I won’t be home for Christmas.

For the first time ever.

Now don’t go reading this and get depressed, or start thinking this is going to be a sad, pity-filled bit of words. Give me a chance.

While yes, I will indeed NOT be going home this Christmas like the iconic song, I’m not searching for pity. In fact, if you’ve ever questioned how many friends you have, I highly recommend telling people you won’t be going home for Christmas. Something tells me you’ll be inundated with offers for multiple surrogate Christmas families, as I was. And it just might make your heart swell, like it did mine.

I guess you can call it the blessing and the curse of having a wandering spirit. For those of you who have been in this situation before, I’m sure you can understand my initial, pure sadness, when, staring at flight prices upwards of $1500, I understood I would indeed not be going home for Christmas. You know that little part of you that always holds out hope in seemingly impossible situations? The part of you that’s like, “Nah, you definitely still have Ben & Jerry’s FroYo in the freezer” when you definitely finished it the night before? Yeah, that little part of me took a beating.

For a bit of backstory here, I’d like to let y’all in on the extravagance of my family’s Christmas. Ever since my sisters and I were tiny little humans, my parents have gone out of their way to make Christmas at our house absolutely magical. We’re talking four full-sized Christmas trees, evergreen garlands for days, and chubby, jolly santa figurines around every corner. There are gingerbread houses, cookies of every variety, and classic Christmas carols always playing in the background. It’s over-the-top, but that’s what Christmas means to me, my loves (wink wink nod nod). And God bless the first boyfriend I took home for Christmas with my family, as he was… overwhelmed, to say the least.

Well over the years, the menu has changed, the Santa collection has grown, and recently, we’ve been blessed with some adorable babies wobbling around the tree to grab at the sparkly ornaments. But every single year, since my first one on this earth, my sisters and I have been there on Christmas morning to descend the stairs, unpack our bursting stockings (we always open them first) and then sort the presents into our family “spots” in the living room. And when the husbands and babies came into the picture, the energy of the whole affair just grew and grew. It’s magic for me because it’s my family’s own, personal Lifetime movie, filmed once a year.

And this year I’m in Germany.

(I will confirm, but I don’t think they have lifetime movies here. They have Netflix, and I have indeed watched The Christmas Chronicles, which I recommend, but it’s not the same.)

For those of you who know me, I’m not a big fan of self-pity. If I don’t like something, I try and find a way to fix it. (Sometimes it works, sometimes I make a bunch of problems with wordy emails, but hey. I’m still learning…) But how do you fix a problem like this, without extending your credit card debt by $1500?

Well, it’s not Christmas yet, so I’m not positive, but I’ve got some plans lined up. And at the core of it all, I’m not pretending to be completely happy that I’m away. In fact, I’m embracing being completely alone. Because while I’m not that old, I’ve learned so much about myself over the past few years, in moments of emptiness and sadness. Moreover, I think the life lessons come when you figure out how to fill your emptiness. I don’t mean a dark, black, empty soul. My life is not that terrible. In fact, it’s pretty rad at the moment. But I’m talking about the upcoming three days that seem utterly barren compared to what’s “normal” at Christmas time. How do I “fix it” as I like to say?

In my case, it’s music, friends, food, and travel. That’s what fills my soul. Lucky for me, I’ve landed in a perfectly historic city (Hamburg) with old churches offering an array of music-filled Weihnacht (Vye-Nahkt. Christmas is German) services, and I plan to attend one before joining two friends for an evening of Christmas cooking and wine. And on another free day, I’m heading to Lübeck, because it’s a city I’ve heard wonderful things about, and why-the-heck not go check it out?

And on that day, smack-dab in the middle, known as Christmas, you know what I plan to do? Be completely and utterly alone. Because I’ve got my french press, parcels sent from everywhere, thanks to my incredible family, and a solid internet connection to Facetime into the Lifetime movie. It’s not a “normal” Christmas, and I’m not pretending it is. But I’m certainly celebrating the life decisions that have led me here, the family who miraculously never grows tired of my changing address, and that little part of me that stays optimistic in every situation. Because that little part of me deserves a Christmas gift as well.

And to be frank, I recognize I’m in a luxurious position. I’m not deployed with the military, or stuck working overtime. I’ve got three days off in a country I’ve grown to adore, and when I go back to choreography rehearsal on the 27th at 2pm, it’s for a job that takes me to corners of the world most 27 year-olds will never see.

Some people don’t get to choose where they are in life for the holidays. Would I choose to be in Hamburg, Germany for every Christmas? No, I think not. And I’ll probably be sad for a few minutes. And alone. And then I’ll get to fill my time with the things that make my heart smile. And that little part of me that’s eternally optimistic will sit back, relax and enjoy a nice glühwein, as I take in the sights of Lübeck’s famous Christmas market.

So cheers, prost, and salud to all of you reading this. I hope your holidays are filled with the things that make you happy, friends and/or family who steer you in the right direction, and maybe even a few moments of solitude for you to fill however you please. And if you’ve got nowhere to go, just give me a call. I’ve got Ben and Jerry’s FroYo for two.

Have you spent the holidays away from home?

How do you celebrate wherever you are?