What I learned the first time I spent Christmas away from my family

The first time I didn’t spend Christmas with my family was a big deal, as it is for most people. My family has never been super big on holidays, but we had always spent them all together up until that point. Things had changed a lot for me and my family when I was in my early 20s. My older brother was 24, I was 22, and my younger brothers weren’t as interested in spending time together as we all once were.

None of this is sad (well, a little), it’s just the way things go sometimes. As I have gotten older and no one in my family has gotten married or had kids (yet?), the holidays basically just become a really big dinner. We don’t really do gift exchanges anymore because we are at the age where we buy something if we want it and we would all rather have help with gas money or paying a big bill off than any of us spending our money on gift items.

This all being said, the reason I didn’t go home was because of work. I still lived in the town I went to college in (well, I still live there) and it is about 1.5 hours from my hometown. I didn’t have a car, and no one had the time to come pick me up from work. I was closing my coffee shop on Christmas Eve night (around 8pm) and though I didn’t have to work on Christmas Day, I had to open our store the following morning. Taking a bus or a train was too expensive and the schedules didn’t match up with what would work for me—it’s hard to find a way out of town that late on Christmas Eve! Rather than trying to have a Planes, Trains, and Automobiles adventure, I chose to stay up at my home, without my family.

I was fully prepared to pull a Kevin McCallister and spend some time alone, hopefully not fighting off burglars who were trying to kill me, but I lucked out that Christmas. I had always seen it in movies and television shows, but I had never quite experienced that level of “spend Christmas with each other” kind of friendships—until that year. I made the choice to stay up north for Christmas and so did a few very important people to me—all who worked for the same coffee company I did. Things are just easier this way sometimes! Work sucks during the holidays.

I had recently met these two people who have really grown to mean a lot to me, though we haven’t lived in the same state since shortly after our Christmas together. Though I hadn’t known them for very long when the holiday season rolled around, they were from Phoenix, Arizona and were definitely not planning on traveling home for Christmas. Though these two were not big fans of the holiday in itself, they were big fans of the idea of hanging around watching Christmas movies because obviously. Who wouldn’t be?

Our two other friends were also staying up north. One of the guys was from Minnesota or Michigan or somewhere far from us and wasn’t going home. The other guy was from the same area my family lived but he had volunteered to work on Christmas and his family, similarly, wasn’t doing anything big for the holiday. Lucky for me, I had recently decided I was super in love with this gentleman, so even though I wasn’t going to be with my family, I was still pretty excited to curl up on the couch and watch every Christmas movie ever created.

On Christmas Eve after I closed up shop, we all headed over to the love of my life’s house to watch a few Christmas movies. We all fell asleep on the couches, he and I on the same arm chair, cozied up together. It could not have been more adorable. In the morning, two of us had to go to work but not before we had sticky buns or monkey bread or whatever people call it. Five in the morning, eating breakfast pastries and drinking coffee—I felt the perfect mixture of adult and child-like, all at once.

The guys went to work, my best girl and I stayed home to nap. We made the guys sack lunches and delivered them to the drive-thru window to make sure they had a happy Christmas lunch, even though they were busy at work, slinging coffee on a day no one should have to be on the clock.

That night, we made drinks, had dinner together, and watched a few more Christmas movies. That guy I had my eye on kissed me on the cheek that night and though we wouldn’t really make things work for another year and a half after that night, it was the best Christmas I had had since childhood—all because of the little things.

Now that I am older, I really treasure Christmases with family, even if we are old and boring. I am really happy I had the opportunity to experience a friends Christmas, if only for one year. I recommend you try it sometime if the opportunity presents itself. You never know who might kiss you on the cheek.

[Featured image via NBC]