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Single for the Holidays?

You don't have to be, if you follow these tips

When my 23-year marriage ended, I didn't want the holidays to turn into some kind of pity party. I knew even the slightest whiff of Christmas music would easily get me misty-eyed. I turn mushy inside when I hear Bing Crosby sing "White Christmas," and I worried that the romanticism of holiday lights would make me feel like the only one in the world who didn't have a honey to hug.

Also see: Where to meet great singles.

Naked Truth

If your single, kick up your heels and do something you love with a group, or on your own. — Microzoa/Getty Images

I knew I needed to do an end run around my own neediness, because even if I'd made the choice to be on my own, various kinds of commercialized holiday "cheer" would still get to me. Perhaps you're finding you have the same need. Memories of happier holiday seasons when you were happily married, living with someone or just plain in love, make it hard not to feel left out and let down.

The endless holiday parties don't help, because when you are alone, everyone around you seems to be coupled. (This is often a myth, but in your state of mind, there is not one person on the street who is not holding hands with a lover.) Maybe you are invulnerable to such mood-manglers, but if you aren't, you've got to protect yourself. You don't have to be sobbing into your beer or finishing off a box of chocolates all by yourself on New Year's Eve.

So, what to do? Here are my top five things to do for holiday happiness — all guaranteed to make single people just as happy as anybody else for the rest of this year. Maybe happier, actually — some of those couples you are watching might enviously wish they could be you.

Throw Yourself a Party With People You Truly Like

There are parties and then there are parties. The great ones are celebratory gatherings that remind you how lucky you are to know the people who come. The bad parties are events when no one really connects and you keep looking at your watch, wondering why you ever bothered to go.

However, when you give the party, you control the guest list. This helps you produce an intimate group that is handpicked to be congenial and interesting. You can do this alone or with a friend — which helps if you want to share expenses, preparations, or have the friend invite a few acquaintances whom you'd like to know better. This way, significant nights such as those of Hanukkah, Christmas, or New Year's Eve feel festive, warm and special. Have an adventurous menu — host a potluck, or order something delicious from a restaurant or caterer.

The party maneuver guarantees that you will not be alone those nights, in your jammies, opening a can of tuna fish at 10 p.m., watching It's a Wonderful Life for the 20th time. With just a little planning, your holiday will be joyful instead of depressing.

Next: Use holidays as an opportunity to learn and give back. »

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