I love Christmas. It's my favourite holiday of the year. Having family and friends around the table, putting on a lavish spread, coming up with thoughtful gifts for people I care about - it's a wonderful celebration.

But as I listened to people's plans for Christmas on the radio, I was struck by how alone many people are and how much they dread this time of year.

Charlie rang me and said she had no family and, although she had friends, she didn't want to crash their Christmas celebrations.

So she'd take her deckchair, head out to the cemetery where her mum and dad were buried and have a steak and cheese pie and a chocolate milkshake and read a good book until the day was over.


This year, however, a colleague had invited her to spend Christmas Day with their extended family, so it won't be so lonely.

Others draw the curtains, turn on the television and watch reruns of old movies and Christmas specials until the day draws to a close and shops reopen and people emerge back on the streets.

They don't mind that their children are too busy or too far away to spend time with them, they say. It's that so much emphasis is put on Christmas as a time for parties and families and get-togethers that it reinforces how alone they are.

So this Christmas, as I look around the table at my mad extended family, I'll count my blessings and be grateful to have each and every one of them in my life.