Christmas is the time in the year where we all buy gifts, spend time with our loved ones (friends or families) and eat loads of food till our bellies pop! Many think that at Christmas time you give to receive or that everyone is gifted to have a family or a home to go to every year, when in fact, many young people, Looked After Children and Care Leavers experience Christmas very differently.

Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, it is hard to ignore the fact that it is the Christmas holidays because everything and mostly everyone is celebrating it.

I interviewed four Care Leavers about their experiences at Christmas time.

Amari, aged 19, grew up in Lewisham. Currently working as a GP Receptionist.
Joe, aged 24 and raised mainly in Enfield, London. Currently in Uni, working for the Young People’s Action Group alongside London’s Violence Reduction Unit and a Content Creator.
Victoria, aged 24, grew up in South East London. Currently studying Sociology and working part-time at M&S.
Kara, aged 25, has been moved around a lot in her past but most of her time has been in London. Currently working for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office on an internship working in Overseas Territories.

What’s your favourite memory of Christmas?

Amari: “My favourite memory of Christmas was last year as it was my daughters 1st Christmas, even though she did sleep through all the unwrapping of the presents, it was cute to just dress her up and enjoy Christmas for her”

Joe: “I haven't had many positive experiences at Christmas but my favourite memory had to be when my adopted parents put up a Christmas tree when I was about 13, 14 and made our house look really Christmassy - it made me feel like Father Christmas was coming even though I knew he wasn't real”

Victoria: “Celebrated at the Canterbury Christmas Dinner 20217 with other care leavers, was nice to spend it with other people, having fun and just being merry”

Kara: “My favourite memory of Christmas was in 2019 when I volunteered at the Tope Project, honestly it was the best Christmas I have had in my life. Seeing so many young people that had care experience, having fun, playing games, watching movies together, eating together - it was just a very memorable Christmas, one I will never forget. All the thought that was put into it, it was honestly so special. I’m sure myself and everyone that attended thought that we had the very best  Christmas. I was volunteering there but because I was having so much fun, it didn't even feel like I was.''

What’s your hardest challenge at Christmas?

Amari: “I think the hardest challenge at Christmas for me is the money. I'm not rich and Christmas has turned into a season of money spending and I feel like you want to give people gifts and you don't want to disappoint them”.

Joe: “My hardest challenge at Christmas is just the time of year - being able to get on and do things, because a lot of things stay on my mind. I’ve always been on my own for - I used to go to a lot of friends' families' houses who were really into Christmas and they always used to try to get me involved but I’ve always just felt so negative around Christmas time”.

Victoria: “Hardest challenge at Christmas would be I think if I had no one at all to spend Christmas with, I can't relate to that as I’ve always been with someone for Christmas but i couldn't imagine how hard it would be for someone else, seeing other people with their families etc. But if it was for me personally I would not be able to celebrate Christmas due to financial difficulties”.

Kara: “My hardest challenge about Christmas is probably knowing that I’m not with my family - like my family is out there but I'm not there, that makes it hard. And of course seeing other people with their families too. It makes me happy but also it is very hard as I do. I feel a bit lonely around Christmas. I was going to say something selfish like not getting presents haha but that's not that hard because I can buy myself presents but I would say feeling lonely is the hardest challenge, that's why I have always worked every Christmas”.

What makes you happy about Christmas?

Amari: “What makes me happy at Christmas is it's a time to relax, you get a little bit of time off work, eat and be merry! Ovbs I get to spend time with my baby, even though she is still too young to understand what's going on but she likes the lights and all of that stuff ”.

Joe: “Nothing really makes me feel happy about Christmas, because I have had a lot of people who I loved pass away around Christmas. My adopted dad and a few of my friends so Christmas is a very hard period of time for me”.

Victoria: “What makes me happy about Christmas is the festivity, putting up trees, the decorations, it was really exciting for me this year as I put up my big tree in my flat - so that was really exciting”.

Kara: “Well, what makes me happy about Christmas is just doing something that helps someone else, so the past 5 years, I have always worked on Christmas. I used to be a carer and caring for me meant so much because it felt like I was giving back. Even seeing the elderly people that I used to care about not having anyone around at Christmas or being alone at Christmas, it was nice because I have always felt alone at Christmas. After caring, I would go and see my friend and spend time, again for the last 5 years I’ve spent Christmas with her too”.

Can you give me an affirmation or something you you want to manifest for 2022?

Amari: “No matter how hard it gets keep going - I think this would be a good affirmation for me for 2022”

Joe: “Going into 2022 I would like to be less negative about things, believe in certain systems, I would like to make sure that I can be in the right mindset so that others don't suffer the way I did. My whole life I have felt lonely, not that I don't have no one around me but I’m doing this alone, no one else but me. Be more optimistic, be more positive, maybe even ask for support as I've never been that person to but maybe I should in 2022”

Victoria: “Affirmation that I want for 2022 is abundance because I would like to live a fruitful life with happiness - I DESERVE THAT !”

Kara: “My affirmation for 2022 would be that I can achieve anything I put my mind to because I believe that highly. I am going to achieve everything that I put my mind to - 100%! ”.