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Singles forge new holiday traditions

As their ranks swell, singles reach out to others, pamper themselves, or simply relish their solitude.

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In the seven years that Alison Ashton has been single, she has not always been free to travel to California for Christmas with her family. But rather than lamenting either her single status or her absent relatives, Ms. Ashton, a freelance writer in Birmingham, Ala., has found new ways to celebrate – with friends.

“I’ve had some great holidays,” she says.

Christmas is a season of stereotypes. Popular images abound of happy families gathered around hearths and holiday tables. To the unattached, the whole country appears to be paired off – a giant Noah’s Ark. Yet with more than 90 million single or divorced people in the United States, images of holidays as totally ­family-oriented and couple-centered are outdated and ripe for revision.

“We’re in a transition time, societally, where we still think about holidays as if we all grew up in these nuclear families with a bunch of kids and low levels of divorce,” says Bella DePaulo, author of “Singled Out.” “But demographics are changing. Our ways of celebrating the holidays are also changing, but we don’t have a new set of images or ideas for these changes.”

Adjust expectations, plan, entertain

For Ashton, creating new images involves a three-pronged approach. First, she emphasizes the need to adjust expectations. “The same traditions don’t apply when you’re on your own,” she says.

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