21 Ways to Spend Christmas Day Alone

21 Ways to Spend Christmas Day Alone

By Donna Gregory Burch


Donna Gregory Burch

Living with a debilitating chronic illness changes everything – even how we celebrate the holidays. This year, I’ll be on my own for Christmas Day because I’m too sick to travel out of state to visit family, but I know I won’t be alone. There are many others in the chronic illness community who will also be separated from their loved ones during the holidays.

Yeah, I’m a little sad about it, but instead of spending the day lying on the couch and feeling sorry for myself, I’ve decided to make a list of all the fun things I can do to celebrate Christmas Day solo. I thought I’d share my list, in case you need a little inspiration, too, so here goes …

  1. Make a holiday simmer – When I think of Christmases past, I always remember how my mom’s house smelled like those annoyingly strong apple-cinnamon air freshener plugins. I stopped using those years ago after becoming super sensitive to artificial fragrances, but I can create my own natural version by simmering a few simple ingredients on the stove. This holiday kitchen recipe is my favorite!
  2. Indulge in decadent holiday goodies – Yep, I know sugar aggravates my fibro symptoms, but gosh darn it, it’s Christmas! On the Friday before Christmas, I’m going to my local farmers market and stock up on some Christmas sprinkle cookies – gluten-free, of course!
  3. Watch Christmas movies – I’m DVRing “Elf,” “Bad Santa” and “The Polar Express,” so they’ll be ready for me on Christmas Day if the mood strikes. After all, there’s nothing like snuggling up on your sofa in your jammies with a warm blanket and a cup of hot cocoa or tea and feeling like a kid again watching holiday movies.
  4. Empty out the DVR – If I’m not feeling the Christmas movie spirit, then I have two seasons of Downton Abbey that have been cluttering up my DVR for months. It’s time to clean house!
  5. Watch a Netflix marathon – If I’m too brain fogged to comprehend Downton Abbey’s British accents, then I still have four seasons of “Gilmore Girls” waiting for me in my Netflix queue. I’m guessing I might be able to get through at least two more seasons if I really commit to it.
  6. Put a jigsaw puzzle together – This was a favorite pastime of mine as a kid, and it’s still a great time killer. Once I slice open the paper seal on the puzzle box, my butt will be glued to the dining-room chair until I position the last piece.
  7. Catch up on continuing education – I love learning new things, and I spend waytoo much money on online classes that I never finish. Well, Christmas Day is as good a day as any to finally plow through that Pinterest masterclass that I bought six months ago.
  8. Color – I finally took the plunge and bought my first adult coloring books and markers a few days ago. I even bought a holiday coloring book just for Christmas Day.
  9. Watch an ASMR video – I’ve written before about how much I enjoy ASMR videos. Yep, I’m fully aware of how weird it is to listen to someone describe an Aldi sales circular to me in a whisper, but it sure does relax my overworked nervous system and helps me to sleep.
  10. Paint my nails – I’m thinking two festive coats of Santa Claus-suit red!
  11. Take an Epsom salt bath – The magnesium found in Epsom salt is great for relieving fibro aches and pains!
  12. Read a good book – I have a stack of books that have been cluttering my side table for the past few months. Christmas Day is a good time to plow through at least one of them.
  13. Take on an organizing project – My upstairs storage room is a wreck of unused Christmas decorations and stuff I keep meaning to sell on eBay and Craigslist. Maybe Christmas is finally the day to get everything sorted and put away. New Year, new beginnings, right?
  14. Call (or email or text) family and friends – We may not be able to be with our loved ones on Christmas Day, but it’s still nice to hear their voices. Take a few minutes to reach out to those who are closest to you and wish them a warm holiday.
  15. Go to the movies – A lot of movie theaters open up on Christmas afternoon or evening. I’ve never done this before, but I know some people purchase a cheaper matinee ticket and spend the day hopping from movie to movie.
  16. Go ethnic – Pretty much everything is closed on Christmas – except Asian restaurants! Just avoid the MSG because that can flare your fibro symptoms!
  17. Volunteering – Since the holidays are a time for giving, what about giving of your time by volunteering? A couple of ideas: Homeless shelters and soup kitchens need volunteers to serve their holiday meals. Programs like Meals on Wheels need volunteers to deliver meals to the elderly and disabled.
  18. Visit your local park – If you never visit your local park because it’s always mobbed with screaming kids and soccer moms pushing mammoth-sized strollers, then today is your day! Most parks are virtually abandoned on Christmas Day, providing a quiet setting for appreciating nature.
  19. Go to church – I’m not a religious person, but I can definitely appreciate the spirit of the story behind Christmas.
  20. Tour the Christmas lights – When I lived in Virginia, our city had the “Tacky Lights Tour,” a collection of homes decked out with so many Christmas lights that Santa could see them from the North Pole! Traveling from house-to-house was a fun way to cap off Christmas night.
  21. Sleep in late, take a nap and go to bed early – When all else fails, sleep it off. After all, tomorrow is a new day …

Donna Gregory Burch was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2014 after several years of unexplained pain, fatigue and other symptoms. She covers news, treatments, research and practical tips for living better with fibromyalgia on her blog, FedUpwithFatigue.com. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter. Donna is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared online and in newspapers and magazines throughout Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania. She lives in Delaware with her husband and their many fur babies.

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Authored by: Donna Gregory Burch

Donna Gregory Burch was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2014 after several years of unexplained pain, fatigue and other symptoms. She was later diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease. Donna covers news, treatments, research and practical tips for living better with fibromyalgia and Lyme on her blog, FedUpwithFatigue.com. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter. Donna is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared online and in newspapers and magazines throughout Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania. She lives in Delaware with her husband and their many fur babies.

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Valerie Pusey

Great article, I do a lot of those things already, but just throwing this out there,, I have friends have improved or got better somewhat from fibromyalgia. I have nothing to do with these programs I mention, but have I have MCS and improving with limbic system rewiring. Check out Dr. Ashok Gupta (Gupta program) out of London, England and/or Dynamic Neural Retraining System (DNRS) based on plasticity of the brain. Really. I do DNRS and after years of isolation chemically sensitive, am getting some normality back in my life. Helps CFS, fibro, PTSD, etc. Be well.


Thanks so much for all the ideas. May I add one? Over on Daily KOS, the KosAbility group will be meeting at its usual time – 4pmPST/7pmEST… you are welcome to come by! We discuss various topics and we are a support community for all kinds of disabilities. Because it’s Christmas, our topic tomorrow is open… it’s a nice group (on a Democratic-based website, just so you know the slant) – come join us!


Wow, great article. Great idea. Thanks for writing this, Donna! I’ve been saving it to read today, Christmas Eve. Tomorrow is my birthday and I will be 64. Isn’t there a Beatles song….?

I will also be alone for these days, but yesterday I did my nails and toes, which I never leave undone! Today I am hoping, hoping and hoping more that I can muster feeling well enough to see a church service with a good choir, maybe outside. So I’m going to go work on that.

Merry Christmas, Merry Everyone’s Holiday and Happy New Year to y’all.


Excellent ideas. I am finding it difficult to not decorate, not even a tree, but hoping our situation will be more conducive to some decorating next year. I will be spending some time with our son, daughter in law and her family which ought to be quite fun being they speak little or no english and I speak no Hmong!
I am hoping everyone has a blessed and low pain day! Happy Christmas one and all!

Jean Price

This continues to be a year of firsts for me…not the kind of first time things we’d look forward to experiencing, but rather the kind that come with increased pain and decreased mobility! No decorations, no baking, and no presents to wrap and share! This year it’s the green stuff we’re giving…the kind of gift that always fits and is just the right shade! And this year, I’m sadly forgoing my trip to be with the youngest grandchildren….I’m just not travel worthy right now. Yet, I can still do so many things…like listen to the songs of Christmas, joy in the birth of a baby boy in a far away land so long ago, splurge on some Russell Stovers chocolates (a holiday tradition from childhood!), have FaceTime with the little ones in NY and hear their excited giggles, call some dear friends, maybe…just maybe I will wrangle a short trip to my daughter’s home that’s within driving (uhh, riding!) distance, and regardless of anything…I’m guaranteed an eggnog toast with the man who gave me an engagement ring about this time of year, some forty nine years ago! So I won’t be alone for Christmas….except for being alone with my body and my pain. (That’s the norm though, nothing new there!)

Really, we should be used to changing our routines and our festivities, since Christmases change each and every year growing up…and all the years after too! Yet when the changes come because of the restrictions of pain, it’s somehow harder to accept…and much harder to work around. On one hand, I’m okay with what’s happening and what’s NOT happening this year. Yet on the other hand, it still seems sort of wrong! Wrong that this is all there is, wrong to be hurting even when you’re joyful, too! Yet if I’m honest, I’d admit I find there’s a lot of this going on at other times, too….feeling one way yet BEING another because of pain! Feeling EXCITED, yet moving slowly. Feeling FESTIVE, yet not the cheerleader. Feeling LOVING, yet sitting curled up alone not wanting a move or a touch to hurt. Even feeling JOYFUL, yet with a frown (of pain) instead of a sparkle in my eyes! So at Christmas, I’ll allow myself to just embrace those feelings…and forget the reality of pain for a while. Because if you don’t count bodies, I am so very blessed! And that’s the true reality I want to bask in! Merry Christmas and happy holidays to you all! I wish you comfort and joy!

I’m so glad that you all liked the list and found it helpful. I’ll be thinking about all of my fellow fibro warriors/chronic pain warriors on Christmas and hoping that you’re having a low-symptom day. I know this isn’t the life we wanted, but like Kristen said, it’s good to be thankful for the little enjoyments in life like soft sheets and fur babies to cuddle with. Also, Kristen’s idea of ordering pizzas cooked half way through so it can be prepped later on is genius! I’m going to have to try that!


Merry Christmas Donna! I read your last post and I relate so much more to this one!
I’ve simplified even more so this year, each year I learn more and more about how NOT to put myself into a painful flare for days and days during the holidays.
This year I got a clue! and shopped online (just can’t do stores anymore) and I canceled my annual Christmas family lunch that I’ve hosted the past 4 yrs.
I finally realized how insane it was for me to even try to do it again! ha ha
Especially since my family does not even come close to recognizing my life in chronic pain and how detrimental throwing that party was for me.
I’ve spent many years all alone on Christmas eve and Day so I’m used to it.
I love just staying in my pjs all day, watching the Christmas parade on TV, March of the Wooden Soldiers (such a classic!) and receiving some calls.
Although, I am human and do fight the melancholy of not being with family, close friends or even my daughter and grandsons. It can all be very sad for me but hey…it’s life and I’ve worked hard this year on accepting it all for what it is.
Things could always be much worse right?!
I wish you and your husband a nice Christmas day relaxing and doing the things you love. And a New Year filled with many reasons to smile. Maureen

Kristen K

First i want to say Thank you to Donna once again for another well written artical. I appreciate all your suggestions for those of us who are house bound this Christmas due to Chronic pain and fatigue or whatever each individual is dealing with.I mentioned in comment box a few days ago after reading another artical of yours that i could relate to that i most likely will not be decorating my tree and still as i am writting this i have not.I know my limitations and have accepted that no decorations are needed,the lights look just fine.After all less is more .As for your new artical today wow i would have never thought of all these things i can do while sitting here alone ,but not really alone. I now plan on emailing my family and good friends as well as watch a few Christmas movies on Netflix. Unfortunately i am unable to volunteer because of my situation that i am not able to get out of bed very well without the help of my part time care taker who will not be here Christmas obviously. I like your ideas it gives me something postive to look forward to instead of focusing my attention on my chronic condition or any negativity.I try hard not to stew on situations that are out of my control but one thing i have learned through your articals is i do have control of trying to make the best of my time by enjoying the little things as you suggested.As far as resturants being closed Christmas i decided to make the call to Dominoes Pizza on Christmas eve and order several boxes for Christmas day incase anyone should stop by at least i can offer that.Easy just ask Dominoes to cook the pizzas half way and when im ready to eat or my guest happen to arrive they can just throw them in oven and let them finish cooking through. I will also have paper plates and napkins ready for anyone who doesnt mind fending for themselves. Thanks again for another great list of suggestions!

Denise Murray

Hi all!
Sounds like a great time when a fibro flair up is on. I will be doing the same movies and maybe going out to see some Christmas lights.

Happy holidays to you all🎄