Silent night: dealing with loneliness during Christmas time

How can we transform loneliness into happiness over Christmas?

Anuska Banerjee
5th December 2023

"You can be surrounded by people, and still be lonely."

- Home Alone

The holiday season, although often associated with feelings of warmth, laughter and togetherness, with its festive decorations and cheerful carols, might actually feel a lot like this, amplifying a sense of bitter loneliness for many people, especially university students. As campuses empty and friends disperse to celebrate the holidays with their families, those who remain, unable to travel back home due to academic commitments or financial constraints, often find themselves in a silent night, grappling with solitude and a profound sense of isolation.

The echoing halls and empty dorm rooms become a stark reminder of what is missing for them, during the ‘happiest time of the year’. The absence of the usual hustle-bustle on campus creates an eerie silence and the contrast between the joyful celebrations depicted in the media and the solitude experienced by some students makes it increasingly challenging for many to navigate the season’s festivities.  While Santa Clause remarks 'no one’s alone on Christmas', it might be the loneliest time for several people. It is after all, a time for remembering.

And coping with this loneliness that engulfs the holidays isn’t easy. It requires proactive strategies. One approach could be to seek out local or campus events designed for those who remain on campus. Universities often organize activities, dinners, or volunteer opportunities during the break to provide a sense of community for students in similar situations. Engaging in these events not only offers a chance to connect with others in the same boat but also helps in creating new, more positive holiday memories.

Video calls, online games, and virtual gatherings can redefine the season’s cheer by providing a sense of connection

Technology can play a crucial role in ensuring smiles on everyone’s faces during this time, by bridging the gap between physically distant loved ones. Video calls, online games, and virtual gatherings can redefine the season’s cheer by providing a sense of connection, and allowing students to share the holiday spirit with friends and family, even when they are miles apart.

However, the pressure to partake in social gatherings and activities can also result in a heightened sense of loneliness for many. The constant influx of social media updates of seemingly perfect celebrations can leave students feeling left out. Thus it is crucial to recognize that loneliness is a valid emotion, even amid the festive cheer. Acknowledging these feelings can be the first step towards actually finding solutions to cope with them.

In the end, it is how you look at it

Universities can be of immense help, just by providing support services, like counseling or holiday-specific programming, which can contribute to a much more inclusive and empathetic campus environment. But in the end, it is how you look at it. You can choose to “...feel very old… alone… please, one day you’ll understand" like Edward Scissorhands or take this opportunity to gain a new experience, while upholding the positive spirit of the holidays, exploring local festivities like the beautiful Christmas markets for instance, to build new connections and perhaps even consider this time for self-reflection and self-care. This can be quite empowering, allowing students to flip the script on the holiday season narrative.

Instead of thinking that "it’s Christmas and we’re all in misery" (National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation), if we, as university students away from home, can be like : "it’s Christmas Eve and we are going to go celebrate being young and being alive." ( The Polar Express), the silent nights of loneliness can transform into a time of personal enrichment and resilience, even leading to unique and meaningful holiday experiences and traditions.

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