For me, Christmas is all about spending quality time with my loved ones. I'm extremely lucky to have been raised around a supportive and tight-knit family, but I often find myself thinking of those who face the festive season by themselves. Obviously, this shouldn't be the only time to recognise these issues, as they are prevalent throughout the year, but it seems that the festive season can magnify feelings of loneliness. So if like me, you're wondering how to support people without family at Christmas, there are plenty of ways to make a difference.
While some people voluntarily choose to spend Christmas alone, there are those who don't really have a choice. From homelessness to estrangement from family, it's all down to situational circumstance. And one of the most prevalent causes of loneliness during the holidays is being older.
According to Age UK, "nearly a million older people feel lonelier at Christmas time," as their close relatives have either passed away or live too far away. The charity found that people aged over 65 felt that their lives had become monotonous and repetitive, and an occasion like Christmas that is usually spent around family and friends becomes just another day in their routine.
By donating to charities such as Age UK and Campaign to End Loneliness this Christmas, you'll be helping to provide support for those in need, including Age UK's Call In Time that "provides regular calls to isolated or lonely older people" combined with weekly visits from volunteers.
But even the little things make a world of difference, and Campaign To End Loneliness agrees. "Almost 9 in 10 UK adults believe that small moments of connection can help tackle loneliness," Director of Campaigns Sam Dick told Bustle UK in a statement. Small moments like stopping and having a chat with someone in your local supermarket or coffee shop, offering your neighbour to come round for a cuppa, or even just dropping by for a quick chat. There are also lots of opportunities to volunteer in nursing homes during the festive period, even down to hosting cocktail parties.
But it's not just the elderly that feel the burden of loneliness at Christmas. There are also those who have become estranged from their families that often dread the family-focal nature of Christmas day, and those who don't have a home to go back to. Charities such as Stand Alone, Shelter, and Crisis all strive to support those who have nowhere to turn, and can often become lifelines to those who are in desperate need of a place to call home.
So if you're free on the run up to (and on) Christmas day, make sure you look into volunteering at your local homeless shelter. Crisis have a few dedicated Christmas centres dotted around the country where you can help with meals, have a chat and play games with those in need.
If you're unable to do that, many supermarkets are now working together with Food Cloud to donate necessities to shelters and community centres for their food banks. I've seen it first hand working at Waitrose and it's really making a difference. Food that used to go to waste is being handed on to local charities, combined with food and other items that customers donate in store. So not only are UK stores cutting down on food waste, but they're also giving back to those in need.
And that's what Christmas is all about, isn't it?