Monday, January 2, 2017

No Room at the Inn - How to avoid spending Christmas alone

How to avoid spending Christmas alone? -  The answer is simple. Your friends and neighbours should invite you to join them for their family Xmas dinner. Easy! Any Christian  family would do this. The problem is they don't! 

For sixteen years, ever since my husband died, I have grappled with the problem of where to go for Xmas if my family cannot join me? They live on another Island and work makes it impossible to travel to be with me. You would think that the answer above would be enough but it isn't. 364 days of the year my friends and neighbours are happy to see me but on the 365th day, Christmas Day, they do not want to know. I am not their problem.  If I gave a champagne and Xmas cake party on Boxing Day morning I could have the world here. I know this as I have done it. With the exception of one very kind and thoughtful neighbour who helped me out on two occasions I have had this problem which one would think in this day and age would never happen but it does. Year after year, same problem until this year. It has been such a disaster that we have all had to confront it. Xmas 2016 was a disaster for me, my friends and neighbours because this must never happen again to me or anyone else. Being alone on Xmas Day is cruel punishment and unnecessary and all it takes is for the fortunate to invite the lonely to dinner. For once my friends and neighbours have had to confront it head on.

In UK and Scotland it is almost obligatory to have anyone to the festive table who finds themselves alone on this special day. And it is special for Christians! It is the day that the Saviour was born and we are forced to remember that when Jesus came to die for our redemption there was ’No room at the Inn’ that night, Jesus was born in a stable. The stranger at our table reminds us that there is 'Room at our Inn’ and we have learned the lesson and give thanks. It is the same with New Year in Scotland. The greatest  of good fortune ensues  if on the hour of Midnight a tall dark stranger knocks on the door bringing a piece of coal for the fire, bread for the table, and a whiskey for the heart! It is called 'First Footing’. And my Scots father was sent out five minutes before midnight to ensure if not the stranger, which is obviously best, that a man bearing these gifts was the first foot over the threshold. 

This tradition of inviting the less fortunate seems to have withered in the wish of NZ and Australian families  and sadly in many other countries too to use this occasion for a yearly get family together forgetting the real reason of the Holy Day.

 My husband, daughter and I have had many strangers to our Xmas meals and I always ask anyone who I know might be alone to come to us as no one should spend this day alone. It is the meal that counts a visit for a coffee  or Skype will not do. These are gestures nothing more kind though it is. This special meal rounds off the year. however bad the year has been. It is the time when we try renew out faith in the human race as loving, understanding and kind but NZ and Australia  it appears Norway seems to have forgotten this in the glorification of  family first.

This year I thought my problem was solved. After 16 years my balance system was healed so that I could fly again. I could fly to Christchurch from Auckland for Christmas with my family in my daughter's home and spend the day with them. Everyone who had seen me grapple with this problem year after year  were obviously delighted and happy for me and it relieved them of finding another excuse as to why I could not be invited to spend Xmas with them. I do not blame them for this after all Xmas is for families. I was all packed, flights booked and just ready to set out for the airport when my Xmas was cancelled. My son in law thought he might be starting a cold. My balance may be better but my immune system is fragile any cold can kill as I cannot take antibiotics. Foolishly I had not foreseen this could happen. I had no plan B. I was devastated. For once I was really going to be alone on Xmas Day as it was too late to make any other arrangements.  Crushed to the core. What I had been dreading had happened. I was going to be absolutely alone and what was worse I had no food in the house so not even a Xmas Dinner. In truth I did not feel like cooking.

Yes, very dear friends asked me over on Xmas Eve to try to make up and it was lovely but I was still alone on Xmas Day. If anyone is interested Xmas Day by oneself is just as horrendous as one imagines. Skype ad FB do nothing to help. Watching your friends have a Happy Xmas and wishing you were there is horrible if you are not. 

This year my own immediate neighbours have been forced confronted this full on. Before I left my immediate neighbour was so thrilled that I was going to be with my daughter as she knew that this had been a problem for me  that she said “Yes Xmas is for families.  She could see I was so happy. It is all about families” and in truth in NZ it is so my pride was not going to let me intrude or risk a refusal when my Xmas was off. They had no idea that I had not gone to Christchurch until one of their family, the only one that knew told them during their Xmas meal. I had hoped that no one would find out and just keep quiet. I have my pride.  I find the refusals given to me as to why it is impossible for me to be invited to join them to hard to take. Unfortunately as I left my house to buy some milk I bumped into one of the her family. 

At that moment the family member should have said “ Oh that’s dreadful, I’ll ask if you can come’ but because this occasion is so sacred to the family, we both know this, she would not do so and I did not expect her to do so knowing how close this family has been. 

Evidently she mentioned my plight at their Xmas supper. There were 25 at table and my lovely neighbour of nearly 90 was horrified that her good neighbour of 40 years was alone. She told all of them that this must never happen again. She came round two days ago and was most apologetic.  She said she too was devastated She said she and her family had had no idea that this had been allowed to happened and I believe them. Those fortunate to have large families around have not a clue of how lucky they are.  She said in future I had an open invitation to any of her family gatherings  and that I must never fear being alone at Xmas again. I am so grateful. It was a pity she did not find out earlier so I could have joined them.

This is my New Year’s Resolution I am gong to try see that nobody is alone at Xmas 2017. 

I do beg everyone to check on their single neighbours before Xmas 2017 to ensure that no one is alone. Just to be asked makes it OK. They maybe happy to be alone but the invitation gives them the privilege of choice. If they are alone your invitation will be worth its weight in gold and make you and your family feel good too.  To confront this may make many of my friends uncomfortable and it should but like my neighbour and her family it has to be done. The problem is yours to solve, not mine or theirs, and it is easy, just say:-

 “Please come to us for Xmas Dinner”.