Many newcomers to Canada describe their first Christmas as fairly eventful. It’s the time of the year where many people rejoice, but it’s also that time when, for the less fortunate, loneliness and depression hit a crescendo and they are painfully made aware of the disparity between their lives and the lives of others who seem to have all the joy in the world. For the jobless, life can seem even more bleak as it’s just not the weather that is freezing; the job market seems to be on a freeze, too. And for those with survival jobs, the financial limitations of not being able to afford what they want takes a toll.

I was one of those who felt Christmas belonged to everyone else except me.  Who was the Grinch who stole my Christmas? The newcomer in me was the Grinch.

The Christmas of 2012 was one of the most wretched phases of my life. It was the season to be jolly, except that I didn’t feel jolly. Every time I heard someone talking of family or gifts, I wanted to burst into tears. Everyone was excited and spoke about holiday plans or cookies and chocolate. Except me. My marriage of 14 years had crumbled. I had practically no family in Canada. And I was jobless. I remember how I walked aimlessly through crowded malls with an empty mind and a lonely heart. The moment I reached my tiny basement room, I cried out loud and stared wistfully at the walls. Needless to say, it was the worst Christmas ever.  

By Christmas evening, I had enough of crying. I looked at myself in the mirror.  Immigrating to Canada and my current state of affairs were the results of choices I made.  Nobody had forced me into making those choices. It was time I firmly stood up to the reality of those choices. I wiped away my tears, mentally resolving to never feel lonely. I was going to become my own best friend.

On Boxing Day, I went to Value Village and came home with a Casio keyboard and some yarn. By New Year’s Eve, I had crocheted two dishcloths, was starting to crochet my first shawl, and had learned to play basic piano. (God bless YouTube!) Above all, I was a more determined and focused person with a strong resolution to never bring myself onto the verge of depression.

Now, not everyone has a pet project to work on. But there are ways to light up your soul, however dark and hopeless it may seem. If you feel lonely this Christmas, stop. Don’t let the words “low income” or “second-hand” intimidate you. Treat yourself to niceties. Think of the clothing in second-hand stores as items given by well-wishing brothers and sisters in Canada.

Don’t let your faith stand in the way of festivity. Being happy and joyful doesn’t need a reason.  Think of what you want to accomplish the following year. Draw up a New Year’s resolution list! Be determined to check off most of the items in your list.

So, if you feel a tear popping up, replace it with a cheer. As that old 1936 cartoon film says, “After all, Christmas comes but once a year!”

Featured Image: Many newcomers experience a blue Christmas. Contrary to the festive atmosphere, a period of depression can set in, coupled with feelings of homesickness and the woes of unemployment. | Nazreena Anwar-Travas