Alle kan komme ud for livsændringer og sidde alene juleaften.
Do you know someone who will spend Christmas alone – then do something about it
Everyone can face life changes and end up spending Christmas Eve by themselves.
There is something special about celebrating Christmas – at least if you have a family you can celebrate with.
Maybe you just got divorced, maybe you moved to to a new country or state in December, maybe you have made some life choices that make your family no longer want to be around you.
When we think of someone spending Christmas alone, we often think about older people. But many other age groups spend the night alone, a night that is supposed to be about love.
Even though I am now in a place in my life where I love the Christmas month, Christmas is still filled with a great sadness that always shows up at some point during the Christmas preparations. A sadness that is multilayered. Because, I have a family that is well and alive who wanders around the streets and alleys of Denmark, but with whom I will never celebrate Christmas.
Last night I dreamed that I lived in a studio apartment and was making ends meet cleaning a steakehouse called Niels Ebbesens Bøfhus in the Danish town of Randers. In my dream, I had left Jehovah’s Witnesses, and it was Christmas Eve. I suddenly found myself outside a church, where author and pastor Kristian Ditlev Jensen gave a sermon. To my great astonishment, I had trouble finding the Bible scriptures my fingers used to be able to automatically find.
Kristian Ditlev Jensen stood behind his pulpit and spoke of love and inclusion with a warmth that made me envy his audience. Once in a while he broke out in song, and he sometimes even joked with his congregation. I didn´t understand why the church was only halfway filled. The atmosphere was with its atmosphere in stark contrast to the Kingdom Hall, which has made me sunburnt towards all religion.
But here I stood, still in my dream. Neither inside nor outside the church. It does not exactly require a degree in psychology to understand what my dream was about.
If I lift my gaze from the perspective of my own belly button, I think what I experienced in my dream is how many who are spending Christmas alone see their situation. To be between two points physically or mentally. To be in transition, on the way from one place to another in life. And that situation is filled with loneliness, especially on Christmas Eve.
Many years ago, I made a choice that resulted in me spending Christmas eve alone. Simply put, I had insisted on the right to think freely — and for that, I was punished. That kind of independent thinking, Jehovah’s Witnesses cannot accept.
My choice meant a social deprivation. The interpretation of love in the sect is that when one steps out of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ belief system, the consequence is that a ubiquitous exclusion will make that person realize that he or she did something wrong. The method works. Many come crawling, broken and destroyed back to the fold.
On Christmas Eve, I am reminded that I do not have an extended family and that I will never have one. We never set the table for my children’s grandmother or for my sisters and their children. Not a single one of the presents under the Christmas is from my side of the family.
Christmas is also difficult when you do not have a family network behind you. Therefore, loneliness can be felt twice when celebrating with a family that is not one’s own.
Many others experience similar feelings. Some have lost family members. Losses of one kind or another leaves a mark. Life forces us to learn to live with difficult emotions.
But Christmas is also difficult when you do not have a family network behind you, because Christmas Eve is the most untouchable of all evenings in Denmark. Therefore, loneliness can be felt twice when celebrating with a family that is not one’s own. It is an evening where many do things in a very special way and are not willing to change family traditions. Although a family situation is dynamic and changing, traditions are not.
Therefore, I am calling on all Danes. If you are aware that someone is spending Christmas alone, then do something about it. Maybe it’s too big a step for you to invite that person to your home on Christmas Eve. But you could write a Christmas card, bring them cookies, invite them for a glass of wine, or just let the person know you see him or her.
I was once invited home to a college friend on Christmas Eve. But I declined the invitation. That is how deep the feeling of Christmas as something very close to the family relationship was. I simply did not, as an outsider felt I had the right to a seat at the table.
I will never lose the inherent loneliness and a feeling of not quite belonging that I carry with me. But I do not think, I am the only one carrying that burden. Especially, on Christmas Eve the feeling can be overwhelming.
Therefore, everyone who can should act and not just shrug and turn away to rejoice with their families. Reach out, give a little of yourself – maybe someday you will need the same charity.