I wrote a similar post for Valentine’s Day. The truth is that holidays that emphasizes being with family and close friends can be painful for those who may be alone. The level of pain can run the spectrum from an irritant like a mosquito bite to full-blown depression. (This is also true if it is the first holiday after the loss of a loved one.)
When my husband and I were on active duty, we would host dinner for friends that were single and treat it like a party. We don’t know as many single people now although we do keep our ears open in case we can make the same offer. If you live in an urban area there tends to be enough diversity to have dinner at a Chinese or Indian restaurant, movie theaters open, etc.,. Certain restaurants never close and others have made the business decision to be open on holidays specifically to cater to people who might either be single or not wish to cook. One of the older short stories on my web site is, Draft With a Sprig of Mistletoe, to acknowledge those of us who have spent many a holiday without significant other or family to join.
However, if you are in a small town where traditional family holidays are met with most businesses closing down and there are no singles in your circle to spent the day with, a little planning will be in order. Pampering yourself is high on my list, whatever form that takes. Sleeping late, eating nothing but desserts or junk food all day, a DVD marathon of a particular genre. On the more altruistic side, there might be a place doing charitable work that you can volunteer for and then pamper yourself. Perhaps there is a nature-related activity you can enjoy or a little day trip that is appropriate.
As for a holiday meal, if you cook, experimenting with a meal might be in order, or go traditional. A small turkey breast is a good option and there are frequently the one-two person portions of sides in the refrigerated or freezer sections of the grocery store. If you don’t cook, take advantage of places that cater, get the smallest number of servings they sell and then figure out what to do with leftovers.
In closing, if you are alone at the holidays and do go out, please remember to smile and say kind words to those who are working. It may be only a small thing, but you might be surprised at how it can help, too.