It has been a very hard year for many of us, and with the holiday season fully upon us, it’s time to get festive. Except for the fact that many of us might not be feeling super celebratory right now. We are in the midst of a global pandemic. Millions of Americans are out of work and out of money. Many folks can’t be with their families this season without violating lockdowns and putting themselves and their loved ones at risk. It’s hard to feel the spirit of the holidays in its full splendor when we’re rounding out one of the most difficult years in recent memory. There is nothing wrong with that.
My personal relationship with the holiday season is not exactly simple—even in the best of times. I have a serious love/hate relationship with the whole holiday thing. I love Christmas, but even in a normal non-disaster movie year, the season is fraught for my family. With contentiously divorced parents, a mother that doesn’t speak to the rest of her side of the family, and a significant other with a family of his own, I am torn, every year, in a million different directions. No matter what happens, I’m always missing someone.
Despite those feelings, I take immense joy in the little traditions of the holiday season. I bake, I decorate, I watch Christmas movies, and I drink Christmas themed drinks while I wrap presents. It’s normally how I get through the holiday season. Get through it by getting into it. This year, however, I am just not feeling even a little bit festive.
I haven’t bought a tree, or put up a single decoration. I haven’t even dug out the boxes. My Christmas themed apron isn’t leaving its hook this year. A neighbor asked today when we would put up Christmas lights and I had to tell him that I hadn’t even thought about decorating the house. It was then that it occurred to me that my significant other and I cannot be the only ones feeling like this.
The Holidays Are Heavily Upon Us
In the age of social media, there is a certain amount of pressure in everything we do that comes from watching what everyone else is doing. That pressure is compounded for something that most of the world celebrates in some way, like the holidays. There are countless YouTube videos about Christmas, already filling up the feed. Holiday-themed content is everywhere, from social media to the news. I have the distinct privilege of getting double smacked with Christmas content since I have to both create it and consume it, but we’re all experiencing holiday overload on our various feeds.
In the physical world, decorations are going up everywhere. The stores are filled with them, and the neighborhood is starting to shine with the lights of the season. There are constant advertisements referencing the overwhelming joy of the holidays. It’s getting to be time to buy presents for all of our loved ones. Many of us will start getting holiday cards soon. All of this on top of the fact that all our neighbors and friends are handling the holidays differently this year. It’s a lot for anyone to process.
With the economy struggling, it’s important to acknowledge the fact that Christmas is, objectively, really god damn expensive. This leaves millions of us feeling guilty that we can’t necessarily give our loved ones the all-out Christmas that they deserve. It’s hard to feel festive when you’re counting pennies for wrapping paper.
That was kind of dark. I apologize for the gloom. But the good news is, there are ways to cope if you are just not feeling the joy of the holiday season.
Let’s Make It Better
Despite the obvious disadvantages that this year presents for the holiday season, there are ways to cope with the stress of the winter. There are several simple things you can do to make it better if you’re struggling this holiday season.
One possible way to cope with this holiday-themed fiasco is to pretend it isn’t happening. I know this is not normally good self-care advice, and I am not a therapist. However, this year, I think it is completely fine to just pretend it’s not December and proceed with life as normal. This is much easier if you do not have young children. But for those of us who are not obligated to provide little ones with the magic of Christmas, it might be easier this year to just, not. The holidays are stressful and a lot of work. If you’re really feeling dragged down and stressed by the idea of decorating and planning and wrapping presents, it’s worth it to just give yourself a break. The holidays will be there waiting with open arms next December.
A break might not be the solution for everyone, especially if the holidays are very important to your loved ones. If it’s the massive expense of the thing that’s getting you down, there are some completely free ways that you can still enjoy the season. This is the perfect time of year to utilize Zoom to its fullest extent. Connect with the friends and family you might be missing in-person this year over video calling. With some extra time from all these new lockdowns, this is the perfect year to experiment with making gifts this year instead of buying them. My sister is knitting me a scarf for Christmas and I could not be more excited about it. Although making gifts is not totally free, it’s an inexpensive way to resurrect the festive spirit of gift-giving.
Zoom could also be a useful tool for keeping together important seasonal traditions. It’s not ideal, but if your family usually wraps presents together, but can’t this year due to COVID-19 restrictions, keep the tradition alive with the power of technology! FaceTime saved my Thanksgiving this year. I got to make pies with my sisters from hundreds of miles away and have a drink with my brother from thousands of miles away. I highly recommend doing whatever you can through video chatting, if holiday traditions are important to your family.
If you aren’t feeling particularly festive this year, but still feel the need to try, tone down the decorating so you don’t stress yourself out. Put up your one favorite decoration and stick with that. Or don’t do it at all. In the same spirit, find your top favorite holiday tradition and just focus on that. Watching a really good Christmas movie might be an excellent way to preserve a little bit of the spirit without a ton of effort. As Americans, we tend to go really overboard with festivities with food and drink and decorations and gifts and spending. Don’t feel the need to live up to every other year with all that. This is not a normal year. Pick the key pieces of the holiday that really truly matter to you and your family and put your energy into that instead of doing the whole shebang.
We’ll Get Through This, Guys
It’s also okay to compensate for an objectively shitty year by being super overly festive. I am not holiday shaming here. If you are finding peace with your family by putting up every ornament, making cookies for Santa, and hanging lights on every inch of your house, more power to you! If your whole social media presence is holiday content for the next month, you go girl! My mom’s living room has looked like Christmas morning since October, and that’s wonderful.
However, I suspect many of us just may not be feeling super festive this year, if at all. I’ll say it one more time, for emphasis, that’s totally okay. There are ways to preserve that holiday spirit without going all out. If even that is too much, there is nothing wrong with going about life like normal. Although we place outsized significance on holidays in our culture, it really is just a day.