Your Attitude

On “Thanksgiving,” I called my family because my grandpa would be in the same room as everyone else, and my sister took on the job of carrying the video call around on her phone so I could say hello to everyone. In a less-than-ten-minute call, I immediately received a guilt-tripping from my dad, in front of everyone. I told a friend about this, to which he threw his hands up in the air, equally frustrated with his own family shit, and said, “And then they wonder why you don’t visit for the holidays!”

In sessions with my therapist, in talks with queer and trans friends, there are few things thornier or more fraught than the topic of family, of getting along with them and spending time with them, being various levels of out or not with them, of what we give up of ourselves, our self-respect, our political values when we bend and contort ourselves to spend time with our blood connections. My therapist has said something really useful to me, which is that I need to work on disappointing people, that not being further injured by my family is perhaps actually important to my mental health.

If you’re taking a break from holigays with family, or it’s not an option, or you’re finding you’re single or that your partner(s) are busy or with their given families and you don’t have anything with friends planned, either, and you don’t have children — that’s okay! You are neither Scrooge nor are you “The Little Match Girl.” (What is wrong with Hans Christian Andersen? I mean, I know he was often being a dramatic queen, but this story wrecked three-year-old me!) You are just you, and you are enough, and you don’t owe anyone your time around the holidays. You are perfectly capable of romanticizing your life for a little period in December.

A Little Decor Goes a Long Way

This year, I went to Lowe’s and got a tree. A worker at this particular Lowe’s, in fact, once refused service to my ex-girlfriend and me. He was an angry-looking skinhead type. Anyway, once I got help from a couple of alt-looking people at customer service, they sent me back to the tree area where I played “Alt Right or Just Alternative” with the dude putting a fresh cut on my cheap little tree. Based on the way he just grunted at me and my prior experiences with the store…might have to go with the former. Did I want to go to a family-owned lot? Yes. Did I run out of time and energy and also need things from Lowe’s for working on my house? Also, yes.

But I got a tree! A wee little tree! And I put it in the tree stand I thrifted, and it’s now standing up in my living room, drinking water and shedding pine needles and smelling good and everything. I’m planning to make some dried orange garlands and some witchy little decorations out of sticks and brush, and with a few twinkling lights, I’m sure it’s going to make the room that much more charming.

You don’t have to go all out, but if you tidy up and make or put up even just one or two decorations to serve as focal points, I can guarantee you’ll feel both more in charge of your own experience and like the nights are a little less dark. And perhaps the nights are also less dark because you’ve got sparkly lights. Who’s to say?

Food Is Important

Now, I don’t think you have to go all out and get real expensive with things, but I do think a little intentionality with your grocery shopping this time of year can go a long way when it comes to making things romantic. Buy a pomegranate and add the seeds to a plate of cheese and crackers. Try a few new recipes. Make sure when you’re serving food for yourself, your plating is pleasant on the eye and you feel like your own aesthetic sensibilities are worth taking a few extra moments. Even pausing to sprinkle a few raisins and some cinnamon on your oatmeal in a way that looks cute this time of year will make you feel more like things are special, and like you, loved one, are special, too.

So Are Your Favorite Holiday Specials

Am I going to arrange a time to watch The Muppet Christmas Carol with my sister over video call sometime this year? Absolutely. You can also return to your favorites! There are no rules! It’s whatever you want to watch. Watch all the Bob’s Burgers or Star Trek Christmas episodes or unearth whatever cursed Christmas special you vaguely remember from your childhood and want to see. YouTube remains a wild place. Is there a movie that gives you weird feelings that you want to avoid? Forget it ever existed! This is about you and whatever is going to make you smile during a night in when you’re eating the aforementioned “nice food.”

Remember You’re Not Alone In This

Lots of people are hanging out solo this year, too! I know many “liberal” families have decided they’re going to accept the gays now, but certainly not everyone has that when it comes to family. Some people have abusive parents who they’ve gone no contact with or myriad other reasons for not spending time with families this season. Lots of people are also single or solo poly with no plans for the holiday itself, and that can mean feeling a bit sidelined when it comes to such a nuclear-family-oriented celebration.

Put Events on Your Calendar

That said, queers have always found a way. If you’re looking for someplace to go on Christmas itself, I’d check local queer orgs and, also, if you feel comfortable going to a bar, gay bars. Some of the older ones will have holiday parties on Christmas because they’ve operated through times where no one was going back to their families.

Aside from the day itself, the holiday season is absolutely CHOCK FULL OF EVENTS. In Pittsburgh where I live, there are queer holiday craft markets and pictures with Krampus at a brewery and drag shows and so on. I’ve already noted several upcoming events and reached out to folks I knew would be around to see if they want to go with me. Be on the lookout, make sure you’re following local businesses on Instagram, and ask around to find out what other people are up to!

Even in rural areas without queer-specific programming, you can certainly find a holiday market where you can get some hot apple cider and walk around. Christmas villages are popping up everywhere. If you start digging, you’re sure to find local listicles talking about where you can go to witness an annual gingerbread house contest or see a choir perform.

Finally, COVID is still very much a thing, but I have a very Romantic suggestion for you if you need outdoor activities and live in a cold area, and that is finding out if there is a local temporary ice skating rink anywhere. Where I’m at, they freeze one up downtown, and surrounding it is a winter market with gift and hot cocoa vendors, etc. Even if you don’t want to skate, you can head down, wander around, grab a hot drink, and watch small children run around and scream.

The important thing is to find something to do, and then to get out there and do it! Even if it feels cheesy, it’s important to break routine and get out. Plus, a lot of these things are free or cheap because they’re hoping to sell gifts, so if you’re not buying, you can go and mostly enjoy the atmosphere.

Find the Lights. Literally.

There are a lot of options for this! Everyone from local theme parks to botanic gardens to downtown shop displays is lit up this time of year. No matter what you choose, getting around some sparkle, maybe pulling your inner child out of Krampus’ sack for a peek at some holiday lights, is going to make you feel like the center of your own magical holiday journey.

You can go for a paid route, where depending on where you’re going and what the other activities are, your costs will vary. This could include theme park tickets, for example, or it might be a drink at a ridiculously decorated bar, or it might be paying for one of those light shows you drive through. Or, on the low cost to free end, you can find a good neighborhood (even your own) to walk around in the evening and just ogle everyone’s decor. Get weird! Watch someone’s inflatable snowman move for a while. They put it out there. Don’t they want people to look? You can repeat this evening walk technique as many times as you need to in order to feel Romantic. It also works in a rural setting, but this time, with looking at the natural world, the sparkle of moonlight on ice, perhaps, and reveling in nature’s mystery and the changing seasons.

No matter what, I know that you’ve got this. A huge part of romanticizing your life while going it solo during the holidays is being intentional and not letting time slip by you. Make plans for yourself because you’re important! Sending you so much love!

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Nico Hall is Autostraddle's and For Them's Membership Editorial and Ops Dude, and has been working in membership and the arts for over a decade. They write nonfiction both creative and the more straightforward variety, too, as well as fiction. They are currently at work on a secret project. Nico is also haunted. You can find them on Twitter and Instagram. Here's their website, too.

Nico has written 227 articles for us.


  1. I have very fond memories of the Christmasses I’ve spent alone – I hope the same will prove true for you, too. What I liked best was just how relaxed I could be: I ate exactly what I fancied, I laid in treats for myself, some of which I even wrapped and put under the tree, I watched all the good Christmas day telly, had a walk and read a book curled up under a duvet on the sofa. Many people assumed I’d be feeling lonely or rejected but I was actually very happy just to hang out and have fun without being the emotional and conversational mediator whilst also being the designated pastry chef and tech support, gift shopper and wrapper for the disinclined, and also tired and impecunious from travelling very long distances. Minor key solo holidays for the win, in my opinion.

  2. i’m full on in a lonely pit rn, i.a. since learning yesterday that friends with whom i was expecting to have a cook out, will be out of town.
    but what you wrote abt being intentional, and if it only is making a tiny anti-bachelor-mode effort made me nod in approval and gave me a glimmer of strength.

    • Yes! And I don’t know why your friends had to go out of town, but things happen, and it’s not a reflection on you. <3 You've got this. Anything you can do to take care of yourself and show yourself a good time this holiday season is better than just "bachelor mode." You're strong! I know it! Sending you so much love!

  3. Thanks for this Nico – your pieces have really helped me settle into a place self-love and community during this more solo chapter of my life. Wishing you a wonderful holiday season full of beautiful lights!

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