Christmas is a holiday steeped in traditional values and cultural norms. But what if those traditions don’t match your own social, mental, and physical health needs or those of your family? There are many alternative ways to spend Christmas, from going on holiday to volunteering your time for those in greater need. This guide aims to fill you with inspirational ideas for a different sort of Christmas — one you can make all your own.
It’s vital to remember that Christmas isn’t easy for everyone. Sometimes, the pressure of the holiday can trigger feelings of loneliness, stress, and sadness.
It’s totally okay to want to have an alternative Christmas that you design yourself, away from tradition and cultural norms.
Creating your own Christmas celebration based around your personal values and mental and physical health needs can feel incredibly liberating. Your Christmas, your choice.
Create your own traditions
There is no reason you have to follow the typical traditions that surround Christmas. In fact, sometimes it’s hard to differentiate what holds personal value and what is marketing designed to make us spend an excessive amount of money over the holidays.
The most important thing is that you feel good about the way you spend Christmas. One of the best ways to ensure your mental and physical health is taken care of during this holiday is to create your own traditions based on your values and what’s important to you.
1. Christmas day swim
If you love swimming, then why not make it part of your new Christmas day routine? If you live near the sea, you can brave it and take the plunge with any willing family members or even on your own. The benefits of cold swimming and cold therapy have been well documented and include improved blood pressure and mood elevation — perfect for raising your spirits (and your heart rate) on Christmas morning.
2. Long wintery walk
Not everyone wants to stay at home and watch movies while indulgently feasting, and that’s totally okay. If you feel like your Christmas day is getting a bit stagnant and repetitive, then you could suggest a long walk with family and friends. Spending time outside, taking in the beauty of nature, and breathing fresh air can do wonders for your mental and physical health. It’s also a great way of either working up an appetite before dinner or walking off some of that over-full feeling after a heavy meal.
Walking is another beautiful way to practice grounding. Simple outdoor activities like standing outside in the snow and watching the sunset for five minutes might reduce chronic illness and improve sleep.
3. Have a ‘Friend-mas’
Instead of succumbing to tradition and spending it with family (which can often be really stressful), why not choose to have a Friend-mas this year and spend it with your buddies? If family dynamics feel unhealthy, or if you just want a year without the typical pressures of Christmas, this is a great way to take the tension out of the celebration. Get all your buddies to bring a dish for the day and share the load.
4. Make Christmas Day a pajama day
Christmas Day is notorious for being quite stressful, so what better way to counteract that than by making it a pajama day? Shift the stress and choose to reframe the day itself into the most relaxing day of the year. If you have guests, get them to come in their pajamas and slippers, too. Prep a movie marathon and stock up on tasty treats and healthy nibbles to keep your taste buds tingling and your belly satisfied throughout the day.
There are millions of people for whom Christmas is an exceptionally difficult time due to reasons such as homelessness and poverty. These issues are highlighted during the holidays, which are supposed to be all about giving. Why not get in touch with some local volunteer groups and spend the day helping those who are less fortunate than you? You might make a huge lunch for people experiencing homelessness, or volunteer to visit older people living alone.
6. Spend Christmas on the beach
Spending Christmas on a warm beach is a completely novel experience, especially if you normally live somewhere cold. It’s a great way to shift your perspective around Christmas norms and to experience other cultures' traditions around the holiday. Sunshine is also vitally important for heart health and vitamin D production and can help improve stress responses.
7. Winter adventure holiday
For those of you with adventurous spirits, there are plenty of Christmas adventure holidays on offer all over the world that can satisfy the need for a winter sport adrenaline rush. If extreme sports aren't your thing, then there are plenty of other ways to explore the snow-covered landscapes. Cross-country skiing, snowboarding, mountain and glacier treks, husky safaris, and snowshoe trails are incredible ways of seeing some of the most beautiful parts of the world. Plus, being surrounded by snow does have a distinctly Christmassy feeling.
Celebrate Christmas your way
At a time of year that is often filled with expectations and traditions, going your own way can feel frightening at first. But, you don’t have to stay in your lane just to please others at Christmas. The sense of liberation at choosing your own distinctive and personal celebration is incredible and can set the tone for your mental and physical health in the new year.
How do I tell my family I don't want to celebrate Christmas with them?
This can be a very sensitive subject, so approach with empathy and honesty. Let your family know that you love them very much, but this year you need to put yourself first and go your own way.
How should I spend a solo Christmas?
A solo Christmas, whether planned or not, can feel a little tricky. If you aren't sure how to spend your day, check out local volunteering groups for places you can help, plan an indulgent self-care day, check in with loved ones, and remember to let yourself feel any emotions that come up.
- International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Cold water swimming—benefits and risks: A narrative review.
- Applied Research in Quality of Life. Christmas and subjective well-being: A research note.