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by Abigail Van Buren

Family of Christmas Loner Won't Leave Him in Peace

DEAR ABBY: I am a 45-year-old divorced man with no children. I have lived alone since my divorce 15 years ago and wouldn't have it any other way. I'm not anti-social. I have a steady girlfriend and many friends.

My problem is my family at Christmastime. Nobody in our family is particularly religious, so during family gatherings the holiday is not celebrated in the spiritual sense. Frankly, I find the "Ho, Ho, Ho" aspect of the holiday overblown and am relieved when it is over. I prefer to spend Christmas Day reading, catching up on home repairs, or -- weather permitting -- cross-country skiing or ice fishing.

My family insists I must get together with them simply because it's Christmas. I live within a half-hour of all of them and can get together with them whenever I like. However, they cannot accept the fact that I am not a "Christmas guy." (I still give nice gifts to all the kids and chip in on a big gift for my parents.)

My girlfriend accepts my decision and celebrates with her family, although deep down I suspect my "Grinchiness" does bother her.

Abby, I mean no disrespect and wish them all a merry Christmas, but how can I convince them that I prefer to spend the holidays alone? -- CHRISTMAS LONER AND LOVING IT

DEAR CHRISTMAS LONER: It may be difficult to do, because your perception of a merry Christmas is so different from theirs, and your attitude isn't shared by the majority of people. What you have failed to consider is the fact that Christmas is traditionally a family holiday -- and to your parents and siblings (and your girlfriend), you are an important part of the family picture.

However, since you are uncomfortable with the family celebrations, tell your relatives that this is your quirk and you expect them to respect it. Eventually, they'll get over their disappointment. Enjoy your home repairs, cross-country skiing and ice fishing, and in the words of the Bard, "... to thine own self be true."