All I Want for Christmas Is… About the Things that Really Matter


I’m sure you know by now that Christmas is just around the corner. For some of us it’s a time of religious celebration for others it’s this rare instance when imposed religion gave the population something good, namely presents. Christmas songs have probably been haunting all of us for a while and we may be tired of seeing all the gifts suggestions in the malls and online. Christmas is, however, when whether we want it or not, we are reminded about the things that really matter due to the excess of free time. It can be either a positive season of gratitude or a sad time of realisation that you don’t have the people around you that you would like to be surrounded with.

Coming from non-believing and divorced parents doesn’t help you to be appreciative of Christmas. Presents, food and being forced to call distant family members is pretty much how I could summarise my typical celebrations. I always REALLY loved the gifts and I equally enjoyed both giving and receiving. Apart from that, I liked the wafer that you traditionally share with the family over the Christmas table but I never really considered the season to be anything special. In short, I was taking for granted the fact that I would be surrounded by my family and showered with gifts every year.

That was true till I left the country and after four months of being in South Africa the internship I came here for and my relationship that started when I was “fresh off the boat” really weren’t working. I ended up spending Christmas with my boyfriend and his family who told his mom but not me that he was meaning to break up with me so she didn’t know how to introduce me to others on a Xmas event as she wasn’t sure whether he had done the deed yet or not. Eventually, he told me “he wanted to sexually experience other people” on Boxing Day (SURPRISE). On actual Christmas Day I ended up on a trip which I had committed to with my then already ex which consisted of hiking at 12 o’clock and partying afterwards where the trail ended. I was hungover as one would be after suffering a major heartbreak the previous day and surrounded by strangers I had to endure conversations with when I was literally dying inside. Still, this was better than being on my own on Christmas, because guess what, as a newly arrived and newly single expat, you don’t have that many options for not being on your own during this period. People have families and even more established expats get invited to Christmas functions of others. Even the ones who don’t celebrate this event often go away for a few days. In short, even if you’re relatively sociable but new in the country or just single with coupled friends you may end up having a bleak Christmas.

I thought that after that year I achieved my Xmassy low but the next year wasn’t much better. I was recovering from yet another heartbreak after a too long fling filled with drama and on the top of it, I really wasn’t doing great financially. South Africa was a tough market for translations and I was considering leaving, even though I put so much effort and money into trying to have my life sorted here. In other words, I wasn’t in the greatest state of mind to spend some time alone, as yet AGAIN, everyone went away for Christmas.

I was missing presents these two years of course, but they were nothing in comparison with how I missed having people who cared about me around (or at least people who knew me). Being a bit lonely as you move to a new country is a normal thing but the loneliness is magnified during the festive season. Even if you have a partner but not the partner, spending Christmas with his family feels less lonely but definitely not fulfilling (this was my experience during my third Christmas in Cape Town). Now, I feel real gratitude when I have my husband to spend a non-traditional Christmas with and it feels great to have that someone special with you.

I think paradoxically, having experienced a bleak Christmas more than once taught me to appreciate having important people around me during this time of the year. When most people are with their families and you’re on your own and not because of your choice, it’s  sad. Sure, you can do something with someone and you’ll always find some company but it’s not the point of life. What is important is to be with people you care about and who care about you. It’s a great opportunity to create good memories with them. Nothing reminds us more about the importance of real connections than the season which is meant to be used for tending to them.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re traditional and spend Christmas attending numerous masses or whether in a less conservative way you decide to go on a Christmas hike (or travel or do anything else that’s less orthodox). What matters are the people around you and quality matters much more than quantity. If you and your family are not on great terms, you can let it be but remember that it’s important to find people in your life who should fulfil the roles they failed to. If you’re lonely this Christmas, you’ll definitely survive but try to make sure that next year there’ll be at least one someone special in your life to share the holiday break with. If you’re lucky enough to be surrounded by all you want for Christmas, then be grateful and remember that not everyone has that.

Merry Xmas, Dear Rinsers. The comment section is all yours to let me know about your thoughts on Christmas, best and worst Christmas stories and whatever else you feel like you’d like to share.


  1. Ugh. Bleak christmas’ I’ve had my fair share to.

    Firstly, on a superficial level I don’t think I’ll ever acclimatise to having a hot xmas.

    I think Xmas is a time where if you are feeling heartbroken those bad feelings are exacerbated whether you find yourself exiting an epic romance or just ending your summer fling early. My first single xmas in South Africa was spent with a bunch of misfits 😉 But I guess things could have been worse and by the time I got to my second one I decided I couldn’t deal and decided to go backpacking (as I wasn’t allowed to leave the country!). Yes, some people will tell you to get over it because after all it is just one day but if you aren’t with the right people this one day can feel like an eternity.

    I’m also a strange collector of Christmas orphans and I hate to think of people being all alone on Xmas day so I feel the need to adopt them and bring them home (much to my Mother’s annoyance). And sometimes even when you aren’t alone for xmas the thought of other people you care about being alone can put a dampner on things.

    Either way the fact that the festive season makes us think about these things I guess is a good thing – we just have to find a way to wade through the emotions.

    Nice post. Happy Jesus Day and all. Mwah!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I guess with the development of Internet people can always find someone to spend Xmas with. I saw a friend who’s currently traveling saying “going” on Facebook to a Polish speaking Xmas eve in Bangkok (!). Having enough money makes life a lot easier too, you can always just but enough experiences to avoid realizing how lonely you feel. At the same time just being with humans isn’t that much better than being alone as one always prefers to be with humans they care about. Even the best experiences may feel a bit empty if they’re not shared (and I don’t mean necessarily with a partner but just with someone who matters). The protagonist of “Into the Wild” spent his life trying to run away from people and experiencing nature. One of the last things he wrote before he died was “happiness real when shared”. Let me reply to your wishes with a fragment of a song from South Park “Jesus was born so I’m getting presents, thank you Jesus for being born” 😉


  2. I couldn’t imagine spending Christmas away from family! One year when I was younger, I got the stomach flu and couldn’t go see extended family, but my parents and brother stuck it out with me, and I was able to speak to the rest of the family on the phone.
    On another note, I spent many Christmas Eves with my ex’s family (of which, I was never accepted as one of their own), so even though I haven’t spent Christmas alone, I have spent it with people I felt did not welcome me, and that too is not a great feeling. Just a little insight to that group, when it came to exchanging gifts, I received a pair of generic socks, a dish towel set, and a $10 movie theater gift card.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I live abroad and flying over Xmas is extremely expensive (and also takes up a lot of your leave). If I was closer with my family, I would have made a better effort but with how things are Skyping seems sufficient. Also, with getting married I started to build my own family here. I’m glad you had mostly good Xmas experiences with your folks. The boyfriend experience sounds rough! I didn’t get any present the Christmas I described and I definitely wasn’t welcome. I guess a generic present may have made things even worse. I hope your current’s boyfriend family is nicer? 😊

      Liked by 1 person

      • I haven’t met his family yet and we’ve been together for almost 2 years! His family lives in England (we’re in the states), but we’re planning a trip there in March. I’m so excited to meet them!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I guess the excuse of his parents living in England is quite good 😉 Fingers crossed for good first impressions! That must be exciting! My husband is also only meeting my parents next year. The distance is one of the reasons but the language barrier is also a big problem (my parents don’t speak English).

        Liked by 1 person

      • I hope so too. Worst Chase scenario if I don’t like what my husband or my parents say I’ll just interpret it in my own way and will say what I think they should say 😉

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.