It happens every year. Silver bells and tinsel send shivers of dread down your spine. If you’re single, the holiday season translates as the couples-only season. Facing the prospect of dozens of parties and events aimed at paired-off people doesn’t actually make for a merry old time. But before you pull a Scrooge and hole up inside your abode alone, realize that there are several comfortable options for singles during the holidays. Activities such as singles-only vacations, home holiday movie marathons, holidays-around-the-world lunches and cooking classes that teach you how to prepare your own holiday feast offer low-pressure fun that singles can enjoy solo or with friends.

Give holiday travel a new meaning
If you’re adventurous and itching to escape another dateless holiday dinner, planning a vacation during the holiday season might literally be your ticket. Tons of tour operators organize singles trips ranging from three-day cruises to two-week eco-tours. You can choose a balmy, tropical destination where the main focus is to relax and soak up the sun, or you can plan an active vacation where you learn about different cultures or eco-systems. Don’t worry about traveling solo or being thrown into awkward situations. The point of these vacations is to make singles as comfortable as possible, so if you’d like to meet a couple of new people or you’d rather enjoy the trip in solitude, the choice is up to you. The real benefit is that while your friends slog through the same tired holiday traditions, you’re creating a new one.
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Get into the spirit by celebrating your own traditions
You actually like all those tired holiday traditions? No problem! There are ways for you to enjoy them pressure free. For movie buffs, hosting a holiday movie marathon is just the thing to stir up all those sentimental memories. Rent a slew of holiday season movies: It’s A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol and The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Then pop some popcorn, turn on the Christmas lights and sink back and enjoy the spectacle. Whether you do this by yourself or with a few pals, it’s a great way to revel in the spirit of the season.

Susan, a 38-year-old single architect from Chicago, created the perfect alternative to the usual office Christmas parties a few years ago. “I always felt isolated and weird because most people brought a date to the annual Christmas party,” she says. “Instead of wallowing in self-pity, I decided to do my own Christmas party — but with a twist.” Susan’s twist was planning a low-key lunch that focused not on couples and dancing, but various holiday customs from around the world. “The first year, I had it at a Swedish restaurant with Swedish food and a St. Lucia presentation,” she says. “I just invited a couple of my single friends who also felt left out at holiday parties, and it’s blossomed into a major event where people are asking me months in advance what this year’s country will be.” A holiday-around-the-world lunch doesn’t have to be an extravaganza, however. It can be as simple as you going to a Chinese restaurant on Christmas Eve and soaking up all the Chinese New Year preparations. Or, it could be as elaborate as you and a group of friends listening to French music, eating French delicacies and reading stories of Pere Noel at a cozy French bistro.

Thaw your bah-humbug heart by heating up your skills in the kitchen
For those singles forced to attend holiday dinners because they are “cooking-challenged,” signing up for a holiday-themed cooking class might solve several problems at once. Not only can you learn how to roast a turkey or whip up pumpkin pie in a casual, friendly atmosphere, but you also give yourself the option of preparing such fancy fixings any time you like. So if you wanted to host a Christmas breakfast or a New Year’s dessert buffet without the formalities or expectations that full-fledged dinners can bring, you can. Remember that the holidays are about comfort and joy, so you do have options on how you decide to spend them.

Freelance writer Rosalind Cummings-Yeates has also written for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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