Halloween has been over for a little under three weeks, and like clockwork, half the population is already decorating trees, shopping for gifts, and singing carols. It’s almost as if Thanksgiving isn’t even a holiday anymore, but rather a mile marker leading up to the alleged “most wonderful day of the year.”
I’m not going to criticize people who love Christmas, especially when these last few years have been incredibly rough for most everyone, and I don’t think it’s right to slam people for whatever brings them joy.
That being said, I’ve realized that whenever I try to explain to someone that I’m not a huge fan of Christmas — or any holiday for that matter — they look at me as if I’m admitting to being a serial killer.
I’ve written about my lukewarm feelings towards Christmas plenty of times in the past, and while I do always manage to conjure up some holiday spirit for a few days, I simply can’t get on board with the weeks upon weeks of Jingle Bells, festive lights, and organizing gifts for everyone from the mail carrier and the dog groomer to your great aunt once removed who lives 1500 miles away and you see once every seven years.
I’ve spent a lot of time dissecting my complicated feelings towards (most all) holidays over the last few years, and while I initially thought that there had to be something deeply wrong with me to not get all wide-eyed over fireworks, huge family meals, and giftwrap, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m certainly not alone in this arena.
Many people struggle with complex emotions when it comes to holiday — whether it’s a birthday, Memorial Day barbecue, or celebrating a parent on Mother’s or Father’s Day. While it’s “normal” (or more socially acceptable) to look forward to these occasions with excitement and love, many people voice their own trepidations about holidays if you really take the time to break down the ins and outs of such occasions.
This topic has been on my mind earlier and perhaps more often than usual, because as I type this, something pretty huge is pending in my life. I don’t want to “jinx” anything right now by giving too many details, but I can definitely tell you that holidays will most certainly be on the back burner in more ways than one this year.
I’ve jotted down some reasons and observations to help those “Buddy the Elf” people understand why us “Grinch” people might not be super enthusiastic about the Christmas season:
- Holidays are Stressful!
No matter how well you plan, budget, or self-care, adding all the gift shopping, present-wrapping, extra spending, extra cooking/cleaning, eating, social gathering, and decorating is enough take over your life. For someone with any kind of anxiety who struggles to stay grounded on a random Thursday in March, throwing holiday madness into the mix can be downright intolerable. Sometimes avoiding the whole song and dance is easier and more enjoyable for a person with mental (or even physical) health issues.
- Some People Struggle with Finances
Again, regardless of how well you budget or plan, holidays can be a huge financial strain. Even if you’re not buying everyone on your list brand new iPads, small gifts add up fast. And even the always-popular suggestion of “homemade gifts” like cookies and ornaments can cost plenty of cash — you need supplies to concoct those DIY trinkets.
On a personal level, while I’ve had a steady job over the last several years and don’t have trouble paying my bills or buying food, balancing a budget every December is rather tough for me. Both my mom and husband have birthdays in December, and both of my cars inspections are due. Talk about a juggling act!
Even if you think a person has a nice home, car, and clothes, that doesn’t mean they didn’t just stumble onto some other financial burden that makes gift-giving and charitable donations seem impossible. If someone declines to participate in a secret Santa exchange or a company fundraiser, try to respect their privacy and not make the assumption that they’re selfish or anti-social.
No matter which holiday you celebrate or which reason you choose to celebrate that particular event/miracle/person, most holidays have religious roots. In a world where religious differences have been the basis of endless violence, wars, and death, it’s understandable why someone might shy away from any association with religion. Even in 2021 people in the United States of America are still criticized for their beliefs or lack thereof on a regular basis. Some people may be embarrassed or even afraid to publicly celebrate their beliefs, and others may be struggling to figure out what exactly they believe or what, if anything, they should celebrate. Whether you’re an Orthodox Jew, devout Christian, optimistic agnostic, or downright atheist, please respect other peoples’ freedoms when it comes to celebrating whatever holiday they choose — or not.
- Painful Memories
It’s a terrifying idea to fathom, but sometimes awful things happen on or around holidays. A friend of mine had a house fire a few weeks before Christmas several years ago, and my father-in-law had a fatal heart attack on the night of December 25th, 2008. Needless to say, it took my husband and mother-in-law YEARS before they felt like they could celebrate Christmas again at all.
If I’ve experienced painful memories like these, I’m sure plenty of other people have had similar misfortunes, and unless you’ve been through something similar yourself, it’s hard to understand how someone could feel so awful when everyone else seems so happy.
- Family Issues
Not everyone’s family is picture perfect. Not everyone’s relationship with their parents, siblings, or cousins is stress-free and uncomplicated. While the holiday season is typically viewed as a time to put aside past differences, this isn’t always an option. Sometimes family members can be toxic or downright abusive and cruel, and no one should have to tolerate that regardless of the date on the calendar. If someone chooses to skip a holiday meal or get together because a toxic person will be present, respect their boundaries without judgment.
Like it or not, there are many companies out there who require their employees to work 24/7 — including through holidays. My husband works at a hospital, and while his newest position gives him the freedom of being off on federal holidays, in the past he’s had to work an occasional Christmas, New Years, Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, etc. My sister also works 3rd shift for a company that never shuts down regardless of the time or day, and she’s missed out on plenty of special occasions. And don’t forget the people doing the thankless work that is the apparent economical backbone of the holiday season — retail employees, bakers, cooks, hotel and banquet staff, etc. Most of these people are working long hours for little money, leaving next to no time for them to enjoy the holidays or see their families.
I personally remember working at Hallmark in the early 2000s after high school and spending 10 and 12 hour days on my feet, moving at a million miles an hour while customers degraded me and my coworkers for running out of an ornament or certain color tissue paper. I remember sitting in the stock room at the end of the night, desperately trying to help my manager balance the registers while the clock ticked closer and closer to midnight — then having to come in early the next morning to do it all again.
If you’ve ever worked retail or customer service during a holiday season, it’s easy to see how quickly someone can become bitter about this time of year.
- Mental or Physical Health Disorders
I touched on this briefly in reason number one — and if you’ve been fortunate enough to never experience how an anxiety attack, injury, or chronic health issue can upend any plans, especially big ones like holidays — count your blessings. Many times dealing with any kind of ailment, whether it be physical or mental, can drain all of your energy and make the thought of getting dressed, making a side dish, and arriving with prettily-wrapped gifts overwhelming daunting. If someone ducks out of an event early or sends their regrets at all due to an illness, again please respect their privacy and just send good healing wishes.
As I look back over this comprehensive list, it strikes me as interesting that the hardest part about not being gaga over the holidays is other peoples’ reactions to such an outlook. People seem to take it personally if someone declines an invitation or chooses not to bake 40 dozen cookies for strangers. Over the years I’ve found that most of those people who claim to love the holidays because it celebrates hope and goodwill immediately chastise those who don’t necessarily see this alleged “season of giving” in action.
So is it any wonder that people like me grow weary or even suspicious of the “in your face” celebrations?
Don’t get me wrong. I have absolutely beautiful memories of the holidays from my childhood and teen years — sled riding in an old-fashioned toboggan with my cousins, curling up around the fireplace in my grandparents’ basement, venturing into the country to cut down a fresh Christmas tree, thirty people gathering for dinner. And every year I enjoy decorating, exchanging a few gifts with close relatives, and watching Christmas Vacation, Elf, The Grinch, and Home Alone. For a week or two. Before and after that I’m ready to move on and enjoy normal life.
And what’s wrong with that?