We wish you a Merry Christmas
December 23, 2014 5:52 PM   Subscribe

What makes for a merry Christmas? According to a study [PDF] published in 2002 in The Journal of Happiness Studies, having positive experiences with your family and buying environmentally conscious gifts helps - as does being older and male.

And if you're having trouble dealing with your family over the holidays, Heather Havrilesky of Ask Polly gives some advice on the topic in New York Magazine.
posted by sockermom (6 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
It's Xmas Eve in Australia and, rather than fly back to the US to visit my family, I rented a cabin in Queensland's Sunshine Coast hinterlands. It sits on a pond full of water lilies, surrounded by trees full of kookaburra and just down the hill from a cow pasture with a couple of bulls that have been keeping their sideways eyes on the sedentary lifestyle I've been leading this week.

A whole mess of good beer hasn't hurt either.

I'm about to end my expat experience roughly a month from now with a return to the US, and while it's absolutely fair to say that I miss my family, I find it empowering in all the best ways to have a good reason or two (the tyranny of distance, the $5000 return airfares) to claim holidays like this for myself, doing the type of nothing (you know, like basking in the sunshine and staring out at a pond watching the geese for hours on end) that keeps me sane and satisfied.

Y'all should try this summertime Xmas at a country cabin thing. Shorts and thongs (flip-flops), lazy beers, suspicious cattle. It's pretty terrific. Merry Xmas.
posted by GamblingBlues at 6:09 PM on December 23, 2014 [6 favorites]

Older guy checking in to recommend accepting absurdity, looking for charm and beauty amid banality, and just entertaining yourself at Christmas if nothing else. I sympathize with anyone who needs Polly's advice on this--I went through a decade or so like that myself--and I wish I'd had more relaxed expectations then. But I realize it's probably hard to just leap to that point and even harder to cope if you have people or circumstances actively messing with you.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 7:00 PM on December 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

... personally, I find this holiday rather difficult and claustrophobic and very trying. The 26th can't come soon enough.

Still, GamblingBlues's mention that it's X-mas Eve in Australia makes me think of a favorite Christmas song, one that reflects the theme of this post:

Tim Minchin: White Wine in the Sun.
posted by Auden at 8:29 PM on December 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

I just spent the afternoon on horseback (well, muleback, actually) and now I am primed for the extended family Christmas Eve insanity as well as the nuclear family Christmas turkey dinner.

Thank dogs for fresh air, sunshine, and a good mule!

Bring on the crayzees, I have equanimity back.
posted by BlueHorse at 9:12 PM on December 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm an older male, and I can say that that has specifically not enhanced my appreciation for the season. Maybe they meant "an older male patriarch, who can depend on his wife and family to do all the stressful stuff"?

The only family I've chosen to stay in active contact with are my sister and my son, both of whom live 3000 miles away and none of us can afford airfare. Most of the "fun" of the holiday petered out once my son grew up and moved out. I'm not gonna go all "bah humbug", but neither can I say it's an especially merry time of year.

Overall I'd say that "merry" is in the eye of the beholder, and my own eye does not hold the same markedly middle-class-white-American-consumerist viewpoint toward merriment and the Christmas holiday that the paper in the first link seems to me to exhibit.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:44 PM on December 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think it is interesting that to be "Merry" is something we only wish people at Christmas. It has a connotation of happiness - but not one that can be obtained by oneself. And not one that is all that easy to attain while sober. There can be true joy buried in merriness - but it is the sort that pales with the hangover of the next morning. I think this comes from the older idea of Yule: an eagerly looked forward to patch of light in the dark days of winter when one could celebrate being over the solstice by getting everybody together, digging into the supplies of food and booze, singing and dancing and temporarily forgetting that Spring is still many weeks away.
posted by rongorongo at 10:38 PM on December 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

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