How can you help when your friend can't go home for Christmas because home is no longer what it used to be?
The festive season is not always a time of cheer and laughter for everybody.
While some may look forward to seeing loved ones and being welcomed by the aroma of homecooked food upon their landing, there are young adults who would much rather sit the whole holiday out or are just not able to make it for Christmas.
There is a number of reasons for this. Avoiding a toxic family dynamic is one of them.
As people grow older, they realise the tinsel that's been glittering all these years is, in fact, not gold.
Between body shaming comments, homophobic family members, questions about marriage, graduation, requests for money, or other domestic differences, angst about going home is bound to heighten.
There is another trigger associated with not wanting to return home for Christmas, though - losing a loved one.
"It can be very hard for people to experience their first Christmas without a loved one," Tzoneva explained.
Spare a thought for people who are dreading going home this December because it will be their first Christmas without “uMama”. It is not easy at all. The house feels lonely and suddenly it doesn’t feel like home anymore. It hits you that mothers make home what it is.????— Spitch Nzawumbi (@SpitchNzawumbi) December 10, 2018
If this is yours or a close friend's reality, SADAG's helpline remains open during the festive season.
Call: 0800 70 80 90
"We mind our own business"
The other side of the family coin is that not all families have Christmas traditions. I spoke to 23-year-old *Claire, who told me the following about her family dynamic.
"The reason I don’t enjoy going home for Christmas is the fact that my family doesn’t really do anything special, so there’s no real reason to be there. We aren’t a close knit family."
When asked if lunch at someone else's home would make her 25th December more festive, she revealed that she would prefer not to.
"I don't think I’d like to visit anyone else’s family, because I don’t enjoy all the fussiness that comes with a Christmas dinner or party, especially not in the company of strangers. Also, I like to spend my time relaxed and in my comfort zone, pretending to be jolly becomes too much for me."
I always feel so weirdly vulnerable when asked what I'm doing for Christmas, & telling people I'm not going home. I get that xmas is a big deal for lots of people and their families, but I wish it wasn't a 'pity' or a 'shame' for anyone's xmas experience to be non-traditional— a christmas carroll (@14carrolla) December 14, 2018
READ MORE: Surviving Christmas in the Mother City alone
Business as usual
Unfortunately, not everyone will have the privilege of going home this Christmas due to work. It's either they can't get leave, it doesn't make financial sense to travel home for such a short period or they will literally be clocking in at work on Christmas.
Can't even enjoy Christmas because I'm working the next day ????????????????????????????????????????????????— sisipho (@siseeps) December 24, 2016
eNCA has just recently reported that passengers have been stranded at Park Station for two days now due to long distance bus strikes. "Some of these passengers had booked their tickets as far back as two months ago," Lindokuhle Xulu reports:
What this means is that if the bus strike does not get resolved, there is a possibility that some people will not be able to unite with their families as they had planned. Finding alternative means of transport may also be costly, so staying put is the only option some have for now.
Now it's your business
This is where you, as a friend, can step in if one (or more) of your friends' situations has been described above.
Firstly, don't make it a pity party. Your role is to merely offer a feel-good outlet to them. Should they decline, respect their decision as well without taking it personally. As *Claire stated, being around unfamiliar faces can make one uncomfortable.
This is what you can offer:
I spotted this old tweet on Twitter a few days ago and found quite admirable. It may be an oldie, but it's definitely a goodie. If you have the capacity, you can avail your table to friends and strangers alike:
Any 5 lgbti in Cape Town alone this Christmas Day due to unaccepting family is invited to my apartment for lunch. Need only bring yourself.— Beyonka (@beyonka_fierce) December 20, 2015
And more recently, a similar offer came up:
To my queer family. If your family becomes too much for holidays or you don't wanna spend Christmas inna toxic environment. Drop me a DM and you can spend Christmas with mom and me. We'll love you.— A Privileged Zulu (@Laeeqah7007) December 15, 2018
Of course, with the permission of your family, you can also invite your friend to share Christmas lunch with your family. If it makes them feel better so they don't like they're sponging off you, you can suggest that they also bring a dish.
If this is something either parties are not comfortable with, suggest to meet up after lunch for your own Christmas celebrations. Who knows, it might even be the start of new traditions.
Lastly, if you are part of a group that is stuck in a concrete jungle because you all have work commitments, then you're in good company. Plan a Christmas party with these mates as if they were your family.
I know two groups of young professionals who do this every year successfully.
Here's ho-ho-hoping this brings some joy to a friend or two.
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