13 Surprisingly Fun Things To Do At Christmas If You Can't Celebrate With Friends And Family

From organising a volunteering trip to Calais to help refugees to couchsurfing in a new city, we've rounded up a list of everything you can do at Christmas when you can't celebrate with loved ones.

More from Mental Health
8 articles
PMDD symptoms
'My Menstrual Cycle Left Me Suicidal'
Homeless Woman | ELLE UK
What It's Like To Be A Homeless Mum At Christmas
Sophie Reilly aged 21 tragically took her life last year, Tigerish Waters | ELLE UK
'I'm Hereby Coming Out As A Mental Case'

By now, your friends and colleagues have no doubt begun talking of their elaborate plans for Christmas.

Whether that constitutes booking the annual to visit family or purchasing a last-minute skiing holiday to escape the rainy British weather over the festive period.

However, for some, spending time with friends and family at Christmas isn't always a possibility, whether that be due to a family rift, the loss of a loved one, work obligations, or a lack of funds to hop on a flight home.

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

For others, it's simply a choice of shunning family celebrations in favour of indulging in a bit of 'me' time amid the mirthful mayhem.

But, last year, mental health charity Mind found that one in 10 people aged between 25 and 34 admitted they didn't have anyone to spend Christmas with, compared with just one in 20 older people.

And, faced with a deluge of perfectly-curated Instagram feeds of everyone's seemingly idyllic Christmases, it's no surprise that a whopping third of us spend the holiday season dwelling on what we've failed to achieve over the year.

As a result, we're on a mission to ensure that no one feels lonely or left out this season and that's why we've rounded up a helpful list of surprising activities you can do if spending time with family isn't an option.


1. Make cocktails with the elderly

Based in London, Magic Me is an arts charity bringing the generations together to build a stronger, safer community.

In 2011, the initiative launched 'Cocktails in Care Homes', inviting volunteers to head down to a local care home to whip up anything from a gin & tonic to ice-cold cosmopolitans for the elderly, before sitting down to have a good old chinwag about life.

Think of it as your local pub but with fruity mojitos and chatty old folk.

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

The initiative hosts monthly parties at ten care homes across London - on Wednesday or Thursday evenings, 6pm-7.30pm - providing social occasions for over 250 adults.

The only thing required from volunteers is the attendance at a 90-minute induction session, with training including non-verbal communication skills and cocktail making.

Sign up to Cocktails in Care homes here. Alternatively, donate to the project here.

2. Volunteer in Calais

If you believe every human has the right to be treated in a fair and dignified way, a volunteering trip to Calais is most certainly for you this Christmas.

Care4Calais is a French/UK registered charity that works to support refugees sleeping rough in Calais, directly with a focus on providing fresh meals, warm clothing, heating and social interaction.

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

With mobile English workshops, sports days and art and music initiatives, to helping search for refugees in need of help, visiting those in detention, and organising the warehouse on site, your efforts are in need more than ever this Christmas.

For more information about volunteering, click here.

3. Join Goodgym

Over a million older people in the UK are always or often lonely and many go for months without seeing friends or family. And that's where GoodGym is here to help.

GoodGym is a weekly running club that combines regular exercise with helping the community. Whether it's jogging to plant trees for a local park and shifting earth for a community gardening project to sorting cans for a food bank, the charity works hard to improve the quality of life for the elderly by making volunteering actions fit easily into busy schedules.

The group has already accomplished over 55,000 good deeds since its launch in 2008 but is still in need of more help.

With the project now set up in 39 areas across the UK, there's no excuse not to don your trainers this Christmas and do some good in your community. After all, what better way to work off all that stuffing, right?

Sign up to GoodGym here.

4. Find a 'friend'

Via initiatives such as North London Cares, South London Cares and Manchester Cares, friendship matching scheme 'Love Thy Neighbour' joins men and women aged 65 and over with younger neighbours in the area to promote spending a little time one-to-one time together.

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

Matches are encouraged to catch up over a cup of tea or a walk once a week to develop a mutual friendship over time and help elderly neighbours who may struggle to get out of the house.

If you'd like to get involved, sign up to the programme here via its referral form or visit the organisation's contact page.

5. Become a pen pal

Set up by Dr Georgina Binnie from the University of Leeds in 2014, Writing Back is a volunteer letter-writing scheme that matches pen pals with older residents living in Yorkshire.

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

The scheme aims to encourage cross-communication and combat loneliness, with some volunteers organising to meet their penpals at the end of the scheme.

What's even better is that stationery, stamps and travel costs can be provided, so there's no excuse not to get involved.

Find out more information on how to get involved here.

6. Borrow a pet

We've all heard of 'Borrow My Doggy' which enables dog-lovers to spend time with canines without the hassle of purchasing, caring or feeding a pup long term.

Well, 'Borrow Pets' is here to bring a community of local pet lovers directly to you, no matter if you have a love for cats, turtles or, dare we say it, spiders.

All you have to do is create a 'borrower' profile, search members, and send a private message to meet up with the pet owner and pet ahead of a borrowing session.

It's basically like owning a dog/rabbit/snake without the hard work.

Find out more here.

7. Volunteer in a charity shop

In the lead up to Christmas, many charity shops struggle to cope with the extra work and demands of the festive shopping period.

So, if you have an afternoon, evening or even just two hours free in your diary, why not book yourself in for a shift at a charity shop this winter?

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

If you live in London or the South East, you can sign up to volunteer at a Card Aid Christmas card shop which raises money for more than 200 charities.

Alternatively, join the 22,000 or so volunteers who help out at Oxfam shops, Cancer Research at one of their 550+ shops around the UK.

8. Give out food at a foodbank centre

Approximately over 40,000 people across the UK volunteered with a foodbank in 2015/16, helping The Trussell Trust get emergency food to people in crisis.

Give something back this year and help out a your nearest foodbank, whether it's donating produce, sorting, or distributing food to those in need.

Find your local food bank and find out how you can help this Christmas by clicking here.

9. Flex your cooking muscles with Peckham Foodcycle

Food cycle is a national charity that builds communities through surplus food, volunteers and spare kitchen spaces.

With food projects from Bath to Birmingham, the project aims to cook up tasty meals for people in need of a hot dinner and friendship. Each week, it serves over 750 three-course meals and gives away over 150 tupperware boxes for guests to take home.

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

Whether you want to become a team co-ordinator or a cooking leader running weekly cooking sessions with volunteers, there's no better way to show off your cooking skills, motivate others and help your community.

Find you closest FoodCycle project here.

10. Couchsurf in a new city

If you're traveling over the Christmas period or have recently moved abroad and are struggling with homesickness and finding new friends, take yourself on an adventure and meet fellow travellers this festive season by couchsurfing.

A few days off over Christmas poses the perfect - and cheap - opportunity to sign up to Couchsurf, where travellers connect with each other to provide free accommodation to global wanderers.

Whether it's two days in Barcelona, a night's stay in Rome, or a quick trip to Paris for the weekend, you never know, you might even bag yourself a free Christmas dinner with a host's family!

Sign up to the scheme here.

11. Become a house sitter

You know that Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet Christmas film, The Holiday? Where the two women can't stand the thought of being lonely at home during the holidays and decide to swap houses (and lives) for two weeks?

Well, you can do the same - okay, perhaps without Jude Law and a mansion in Los Angeles - by signing up to be a house sitter over Christmas while looking after an owner's pet(s).

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

House sitting is by far the cheapest way to find accommodation, have an authentic holiday experience and indulge in a love of animals all at the same time. All you have to do is search through houses available online and contact the owners.

Finally, an opportunity to take that cosy three-day break in Cork or Edinburgh, for free!

Sign up to become a house sitter here.

12. Book a Christmas shift

Often, high street shops offer higher wages or 'double pay' during the festive period to recruit more members of staff to meet shopping demands.

If the thought of spending Christmas Eve, Boxing Day or the entirety of the holidays alone at home has you worried, organise a few shifts at a local high street shop for additional pay, an opportunity to eye-up items in the sales in advance and work with like-minded millennials.

Being paid to spend the day in Zara all day? Where do we sign?

Contact individual stores for more details.

13. Invite friends over for dinner

As we all know, not everyone celebrates Christmas, so why not send a Facebook or Whatsapp message to friends to find out who is free over the holidays and would like to spend time together - be it at home, in the local pub or at a restaurant?

Regardless or how you feel about Christmas, we can all agree it's the perfect time to reconnect with old pals and celebrate having time off, even it's just to eat to our heart's content, guilt-free.


However, if - for whatever reason - you're feeling lonely, sad or just need someone to talk to this festive season, remember that help is close at hand.

Here are a list of helplines available (times may vary) :

Merry Christmas!

More from ELLE UK: