The Single Woman’s Holiday Guide

Many women, like me, spend the holidays alone. Whether by choice or due to losing a companion or divorce, for some it is a difficult day. So I thought I’d write the single woman’s holiday guide.

If you’ve been a reader of home and garden blogs for long, you’ve probably discovered that the majority of bloggers are married. Possibly empty nesters, but usually married empty nesters.

In other words, you won’t find a lot of divorced women in this blogging genre. I am one of them. And I’m not EVER looking to change that.

When it comes to holidays, you won’t find a Norman Rockwell at the head of the table with knife ready to carve the turkey at my place. 

You won’t find a lipsticked Donna Reid style woman with the perfect hairdo either.

In fact, here you will find just me and the pupsters. Because I happen to like spending holidays alone.

After years and years of being a part of family holiday dinners, I bowed out. These family affairs with various in-laws and people I don’t know make me anxious.

And that’s just not how I want to spend my holiday.

However I know there are many divorced or widowed or single women who probably don’t feel as I do. Individuals who would actually welcome being with family. But for whatever reason, it isn’t in the cards any longer. 


We all know that depression can really hit hard at holiday time. It is hard for many women to feel enthusiasm when the holidays draw near.


If you are one of them, let’s look at some ways to counteract this and instead, make it a time of celebration for one. 

Plan a holiday devoted to just you (and your pets, if any). 

Then you don’t have to worry about who doesn’t eat meat or might not get along with so-and-so. You don’t have to worry about whether to serve wine because Uncle George will drink too much.

It’s just you and a day to be celebrated however you choose.

1. Decorate for an audience of one

You only have to please yourself, so let that dictate what you do in your home. Your home is your castle. If you want to hang confetti from the ceiling, do so. If you just want a small tree on a table, plan to do that.

2. Plan your holiday meal to be anything you desire

Sometimes I schedule a pick-up holiday meal from my local grocery store. Some restaurants also make up meals for you to pick up and take home the day before. I’ve done that as well.

3. Light candles or in some way make it special

Play close attention to the ambiance just as you would if you had people over. Get yourself a special magazine or book to read later in the evening. Make some hot chocolate or tea or wine.

4. Get yourself a special present to celebrate

If Christmas is the holiday, then purchase a present you really want for yourself. If you don’t want or need anything, give to a charity you truly believe in.

5. Plan to pamper yourself throughout the holiday

The best way to thwart the holiday blues is to plan for it just as you would if you were expecting a dozen people. 

Get the pets some special treats. After all, they’re part of your family.

Celebrate your holiday even if you feel a bit sad. Sadness is a part of life, as is grief. But happiness and celebration are a part of life too. 

So celebrate in your own way. As little or as much as you want.

If taking photos of nature is one of your favorite things to do, then you could plan on doing that. I’ve treated myself to an afternoon driving out to the countryside to take photos on Christmas.

The whole premise is to do it your way. Just for you! I bet if you do, the holiday won’t be as sad. Instead it will be something to look forward to.

You are worth it, you know.

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59 Comments

  1. I can't imagine spending Christmas alone. We have a very large family and they all live here in the same town. Our tradition of having them all over to our house on Christmas Eve is what I look forward to. We have a good meal and play games. We will have about 12 to 14 here as part of the family will be out of town. We will miss having Mr. Sweet with us but when I start to get sad abut it, I think of him spending his first Christmas with Jesus Christ. O what a blessing that will be.
    Hoping you have a blessed Christmas, Brenda. Much love to you.

  2. Those are all wonderful ideas, Brenda, if ever I am single again, I hope I will do all of those things. I love your attitude! One of the reasons I have always enjoyed reading your blog.

  3. Brenda….your blog helps so many of us. Thank you…Life in this day and age is not Norman Rockwell, so doing what works in your own home/situation takes the pressure off. Be happy- not stressed or pressured to be somewhere you dont want to be. I think a quiet, happy holiday is such a blessing. For those whole like a big holiday in big houses, we can be happy for them from afar 🙂

  4. Great post, I am dreading this Christmas it will be the first year I can't afford to buy my children any presents even though they are old enough to understand. Because of the money situation we haven't made any plans as such but I thought I would like to go and help feed homeless people this year. I think it will also make the kids appreciate that we still have a roof over our heads.

  5. I have spent a couple of holidays alone or with a good friend who didn't have family close by. I both liked it and disliked it. It' very different from what I experienced growing up and well into my adult years. However, I don't like dealing with all the preparations there are to having a lot of people to feed. I don't do it well and it's a strain to be organized enough to pull it off. It was easier when I was married because my husband always helped. Anyway, I think your suggestions are good. A new way to think about the holidays. And I do love being alone to just do my own thing. I've just never planned ways to make it special. I don't know what the holidays hold for me this year but if I do end up being alone I'll "have myself a merry little holiday!" Thanks to your post on the topic.

  6. My husband and I spend our holidays alone as family and children live a distance away. I was married and divorced before and my ex would take the children as his relatives lived close and mine didn’t and I couldn’t afford to travel. I made my time alone special, planning a project, getting movies, going for a healthy walk, etc. it really helped at a time when my ex loved to make me feel lonely. Being alone does not mean being lonely.

  7. I am a happy hermit. i'm also a widow for many years now. and I know what you mean about the home décor type blogs. I enjoy them but they are always usually geared for the family and entertaining groups.
    I treasure my solitude. it is so hard to convince people that you don't mind being alone. some of us actually relish it! it just doesn't compute with most people.
    I decorate my tree and have done the food thing exactly as you say here. and I usually watch 'Hannah and Her Sisters' and then I watch the old classic 'White Christmas.'
    another wonderful movie for thanksgiving watching is the beautiful re-make of Miracle on 34th Street.' it's wonderful!
    in the morning I have coffee and raisin toast while watching the Macy parade. a tradition! we can still have wonderful traditions as a single person!

    1. Sound like you have a great holiday for yourself. When I lived in TX and my ex usually worked holidays as a doctor, I stayed inside or else the neighbors would think I was alone and sad and would insist I come over. And I sure didn't want that!

  8. Its a difficult time,so much advertising portrays huge houses full of happy people and we feel like we're missing something,the drunk uncles, crabby in laws,tired overwhelmed babies and sullen teenagers never make the cut:)
    Im a widow,the eve was always a big deal for us,neighbors,food,fun….I was sad some years….now I celebrate with my son,his wife and my grandson and his inlaws but my favorite is my alone time with my decorations and my kitties:)
    Awesome post Brenda,keep them coming

  9. Thank you Brenda for this wonderful post. I am married, but my husband always plays his trumpet at a church quite far from out home. This is the first year that we are empty-nesters, so this will be the first time that I will be alone for the holidays. I was dreading it, I never thought of making it special for myself and my puppies. Now it will be fun planning something special for us. Thank you again, I really enjoy your blog!

  10. Hi Brenda It was just released l ast week that there are 66% of homes in Canada that have just one person. That’s a lot of people living alone. Thanks for the ideas. As always, you hit the nail on the head. BTW if you look at a map of the US and Canada, I live directly north of you.

  11. A wonderful, timely, thought-provoking, idea-sharing post. My daughter and her family will be visiting over the Christmas holiday and my husband's parents will be visiting over the New Year holiday. I love them all but will be looking forward to my "alone" time after the New Year holiday. Too many people for very long make me feel anxious and "crowded."

    My husband and I will be spending Thanksgiving alone and I am quite happy about that.

    Thank you again for your thoughts/ideas/suggestions for the holiday season. My husband travels extensively and I do spend a lot of time alone with my furry crew. I love and need my alone time during the week and also love my time on the weekends with my husband. My dad used to say he thought I was going to end up a hermit (but not for religious isolation). It is nice and comforting to know that I can take care of myself and entertain myself.

  12. I was a divorced mom for many years. There were holidays when my kids would be with their dad and his family for part or all of the actual holiday, and then would come back to me and I'd take them to see my family in another state. The first few years after the divorce, I would try to come up with something to do when the kids were gone, such as visit with another divorced friend whose kids were away too. Those plans usually didn't work out, because my friend's ex brought her kids home early, or she decided at the last minute to go visit her mother or something. I wouldn't have a backup plan, and I'd end up feeling down in the dumps. Once I made plans to go to a married friend's house, but seeing her kids jumping around and having fun just made me miss my kids more. So, one year, I decided to just stay home on purpose. I plopped on the couch with an afghan and watched a movie. I ate some pie and looked at the decorations. I had been afraid I would be sad to stay at home alone, but when I made the deliberate decision to do so, and it didn't happen due to cancelled plans, then it turned out to be a good experience.

  13. A wonderful post, Brenda. I too do not enjoy being in a crowd,etc.and don't mind a quiet holiday, actually prefer it! Perhaps some of the problem is the feeling that ether people – although meaning it kindly – pity your "lonely" holiday. No need to feel sorry in many cases – but our society pushes this idea of perfect families,menus, gifts. Joy can be found in other ways. So thank you for your wise words, and I hope you are feeling much better and continue to do so.
    Mary

  14. Wonderful suggestions Brenda! Although I am married, your suggestions could apply to almost anyone. The holidays can be a sad time for many people as we remember times and people that are no more. Plus I totally understand your feelings about large groups of people and all the stress related to those gatherings. Most importantly I think it is important that we do remember ourselves! Women have a way of overlooking themselves out of habit since we tend to take care of others so much of our lives. Our grown children and grandchildren come over for Christmas Day but the rest of the season it is just the two of us and our two cats. I get a special joy out of doing special things for our two cats over the holidays!

    I hope you are feeling a little better Brenda. I'm keeping you in my thoughts and prayers as you go through the medical tests.

  15. My husband has been diagnosed with a fast moving dementia. He doesn't want to go out. he just doesn't really enjoy peop le anymore, even family. In some ways he is already gone. I find myself dreading this holiday season. Thank you, Brenda for sharing. I found that and the many comments from you readers helpful.

  16. We don't have Thanksgiving here in the UK, but Christmas is coming….. We have an early Christmas celebration the first weekend in December (so I suppose we could be giving thanks for ourselves!) with several v. old friends. Yes there are two of us, but your advice is good. Do what you want to do, not what society expects. We have no children, and one elderly family member who comes to us for Christmas (aged 91). We never have a traditional Christmas Dinner – we just find a recipe we like and get ready! Such a heartbreaking time for some folks, and such effort and expense for one or two days – I like to think that we can spread some love around at other times of the year too. Have yourself the day you want, and that goes for everyone else who reads your blog.

  17. This is such great advice, Brenda. I'm going to pass this along to someone I know who has no family at all. She's divorced, never had any children and both of her parents and her brother have passed on. I feel sorry for her at these times of year. Sometimes we Skype her in at our family functions so that she can feel a part of something. She lives in Arizona, and I in Colorado.

  18. Yes, I remember when I first realized my children were no longer interested in continuing our family Christmas traditions at my hone. I was heartbroken.

    Now, fast forward 20 years, and one of them is now facing the same thing with her children, who now have spouses and are dividing their time between both families plus wanting to establish their own traditions in their home.

    I have always been welcome to spend the holidays with one of them in their home. This is good, but it still means the rest of the family is not together. And at best only lasts a few hours, sometimes with some of their spouses family or friends attending as well.

    Christmas eve is always a bad time for me as it was a festive night for family to be together, open presents, play Christmas music, and eat great food.

    I gave up having a tree or planning a nice dinner, etc. At fist I was very depressed and felt lonely, but slowly I have found ways to cope. I agree with your suggestions, they are all good ones.

    For the first time in many years, I am going to decorate for Christmas, for my own pleasure. I have purchased a small 24" lighted artificial tree and am decorating it in a woodland theme. I have also purchased some bronze deer, and a cute Santa and sleigh. I am hanging a wreath on my front door. I have purchased small token gifts for my new friends here at the senior apartments where I moved to last April.

    I will be attending Christmas dinner at one of my daughter's homes, and have discovered that I actually prefer this to entertaining at my home, as I can leave and go home when the noise becomes too much, as I am like you in some ways, I can only endure crowds for a certain length of time and then I must have my peace and quiet. Solitude has become my friend and I no longer get as lonely as I used to.

    This was a great post Brenda, and very timely with the holidays soon upon us.

  19. What a wonderful post, Brenda. The holidays can be such a difficult time for a lot of people. There are so many expectations. I love your advice to make the season your own. We should all heed those words whether we spend the days alone or not.

    1. Sometimes we just fall into doing what everyone else seems to be doing. I did the same thing when younger. But as I got older, I asked myself why I had to follow tradition. Make my own now!

  20. My mom is still with me and no other relatives have been in our area for many years. We always have quiet holidays and I wouldn't want it any other way. My mom can't shop out or online, so I pick out a few things for myself and she wraps them up for Christmas. May sound silly, but it works for us. We have foods that are just what we want and with the least fuss to make. Always gifts for the fur babies. I always want my mom to have a nice holiday. One day I will be alone too for holidays, but I see it going just like you do for yourself. Just me and my pets making it a special day for just us.

  21. I am a widow,I live alone. My children are all married. We live in the same town. I decorate my home and try my best to put on a joyful front. We gather together for the holidays. I love being with them. BUT, I am alone. Alone is alone. The holidays are an extremely hard time for me. The anxiety is already building inside of me. I will move forward with a smile. Try my best to enjoy the season, all the time feeling very alone. Nice post Brenda.

  22. What a thought provoking post! I live alone and always host the family holiday festivities (Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas). Like Bonnie, I measured my worth by my service to others. Serving a crowd can be physically taxing as well as expensive. Then there are the personality conflicts that sometimes arise. This year everyone is still welcome, but I will do things with my own "blessings and enjoyment" in mind.

    1. I think we women always measured our worth by how big and great a celebration we arranged. I did too when I was younger. But I've changed my view.

  23. Great ideas. I am married and have 1 married daughter and a 19 year old son still at home. I always tried hard to make Christmas a special time for everyone; to create traditions and meaningful memories. I recently got a sucker punch to the gut in learning from 2 family members that the things I did really didn't matter (in a nutshell … it's a much longer story … and they aren't mean people … and I don't believe their words were intended to hurt me). As a wife and mom, a good portion of my self-worth comes from the nurturing, serving, and loving of my family. Major "ouch" moment in that the things I THOUGHT that THEY thought were important … aren't. Trying to learn new lessons and figuring out how to find my own blessings and enjoyment this year … just for me. Celebrating alone is not unappealing! Merry Christmas and joy and blessings to those who struggle during the "happiest time of the year!"

  24. A few years ago, in a particular sad, alone time when I felt no desire to decorate & no one to see or no food sounded of interest, i went to a local store. Not to buy, but to enjoy sights and sounds of season. A time of replenishment. I left with no purchases but filled with renewal that I was fine, just as I was.

  25. Thanks for these wonderful ideas. I too am a divorced woman alone and as much as I enjoy being by myself, it can be hard on the holidays. This year I will make it a special day for me.

  26. Oh my goodness Brenda what a wonderful post! Yes I have a husband and a very nice one, we are friends as well as husband and wife but we do hate holidays with most of our relatives still in England and our son well you know that story. I have to say I never bother to decorate but we do plan a holiday meal and usually watch a bunch of movies. I have made a Christmas cake this year as I love fruit cake and have put marzipan on the top and then icing. My husband loves English trifles so I make one of those. This year we will be having a vegan 'beef' wellington with Brussel sprouts cooked in marmalade and roast potatoes. Sorry I have gone on a bit, but just to say it is nice just to please ourselves. Hope you are feeling better Brenda, I think of you often.

    1. And you know my other daughter's story. But we have to press on and take care of ourselves. And it sounds like you and your husband have a great plan!

  27. Great words of advice for those who are in that situation. Another idea if you don't want to be completely alone is to volunteer at a soup kitchen and help serve meals to the homeless or a women's shelter. Reach out to local charities and participate in whatever way big or small they are helping families in need, etc… reaching out to help others who are going through a crisis or are less fortunate in whatever way can take the lonely out of the holidays, enhance the true meaning.

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