If the thought of another year of presents & pudding feels more meh than magical, take inspiration from these four readers doing Christmas their way…

Michele Higgins is a children’s hospice nurse (havenhouse.org.uk) and lives in Essex

"Driving through deserted streets on Christmas morning a few years ago, wearing an elf costume, I smiled to myself. I knew the little girl I was on my way to visit would be absolutely thrilled to see me all dressed up, and I couldn’t wait to see her face.

"When I tell people I spend Christmas Day caring for sick children who aren’t going to see adulthood, people assume it might be a sad or difficult day, but seeing the children and their presents from Santa, surrounded by their families, is very special for me. My job is to support them and their family practically and emotionally, enabling them to spend time together in their own home, feeling comfortable and surrounded by love, and enjoying the festive season as much as possible.

"I’ve been a nurse for 41 years, mostly working with children, and five years ago I started working at Haven House Children’s Hospice in East London. Children, ranging from newborns to 18 year olds, with life-limiting and life-threatening conditions come into the hospice for short periods of time for respite, but are mostly cared for at home, with our support.

"I’ve lost count of the Christmas Days I’ve worked during my career, and I’ve worked every one for the past five years. To me, it’s a privilege and I am humbled by the strength of the children and families I visit, who are making precious memories and cherishing the time they have together.

"I am on call all of Christmas Day, and night too, and am assigned to a specific family. Whatever they need, I am there for them. It may mean several visits over 24 hours.

"My own family are very understanding; they know how important my work is to me. My husband Terry cooks our Christmas meal and I join in with the day when I’m home. I’ve sometimes been halfway through my turkey and been called out again, but they know my work comes first that day.

"Another reason I'm happy to work at Christmas is that it enables a colleague to be off, perhaps someone with young children or elderly parents who really wants to be at home. I’m very happy to give them that break.

"On Boxing Day, I relax and enjoy a glass of wine, and another festive family meal, but the children are always in my thoughts and I feel happy knowing I’ve played a part in making their Christmas Day a comfortable and peaceful one."

I work as a nurse helping families

Sophie Badman is an estate agent from West Sussex

"While my friends and family are opening presents together, or toasting with a glass of fizz, my Christmas Day is spent on the phone – to strangers. I’m a volunteer for the Samaritans, so I give my time to listen to people in need.

"It’s a cause close to my heart, because just a few days before Christmas 2018, I made one of the most important calls of my life to the Samaritans following the breakdown of my marriage. I was feeling low as the festive season began that year. I had a loving and supportive family, but I didn’t want to burden them with my emotions when everyone was happy and celebrating.

"I needed someone who didn’t know me; who could listen without judgement and wouldn’t try to cheer me up, but just offer understanding. That was exactly what I got from the volunteer at the Samaritans who answered my call on that December day four years ago.

"Months passed and I grew emotionally stronger, but I never forgot the difference that call had made. So, in 2019, I decided to become a Samaritans volunteer myself.

"I started my training in the summer of 2020. The process involved several months of practice calls and learning how to really listen to someone. I began volunteering regularly in November 2020, and I manned the phones at Christmas that year.

"I also spent Christmas Day last year volunteering, before joining my family later for a festive meal, and I’m doing the same this year.

"I know I am making a difference to their life in that moment and that gives me more satisfaction than any Christmas gift."

Samaritans volunteers are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Call for free on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org. To help Samaritans’ listening volunteers be there for people when they are struggling, please visit samaritans.org.

I spend the day volunteering

Lavina Dsouza (@continent.hop) is a writer from Leeds

"Watching the sun rise over the Sahara desert in Morocco on Christmas morning is a moment I will never forget. It was so peaceful and incredibly beautiful – I knew I’d made the right decision to get away for the festive season.

"That trip was in 2016 and I’ve left the UK every Christmas to travel abroad since – apart from 2020 of course – visiting places like the Caribbean, Vietnam and France.

"I moved to the UK in November 2015 from my native India. That Christmas, I was single, my family were thousands of miles away, and I didn’t realise everything shut down on Christmas Eve.

"It was a lonely experience and I vowed I’d never feel that way again. It made me realise Christmas was actually the perfect time to indulge my love of travelling. I had time off work and, depending on the destination, there are often great deals to be had at that time of year.

"Jetting off in the days before Christmas has become my own festive tradition and after meeting my partner, Ajay, he now comes with me on my travels. It’s something I save towards and I love researching where to go to, and the sense of anticipation that builds throughout the year.

"From lying on a Jamaican beach soaking up the sun while on a Caribbean cruise, to tucking into a Vietnamese buffet in Halong Bay, with festive music playing in the background, I’ve had amazing experiences that are a world away from a ‘traditional’ Christmas.

"It’s not only wonderful to see new places and experience different cultures, it’s an opportunity to spend quality time with Ajay, away from the stresses and strains of this time of year – and in the depths of a British winter there’s nothing better than heading to a warmer climate. It’s a great way to end one year and begin the next, and definitely offsets the January blues.

"For this Christmas, Egypt is a strong contender, but I know that, wherever I end up, it will be another adventurous and culturally different festive season – I can’t wait."

I watch the sun rise on some far-flung beach

Dalia Hawley runs a skincare brand (daliabotanique.co.uk) and is from Yorkshire

"Come Christmas morning, you won’t find me lazing around in novelty pyjamas or tucking into a selection box for breakfast. Instead, I’ll be lacing up my trainers or loading my bike onto the car rack for a long bike ride.

"As an adult, I’ve never really ‘got’ all the fuss around Christmas. I’m more of a summer person – not only do I suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in winter, but I just don’t feel the same festive buzz that others do. In the past, I used to spend it with my family and, although I love being with them, when it came to all the typical traditions, I just went through the motions.

"In 2017, I met my partner Mark, and he felt exactly the same way about Christmas. That year, we spent it together, rather than with our families, and did something completely different. We’re keen runners and cyclists, so we indulged in our shared passion for physical activity. It may not be very ‘Christmassy’, but we wanted to make the day special in our own way.

"That Christmas, we went hill running in the Peak District and it felt strange but wonderful to be out exercising and enjoying a packed lunch in the fresh air, in a beautiful landscape. For us, it was much more enjoyable than lazing around in front of the TV after a huge lunch.

"Since then, we’ve taken on a physical challenge every Christmas Day. We’ve done a 100-mile bike ride, gone fell running in the Peak District and off-road mountain biking in the Yorkshire Dales. We’ve been out in all weathers, from crisp winter sunshine to strong winds. When we get home, we feel tired but satisfied and enjoy a nut roast and a relaxing evening together. It’s bliss.

"For me, the lead up to Christmas is my busiest time of year at work. I run a skincare brand and am rushed off my feet creating products and sending out orders. Exercise is my way of de-stressing, so by the time Christmas Day arrives, I need it more than ever.

"Friends and family all know how passionate I am about being active, so it doesn’t surprise them I’ve developed this tradition.

"Christmas should be an individual experience, doing whatever you enjoy, not what tradition dictates, and I’m looking forward to another physical one this year."

I cycle 100 miles on Christmas morning