5 People on Why They’re Spending the Holidays Alone
12.22.17

There is a definite stigma attached to the idea of spending the winter holidays alone. It’s reinforced by movies like The Holiday wherein single women lament the prospect of a solo Christmas, general hype around gift-giving and all the other cultural clichés that seem to tell the same, repetitive story: If you’re alone this time of year, your life is lacking.

Like most stigmas, this one is due for a check-up. I asked five people spending the holidays alone in different parts of the world to share their particular reasons for doing so and what highs and lows they predict will come from the experience. No two answers were the same, and that’s what I love about lifting the hood on a preconceived notion and polishing away the rust of stereotype. The collective gleam underneath almost always tells a different story.


Kasumi Mizoguchi

Kasumi is a 25-year-old sales consultant at a software-as-a-service company in Tokyo.

What holiday(s) are you spending alone, and why?

I’m spending Christmas and New Year’s Eve alone this year. I live in Japan, and Christmas is actually marketed as a “couples” holiday here, so many of my friends spend Christmas with their significant others. It is comparable to Valentine’s Day in the U.S.: an occasion for a romantic dinner for two. You’ll see a lot of “gift guides for your significant other” and date ideas on magazines and TV programs in December. People talk about being single this time of year as something tragic!

Having spent time living in the U.S., my family still celebrates Christmas the American way — presents under the tree, a big homemade dinner and a cake — but because my parents happen to be moving back to the U.S. this month, I’ll be solo. It’s not that big of a deal; in fact, in the past, since Christmas isn’t a public holiday here, I’m used to treating it like any other day.

New Year’s, on the other hand, is a major family holiday in Japan. Everyone spends time with their parents or distant relatives, eats traditional New Year’s food called osechi, pays a visit to the shrine, etc. This year will be my first time spending New Year’s alone.

What are you planning to do?

Not much. Maybe cook myself dinner and read or watch a movie? Get a big thing of mint chocolate chip ice cream? The world is my oyster.

What about the experience do you think will be most challenging?

I doubt I’ll find it challenging. I guess it may seem a bit sad to some people, but Christmas in particular has no significance to me.

What about the experience are you looking forward to?

No stress, no fuss, no nothin’.


Molly Simeone

Molly is a 23-year-old registered nurse who works in a neonatal intensive care unit in Boston. 

What holiday(s) are you spending alone, and why?

I’ll be spending Christmas Eve and Christmas Day alone. I’m scheduled to work December 23rd-26th. I have worked during the holidays before, but at the time I lived in Connecticut where my family is and was still able to see them and celebrate after my shifts. I’ve moved since, so this year is the first time I will be truly alone. My roommate is also a nurse, but we are working different shifts — when I leave work for the night, she’ll just be clocking in.

What are you planning to do?

I’m working 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We’re having a big potluck and doing Secret Santa at work, which will be fun. My floor really goes all-out for the holidays. It definitely helps to have a “work family” when I can’t be near my actual family.

I don’t have any crazy plans after my shifts. I’ll come home, make dinner, shower and go to bed relatively early — lame, I know! My parents usually buy my sister and me new festive pajamas to wear Christmas Eve. It sounds cheesy, but I’ll probably put on an old pair just to stick with tradition.

What about the experience do you think will be most challenging?

Coming home to an empty apartment. To me, the holidays are about family, and being apart from mine will be hard. I’m sure they will try to FaceTime me into their celebrations, but it’s not the same.

What about the experience are you looking forward to?

I’m looking forward to being present for my patients and their families. While it is hard to work during the holidays, it’s even harder to be a patient in a hospital during this time of year. Since I work with newborn babies, they’ll be celebrating their very first Christmas in the hospital. We will do something special so it feels like Christmas for them, like make a craft with all of their footprints. Some of the babies are small enough that we can fit them in Christmas stockings, so we’ll do that and take a photo for their parents. We’ll also cover their isolettes (newborn infant incubators) with festive holiday quilts.


Julia Knolle

Julia is the 35-year-old co-founder and editor-in-chief of Hey Woman!, a web destination for smart and savvy women based in Berlin.

What holiday(s) are you spending alone, and why?

Christmas has never been my favorite holiday. Growing up, I had to split the day between the homes of my parents, who are separated. Eventually, I convinced them I needed this time to myself to recharge from work. After eight years of doing so, they now understand and fully accept this decision, which makes it way easier for me.

I also don’t subscribe to the tradition of forced gift-giving. There are so many other ways you can express that you care about someone. I occasionally visit my family after Christmas, but I only bring a present if I have a particularly good idea. If not, my homemade sweets will do.

What are you planning to do?

The Friday before Christmas, I plan to celebrate by finally leaving the office (which has been my second home for the last 12 months since I never got a real summer break). I’ll jump straight into my black leggings and ideally avoid wearing normal pants or jeans for the next two weeks, or makeup of any kind.

I have a pile of books begging to be read and a list of TV series I want to watch. I can’t think of anything more luxurious than being able to do yoga or go on a run almost every day of the week, whenever the mood strikes. Plus, I’ll have so much time to prepare healthy food, sleep as much as I please and get back into green tea to replace the slight coffee addiction that has slipped into my daily work routine again. I’m planning to put my phone away and on silent mode as much as possible.

What about the experience do you think will be most challenging?

Since this is my favorite time of the year, there is no challenge in sight.

What about the experience are you looking forward to?

As selfish as it sounds, I’m most excited about focusing on myself. The holidays provide a rare window of time in which I can really do that. Everyone else will be busy skiing, sunbathing or seeing their families, so no one will be offended when I go off the grid. After two weeks of unplugging, I think I will actually look forward to returning to work.


Travis Weaver

Travis is a 27-year-old stylist and designer living in Brooklyn. 

What holiday(s) are you spending alone, and why?

I am staying in New York for Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Though I’ve previously spent the holidays apart from my family in Michigan (my boyfriend of seven years is from Australia, so we often go there or Europe for the holidays), this year will be the first time I’m spending them completely alone.

What are you planning to do?

I am planning on sewing my FW18 collection for my brand One DNA. In addition to designing and creating my own clothes, I also have a full-time 9-5 job, so I am taking advantage of the time off to sew. I will probably cook a vegan chili for myself to eat on Christmas Eve and Christmas.

What about the experience do you think will be most challenging?

I am someone who loves to be surrounded by people all the time. It will be challenging to not have human interactions since all my friends will be away, too. I might visit Prospect Park to get outside and see other humans, or maybe I’ll go ice-skating.

Not having a New Year’s Eve kiss will also be a challenge. My boyfriend will be in Australia with his family, so I will not get to physically kiss him, but we plan to FaceTime at midnight to say cheers. This will be our first New Year’s Eve apart since we started dating.

What about the experience are you looking forward to?

I’m looking forward to sewing. It’s my passion, but I don’t always have the time to devote to it during the busy workweek. Every time I sew, I learn something new about my machine.

I also look forward to snacking on all of my favorite foods (specifically chips and salsa, hummus with pita, and oatmeal raisin cookies) and watching TV or movies (Black Mirror is on my list, as is The Killing of a Sacred Deer).


Tiago Valente

Tiago is a 38-year-old multidisciplinary artist and creative director living in New York City.

What holiday(s) are you spending alone, and why?

I’m spending Christmas Eve and Christmas Day alone, the perfect occasion to have a lovely date with my inner Grinch. I currently have no plans on the horizon and am therefore open to whatever my Grinchy side might desire. In the past, I’ve always tried to spend the holidays somewhere by the ocean. Part of my family is Brazilian, and I grew up following the Brazilian New Year’s Eve tradition of jumping over seven waves, one straight after the other. It’s a tribute to Yemanjá, the goddess of the sea. For each jump, you are allowed to make one wish for the new year. Even though I won’t be in Brazil this year, I guess the ocean is only a train ride away on the wonderful LIRR!

As a global nomad and researcher, I’ve spent the holidays alone in the past, but I’ve tried to reverse the stigma of doing so by seeking out compelling and memorable creative adventures. I’ve traveled to the middle of the jungle, coexisted with tribal groups, learned how to talk to volcanoes and developed art interventions in some of the world’s most unexpected places. However, this year, I choose to stay in New York City, and it’s just starting to hit me that everyone else will be gone…ugh. I’m trying to reframe it in my mind as an opportunity to continue my personal tradition of taking a situation that might seem sad or lonely on the surface and transform it into an exciting new adventure. My creative juices are already boiling in the kitchen.

What are you planning to do?

I’m going to immerse myself in a new adventure of public intervention and “invade” some spots around the city with a new art project. I can’t reveal much about it yet as it would ruin the surprise, but stay alert and start paying attention to the hashtag #talktoyouralterego.

What about the experience do you think will be most challenging?

The freezing cold weather! Give me tropical mosquito bites instead of runny noses and cold hands, please.

What about the experience are you looking forward to?

One of the most valuable lessons I have learned over the course of my past adventures is that creativity is a universal language that transcends any cultural, social or emotional barrier. Creativity brings communities together and initiates conversations. That’s why I am not worried about being “alone,” because aloneness is just empty space waiting to be filled with unexpected encounters and wonderful conversations. And you know what? I am ready to savor every little second of it. Ciao, Grinch!

Illustrations by Ana Leovy

Get more Pop Culture ?