‘It’s an emotional roller coaster’ — meet the Londoners facing a solo Christmas Day

·6-min read
 (George Rawlings)
(George Rawlings)

A dating app founder eating his way through a Christmas with no parents. A retired teacher spending her second year Zooming her grandchildren. An accountant delighted to be spending the festive season without relatives asking why she’s still single.

These are just some of the thousands of people across the capital preparing for a solo Christmas on Saturday thanks to the Omicron isolation rules (there were even fears the Queen might have to spend the big day without family this year, though senior royals have now confirmed that they’ll reduce all but es­sential contacts beforehand to ensure they can be with her on December 25).

For many, a solo Christmas will be a lonely and emotional affair, often after months without seeing their families. Some say they’re making the best of it and treating themselves to mountains of sweets and fancy wine (#noparents). Others say they’re secretly (or not so secretly) delighted by the idea of not having to trek back to their hometown and exchange pleasantries with distant relatives.

Either way, make sure you raise a glass to all of them if you’re one of those lucky enough to be pulling a cracker with your loved ones this weekend - by now, most of us know how tough ten (or even seven) days alone can be, and that’s without the festive FOMO.

These are just some of the Londoners who’ll be riding out the big day alone.

‘No flatmates and no questions about my love life — bring on my solo Christmas’

Clara Ramsdale, 32, an accountant living in Stoke Newington

 (Clara Ramsdale)
(Clara Ramsdale)

I have Covid, and as my flatmates finish self-isolation sooner than me, I’ll be spending Christmas Day alone in London. When I tell friends and colleagues this, I’m met with pity and concern – understandable reactions. But for me, this is shaping up to be one of the best Christmases yet.

I live in a London flatshare and adore my flatmates – but after several lockdowns in a flat with no outdoor space and a few periods of self-isolation between us, the introvert in me is very much looking forward to a break. Quiet. Solitary. Calm.

An added bonus is that there is no love lost between me and my hometown – a suburban sprawl where nothing happens, ever. I’ll also avoid the invasive questions from family members about my love life, or lack thereof, which leave me drained after constantly explaining that: no, I’m not desperately lonely or too picky.

I don’t have to be polite, I don’t have to play games, or even get dressed. Instead, I’ve got my boujie natural wine order in, food delivery on the way which I don’t have to hide from my “I thought we shared all the food in the fridge” flatmates and control over the TV remote. Merry Christmas to me.

‘It feels like I’m Kevin from Home Alone’

George Rawlings, 29, co-founder of the Thursday dating app, living in Shoreditch

 (George Rawlings)
(George Rawlings)

So, a Covid Christmas alone it is. I should have been spending the big day back at home in Cheltenham, but instead I’ve been isolating in my flat in Shoreditch since Friday.

It feels like Kevin McCallister from Home Alone. No parents - no rules. So here’s to getting hyper on sweets, no bed time, PS4 instead of board games and Bad Santa on repeat. At this rate, diabetes is more likely to kill me than Covid.

On a serious note, I am genuinely gutted because 2021 was without a doubt the best year of my life after launching my app Thursday. At least I will (hopefully) be out of isolation on Sunday - my family are delaying all their Christmas festivities until Boxing Day, so here’s hoping for a negative lateral flow test so I can jump on a train to Cheltenham for some delayed celebrations then instead.

‘I’m vulnerable so I’ll be spending a second Christmas Zooming my grandsons’

June Letts, 76, a retired teacher living in Wimbledon

 (June Letts)
(June Letts)

Christmas this year is going to be a strange one, for sure. I’m normally surrounded by family in the Midlands but this year I’m staying safe and staying at home. I spent Christmas with the neighbours last year but I’m 76, I’m vulnerable and I have, to date, remained Covid free - I intend to stay that way.

As an ex-school teacher I still like to read and keep up-to-date with the news and current affairs, so my Christmas morning will be a combination of the TV and the radio for company. I will treat myself to a nice breakfast in the morning and will connect with family in the afternoon.

My daughter is adamant that I’m not to sit alone on Christmas Day so I’ll have the whole family with me, albeit via a screen. Afterwards we’ll play together on my grandsons’ platform, Kid Coach App, which keeps us together at the table, connected and talking for hours. Technology is my silver lining to the Covid cloud, but it’s not the same as being together in person. I look forward to next year when we’re face to face again.

‘From panic attacks to a newfound appreciation for life, it’s been a rollercoaster’

Erika Alvarez, 35, the founder of textile studio Koua-Studio living in Stratford

 (Erika Alvarez)
(Erika Alvarez)

I tested positive with the new Omicron variant eight days before Christmas, just in time to spent it by myself. I’m currently on day five and I would say I’m handling better than the first three days, when I had a panic attacks which caused shortness of breath. I’ve never experienced something like that before, which made it worse - your thoughts can be so powerful during these isolation periods.

Being far from my family who live in Mexico and being by myself at this time of the year has made me feel anxious and sad, but also stronger. It’s felt like a rollercoaster all the way from depression to appreciating life more than ever.

The newly reduced self-isolation period means I still have a chance to be able to see my friends at Christmas - let’s hope my next two days of lateral flow tests are negative. That’ll be the greatest Christmas gift of all.

‘At least we don’t have the anxiety of infecting our families’

Frankie Gray, 34, a publishing director living in Islington

 (Frankie Gray)
(Frankie Gray)

I had planned to spend Christmas with my parents at their house in Teddington and I was especially excited for our annual traditions, including an outdoor swim on Christmas morning. Instead, my partner and I will be isolating in our flat in Islington.

A very kind friend will be dropping off food for the big day and we’re hoping to make it feel as much like a normal Christmas Day (and as little like every other day of isolation!) as possible. I feel sad to be spending another Christmas away from my parents but I’m also glad I know to steer clear of them (and everyone) and to hide myself away. It’s removed the anxiety of this Christmas and whether I might unknowingly give them Covid.

Another silver lining is that I haven’t lost my sense of taste - so far. Fingers crossed it stays that way and I can make the most of this un-ideal (but hopefully still jolly) Christmas 2021.

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