You might be surprised how many people spend the holidays alone.
Toronto is brimming with singles and international students, people who move here for work and any mix of unconventional families that might make it hard to get together.
And holiday traveling can be expensive and stressful — so some people just stay solo in the city.
Here are some events and ideas for spending the holidays alone in Toronto.
Public skating in Toronto is an iconic winter pastime — and great to enjoy solo.
But for active extroverts, you can kick it up a notch with a game of shinny.
In this informal hockey game, you can interact with other people looking for exercise and friendly competition over the holidays. Introduce yourself at the rink and join a group.
Shinny requires a bit of equipment, but you might be able to source skates, a stick and helmet through a callout on social media — or pick up a used set from Play It Again Sports. When you’re done, you can always sell it back.
To find shinny times, use the City of Toronto’s drop-in website here. Enter your location and filter by date to see what’s open over the holidays.
The big screen
Staying home and streaming is our default method of consuming entertainment. But if you want the fresh air, a sense of spectacle, and a reason to change out of your pajamas, head to the theatre. You can people-watch Star Wars fans in full gear, young couples trying to escape their families, and gaggles of toddlers eager for 90 minutes of CGI.
Movie studios release major blockbusters this time of year, so go share the iconic cinematic moments with a lively audience, from Little Women to Star Wars, Jumanji to Cats.
Whether you’ve lived here your whole life or you just moved here recently, there are probably some places you haven’t visited yet. And many are open for the holidays.
On Christmas Day, the CN Tower and Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada will be open — and on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, the Toronto Zoo, Royal Ontario Museum and the Art Gallery of Ontario are open as well.
You’ll find yourself among tourists or other people celebrating non-conventional holidays. And, after all the sightseeing, you can gift yourself with some gift shop kitsch.
Use social media to connect — or shut it down
There are two ways to approach social media when you’re solo for the holidays.
You can use it to connect with others, creating a “chosen family” of friends, colleagues and classmates. Find others who are available and organize parties, potlucks, board games, or Netflix bingeing sessions.
If everybody prefers going out, take the crew to various events and light displays around the city — keep up with Toronto Storey’s events listings here.
Others, however, might prefer a social media blackout. Scrolling through a relentless stream of everyone else’s celebrations with families and partners might make you feel lonely — i.e. holiday-themed FOMO. You can choose mindfulness and self-care apps instead, or engrossing podcasts: check out Time Magazine's “10 Best Podcasts of 2019”.
Want to hang out with someone’s cat or dog, or crash in a cool loft? Great for introverts and animal lovers, let your work and social contacts know you’re staying in the city and free to housesit for someone who is traveling.
You might earn some extra cash while enjoying a change of scenery. Maybe the couple lives in an interesting neighbourhood — or they have a great view, or an interesting collection of records. Maybe their dog is an excellent cuddler. And, in keeping with the holiday spirit, you’re helping some people out.
If you want to branch outside of your social and professional networks, you can also check out Housesitter.com.
Purge and binge-watch
Cleaning is cathartic — if anything, the startlingly sudden rise of Marie Kondo showed how deeply satisfying purging can be.
Take stock of your wardrobe and possessions, and pack up all the items you don’t need. Google around to find places to donate clothing in your area — some organizations will pick up bags from where you live.
You’ll feel refreshed in your newly tidy space, knowing your giveaway pile will be better used by someone else. And you can head into the New Year with a fresh start.
A good reward for all this housekeeping? Order some Chinese takeout and hunker down for a cheesy lineup of holiday movies. As Esquire recently declared, “We Are in The Golden Era of So-Bad-They’re-Good Holiday Movies.” You’ll laugh, you’ll cry — you’ll wonder if anybody read the script.
Take a holiday shift
If you don’t like your colleagues or your job, by all means, skip this section.
But for those of us who like where we work — at least most of the time — taking a holiday shift can end up being a lot of fun. (This writer has worked a few holiday shifts and didn’t regret a single one.)
Potential perks? Holiday pay, camaraderie, getting out of the house, potlucks, funky sweater contests. If you’re pouring coffees or cocktails, you’ll find your customers are much nicer than usual — both in banter and tips.
Drop little bits of kindness around
Holiday volunteering shifts are usually booked by now — sometimes even months in advance — but feel free to consult the City of Toronto’s list of agencies serving the homeless and vulnerable. There may be some spots left.
If you can’t find a place to volunteer, VolunteerToronto.ca recommends joining the holiday tradition of generosity and kindness with little care packages. You can assemble socks, mittens, gift cards and snacks and give them out directly to someone who might need them. You can write cards for neighbours, hand out chocolates to your bus driver and barista, or bring some baking over to an elderly acquaintance living next door. Stay for a cup of tea, too. If there’s a young family on your floor, walk over with a small toy.
In other words, you’re not really alone in the city. There are always people around — present in your life in both big ways and small — and little unexpected acts of kindness will be remembered for years to come.
Happiness is an emotional boomerang — the more you try to give it away, the more it comes back to you.