By Sheryl Smolkin
Read this article and comments at Moneyville.ca
Since 1943, the song “I’ll be home for Christmas” first recorded by Bing Crosby has captured the yearnings of generations of people who have been willing to overcome almost insurmountable odds to go home again for the holidays.
However, according to a new survey commissioned by Intel Canada, nearly three-quarters of Canadians have family and friends they want to see over the holidays but can’t. The two biggest barriers keeping them from the ones they love are distance (80 per cent) and dollars (53 per cent).
Thirty-three per cent of survey participants said the next best thing to sharing the holidays with someone in person is connecting via Skype, email and other social media. But your grandmother probably isn’t on Skype and seeing pictures of someone else’s turkey dinner or new baby may be a pale substitute for the real thing.
Even if you can’t go home and celebrate with your loved ones, there are plenty of ways you can still have a happy and meaningful celebration by reaching out to those in the community where you currently live.
1. Volunteer your time. One option is the Out of the Cold programs for homeless, marginalized and socially isolated people which run seven nights a week in Toronto at various churches and synagogues.
Each site has a number of different responsibilities for volunteers including meal preparation, serving, cleaning, general maintenance, security, social programs, and offering support to the guests.
2. Make a donation. Stop giving gifts to every family member. Pick names and donate the rest of your gift budget to the Toronto Star Santa Claus Fund or the charity of your choice so less fortunate people receive gifts of food, toys, warm clothing and other necessities.
3. Create community. If you ask around, you are sure to find others who are also alone for the holidays. It doesn’t matter if you have a small apartment or don’t have enough chairs. Invite people over and have everyone bring something. You’ll be surprised at the feast that will materialize, and how quickly strangers will become friends.
4. Attend a concert or religious service. I do not celebrate Christmas, but I absolutely love to hear beautiful, seasonal music sung by glorious choirs. Some of my favourites are the Toronto Classical Singers, the Amadeus Choir and the Bach Children’s Chorus, but WholeNote Magazine and the Toronto Star have dozens of listings, and the entrance fees for community choirs are usually modest.
Even if you couldn’t make it home this year, if being home for Christmas is an absolute priority next year, there is no time like the present to start saving a few dollars every week and stockpiling vacation time to make it happen.
However, once you start developing your own traditions with “chosen” family, you may feel more like you are already home for the holidays, even though it is a different home than the one you grew up in.