First Christmas alone

I’ve had many Christmases abroad. I’ve celebrated the holiday in laid back places and without much fanfare. Four years ago in Prague, we couldn’t be arsed making Chrissy dinner, so we went to McDonald’s. One time, in London, we ate a meal made from packaged goods gleaned from the 7-Eleven, while sitting in a dingy hostel stairwell.

But whether making a proper feast or slumming it in a fast food joint, I have always spent Christmas with either family, very close friends, or a partner.

And this year, I spent it alone. And it was lovely.

Basically, I’d had two options – stay in the Philippines and hang with neighbours and acquaintances. Or go somewhere where they don’t even celebrate Christmas and just enjoy a few days off. So that’s how I ended up in Taiwan, where it’s not even a public holiday.

I went out for breakfast, took a ferry over to Cijin Island, walked around an old fort, had a beer on the beach, and then got wasted with some sailors on a pier.

Pretty much my idea of a perfect day.

First Christmas beer. It was not the last.

Actually, I wasn’t completely alone. While sitting on that pier with those sailors, drinking those enormous beers for not very much money, a guy from Facebook was messaging me. Right now, I can’t figure out how he found me. Possibly through the Expats in Kaohsiung group I had joined the day before. But in any case, I agreed to meet up with him, so he joined me on the random pier later in the afternoon, by which time I was already pretty tiddly.

His name is William and – bear with me – he’s Chinese, living in Hong Kong, visiting his Taiwanese girlfriend in Tainan, but had the day off so came for a day trip to Kaohsiung, which is where I met him.

Me and William. I’m the drunk one on the right with the enormous beer.

He took me to a little eatery called Duck Zhen which is famous for its lamb – of course – or possibly also for its duck. I had another enormous beer and then we went on to Ken’s Bar which is where William left to go get his train back to Tainan. I went back to my hostel and drank several more completely unnecessary beers and chatted to people in the lounge area and I have no recollection of getting to bed.

So, in the end, not completely alone.

The thing is, I love Christmas. I love all the stupid decorations and carols and spending time with family. I really like presents. But I didn’t feel like I missed out on anything. It helped that Christmas in the Philippines starts on the 1st of September (NOT exaggerating) so perhaps I was a bit Christmas-ed out. And then my parents threw me a surprise Christmas in November when I went to visit them. 

Christmas in November with my dad. He’s the one on the right with the tiny champagne glass.

Spending Christmas alone is not for everyone. But I had a blast and I will definitely do it again. Because if you’re open to crazy experiences, you often end up not-entirely-alone anyway.

PS. When I checked Unsplash to find a suitable featured image, all the pics with the tag ‘alone’ were quite melancholy. Being alone doesn’t have to be sad. In fact, enjoying your own company can be a sign of great strength. If you’re worried that you’re spending too much time alone, maybe it’s not you; it’s them.

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Nat Newman

Nat Newman is an award-winning writer of short stories, podcasts, feature articles, ghostwritten books, drunk text messages and a novella. She is also an actor, voice artist, tour host and creative writing tutor.


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