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christmas theme week: tips on having an ‘Orphan Christmas’

This year will be the first time in four years that I’ll spend Christmas Day with my immediate family. It’s not that we have ever been estranged, or that we’re not a particular loving or sentimental family, it just worked out that way due to work hours and travel plans.

However, earlier this year, my older sister had a baby – the first in the family. We’re all completely besotted, and it’s enough for us to all make the concerted decision to be in the same city for Christmas. And even though they are coming to Sydney (where I live, along with my mother’s extended family), I find that I am racing back to Canberra for one day on the 23rd, simply to celebrate Christmas with two of my friends. And why would I subject myself to a 3.5 hour bus ride in the middle of summer? I’ve spent the last three Christmases with these two girls (and various others, depending on the year), and it feels a little strange to celebrate the festive season without them.

Despite the fact that only one of us is technically an orphan, like most people, we nickname these Christmases as ‘Orphan Christmas’.  It’s clearly a trend for 20-somethings. One reason is because we travel abroad so much, and could be overseas for the festive season. Another is because we’re at that awkward age when we have too many responsibilities and/or not enough income to slide comfortably into whatever our parents are doing. And, yes, sometimes, there is an estrangement. But whatever the case is, Orphan Christmases are something to celebrate.

So, if you haven’t had one before, and are thinking about, here are some ideas:

1. Forget about some of your traditions. I don’t mean all of them, but just remember that everyone has them. You can suggest things you want to do so it feels like Christmas, but remember you need to compromise. Orphan Christmases are all about creating new traditions, so be open to the change.

2. Tell your worst family Christmas memories (but probably only after a few drinks). They’ll hopefully be more hysterically than traumatic, but will probably make you a little glad you get a break from family Christmas politics for a year.

3. Rent Christmas HORROR movies. Particularly if they are made in the ’80s. There’s nothing funnier (and nothing that will make you stop feeling more sorry for yourself ) than a sadistic Santa.

4. Do something completely out of the Christmas box that you have never done before, simply because it’s breaking with tradition. Go to a Chinese restaurant for dinner or lunch. Go see a movie. Go to a pub and have a beer with all the random orphans.

5. Organise a Secret Santa so that you have something to open. An easy, stress free way to do this is to buy a present that could be suitable for anyone, write a number on it, then do a draw.   Create present buying restrictions as well (under $15, nothing edible, no soap, no candles, no photo frames) and you’ll be impressed at the creativity it results in.

6. Use your powers for good. As cheesy as it sounds – if you really are free of having the parental pressure of being at a certain place at a certain time, spend some time volunteering. Homeless shelters, soup kitchens, retirement homes, and animal shelters usually need extra assistance on and around Christmastime.  However, many people feel the drive to do this and positions fill up quickly, so please get in contact before you show up!

I think the most important thing to remember on an “Orphan Christmas”, is that while you may be without parents, you are hardly alone. Religion aside, Christmas is all about being around people who make you happy, forgetting your worries for a day, and, of course, eating copious amounts of food.   So create new traditions, have fun, and be merry. And I’ll leave you with the below song – which I believe describes what Christmas is really about –

So whoever you spend it with, Merry Christmas, lipsters. x

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