Christmas is the time of year when families and friends get together to mark a joyous occasion – the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. But just as the “first family” was alone in a manger on that first Christmas morn, countless numbers of people across the country will find themselves similarly isolated, by choice or by happenstance.
If you’re fine being alone on Christmas, then you’re all set. But, if you prefer to be with others, then finding things to do on one of the quietest days of the year can be a bit of a challenge. Look around – you may find that things aren’t as still as you thought they were – with opportunities awaiting you on December 25.
1. Candlelight Services – Some churches will be holding services on Christmas Day, with a handful offering candlelight services at the crack of dawn. If you’re an early riser and enjoy Christmas carols, then this can be a great way for you to start your Christmas. If you prefer to sleep in, late morning services will also be held.
2. Soup Kitchens – Providing a Christmas dinner for people who won’t have one is the job of many soup kitchens around the country. Some kitchens can use volunteers to help out – consider offering your hands to dish out food and your smiles to convey warmth for a few hours on Christmas Day. You’ll get a chance to mingle with other food servers and sit down and enjoy a hot meal yourself.
3. Nursing Homes – Many elderly people will be spending their holiday alone or in the company of other people who are aged, infirm or both. Your local nursing home may welcome your visit even if you’re not related to anyone living there. Stop by, bring some smiles and shake hands and offer hugs to patients and staff alike – you’ll bring some Christmas joy to people needing to know that others truly do care for them.
4. Movie Debuts – New movies make their debut just before or right on Christmas Day. You may be surprised to find local theaters packed, filled with people who don’t celebrate Christmas and with those who are simply looking for something different to do to complete their day. On Christmas, “The Illusionist” debuts. For the week leading up to Christmas “The Little Flockers,” “Gulliver’s Travels,” “True Grit,” and “Country Strong” are among the releases you’ll be able to take in.
5. Eat Out – Besides taking in a movie, you’ll be able to take out Chinese food or, in some cases, eat in. Count on it: a significant number of Chinese restaurants will be open on Christmas. Whoever heard of a Chinese restaurant closing for the day? Well, some do – but there are plenty of other restaurants who purposefully stay open to serve Yuletide diners.
6. Go Skiing – Ski resorts will be open on Christmas Day, providing skiers a chance to enjoy trails and hills without the usual crowds. Some resorts are offering specials and with Christmas 2010 on a Saturday, this could prove to be the ideal weekend getaway for you. Visit the resort’s website for package deals and other specials.
7. Try Skating – If you live in an area where winter weather is prevalent, then you can take in some ice-skating. In D.C., its the Pentagon Row Ice Skating Rink. In New York, its Rockefeller Center. Chicago’s McCormick Tribune Ice Rink is open from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Christmas Day and in St. Louis the Steinberg Skating Rink in Forest Park is open from 10 a.m. until midnight. In Boston, the Boston Commons Frog Pond is closed on Christmas Day, but if the conditions are right, you’ll find plenty of places to skate nearby. Check with your city’s park commision for available places to skate and times.
8. Public Parks – Unless the park is gate-controlled, you’ll be able to enjoy a visit to your favorite city park on December 25. If you’re in our nation’s capital, you’ll find that the Arlington National Cemetery opens promptly at 8 a.m. every day of the year including on Christmas. The United States Botanic Garden is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate located 16 miles south of the city is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. – please note that the estate’ restaurant is closed on Christmas.
9. Retail Shopping – Surprise! In some cities, stores are open on Christmas Day. Well, not the big department stores or those where the vast majority of employees celebrate the holiday. Stroll the city streets and you’ll find a handful of merchants open, ready to serve you. Some will operate on abbreviated hours, opening late or closing early.
10. Make Dinner – The chances that you know other people who will be alone for Christmas are perhaps greater than you think. Lots of folks have family stretched across the country and simply cannot visit for the holidays. Why not host a dinner party for these people? Consider potluck or prepare the main dishes yourself, leaving breads, desserts, wine and drinks to your guests. Ask everyone to bring one small gift for a grab bag gift exchange, deck your place in Christmas regalia and turn on some merry music to make this holiday a special one.
For some people Christmas is an endurance test, a time of the year they hope passes by quickly. Past memories are not always pleasant, but you can make new memories – and good ones – starting with this Christmas.
Photo Credit: Patrizio Martorana