"Do they know it's Christmastime at all?"
There are a great many subjects about which I can speak appreciatively. I’m an avid reader and could talk about books for hours. I’m a talented cook, a devotee of pop culture, and a lover of modern art. I’m even a mediocre poet.
But there is one subject that leaves me cold while others wax eloquently — the goddamn holidays.
Here’s one of my deepest, darkest secrets: I hate Christmas.
(Because I grew up celebrating Christmas, this post speaks to my experience with that holiday. However, I consulted with haters of several other traditions, and the sentiment applies equally. Haters gonna hate without bias.)
Yup, I’m a hater.
I hate the fuss. I hate the expectations. I hate the tree and digging out the decorations and the ever-breaking twinkly lights. I hate the commercialism (and the schmaltzy commercials.) I hate the pressure of running all over town to find this year’s hot toy and buying another Yankee candle for someone who absolutely doesn’t need it. I hate that it begins earlier and earlier every year. And I hate that fucking Elf on the Shelf.
To be clear: I’m not a Scrooge — I don’t take pleasure in ruining the Yuletide dreams of tiny tots. I don’t begrudge the joy of those folks who love the Season. I don’t have any lingering or unresolved childhood trauma around Christmas. I have a large, loving and wonderful family with strong holiday traditions. When my son was growing up, I made sure to celebrate and strengthen those same traditions. I’m not a monster.
I just hate Christmas.
I’m not alone. Research has shown that 45% of people actually dread the Christmas season. Some of that may be attributed to the dark winter weather that increases the incidence of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), but the majority of Christmas haters do not suffer from a diagnosable mental illness. They’re just feeling their feelings.
Some people feel down, even angry, because of the excessive commercialization of Christmas, with the focus on gifts and the emphasis on "perfect" social activities. Some get the blues because Christmas triggers self-reflection and rumination about the inadequacies of life in comparison with other people who seem to have more and do more. Some feel anxious at Christmas because of the pressure to spend a lot of money on gifts and incur increasing debt. Some dread Christmas because of the expectations for social gatherings with folks that they'd rather not spend time with. And some people — many people — feel very lonely at Christmas because they have suffered the loss of loved ones or their jobs.
So, what’s a holiday-hating girl to do to survive (dare I say thrive) amidst the unacknowledged heaviness and overblown Christmastime hoopla?
- Own your feelings. There is no one right and correct way to feel — during the holidays or any other time. Do not allow anyone to shame you for hating Christmas and don’t beat yourself up about it either. Revel in your hate! Once I started sharing my true dark feelings, I found the other haters. We are not alone. However, if you become depressed, seek out the help of a qualified mental health professional.
- Set some boundaries. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE, DO, OR BUY IT ALL. (That’s in all caps because it’s hella important.) You are enough exactly as you are, so stop telling yourself the story that you need to turn into Martha Stewart every December. Celebrate the traditions that are most important to you and give yourself permission to let the rest go. And for Christ’s sake, set a budget…He wouldn’t want you go into debt and neither does anyone else who loves you.
- Let go of expectations. Yes, I mean the expectations of others; but, I also mean the self-imposed expectations of perfection. It doesn’t exist so stop killing yourself trying to attain it. Remember that story about turning into Martha Stewart? Fuck it — Let Martha be Martha. You be you.
- Don’t compare. YOU STILL DON’T HAVE TO BE, DO, OR BUY IT ALL. (hella. important.) Yes, some people have more than you, can do more for their children than you, and will spend way more money than you. Good for them. I know it hurts to want more, but really try to feel good for those who have more. You don’t know their whole story. We never do. Maybe they need your good wishes more than you know. Take time to consider all those people who have less than you…and savor your life.
- Focus on gratitude. Find the small bits of joy within the Season and celebrate them. For me, it is the music. Not the tinny, piped-in muzak found in elevators and malls, but the timeless classics sung by great voices. It’s the food: my grandmother’s mashed potatoes and my mother’s cranberry sauce. And I cannot explain it, but I am seriously crushing on that fiery Yule-log on my tv.
My son is now a grown-assed man, or so he tells me. At 24, he has his own apartment and is starting his own traditions. A couple of year’s ago, I mentioned how much I hated Christmas, how I always have. And he said pretty incredulously, “But Mom, you LOVE Christmas. You love the big tree. You love baking. You love decorating and finding me the perfect present and sending out Christmas cards with the letter.”
And I said, “No, honey, YOU love those things. And that’s why I did them.”
And then we hugged. ‘Cause like I said, I’m not a monster.
Just a hater.