I Hate Christmas and I Don't Want You to Change My Mind
November 22, 2019 8:23 PM   Subscribe

Yep. I feel this.

Time to get ready for a month and a half of FORCED JOLLINESS PROPAGANDA. You will be Happy! You will spend time with Family and exchange Thoughtful Gifts! Blaargh.

I mean this year I'm willingly traveling to some frozen northern hellpit to finally meet my SO's parents for the first time so I guess I'm doing that kind of stuff but I have had many a year of Fuck You And Your Christmas, And Shut The Fuck Up About It Too feels. And I loathe the way the holiday becomes inescapable, with carols on every in-store audio system. I completely support this woman's choice to do nothing special to celebrate the day beyond "make sure you visit the store the evening beforehand so there's something to eat on a day when almost everything closes", and I wish her the best of luck in her holiday hookup quest.
posted by egypturnash at 8:51 PM on November 22, 2019 [14 favorites]

My violent, abusive, misogynist father has spent the better part of the a decade pretending I don’t exist at family gatherings because he hates me. I mean literally blanking me and refusing to acknowledge my presence. After I forced my family to spend thousands of dollars in flights and accomodations year after year to fly across the country to see my parents. Just to be treated like that. The rest of the family would stand around awkwardly pretending like everything was fine, of course. That’s just dad! We all know he hates you, whaddaya gonna do?

But not anymore. My tipping point was when my three year old toddled over to my father to try to get a hug just for him to forcefully shove the baby away. Because he didn’t want any child of mine anywhere near him. That was the last year I saw my parents. There’s no way I’m putting my children through this. My mother doesn’t see what the big deal is. She wants to see me but says they won’t apologise and they won’t change. My brother thinks I’m the bad guy and for not being the bigger person and accepting the treatment because we all know what my father’s like. He no longer talks to me. My husband and other siblings support me.

There’s no way I’m spending thousands and forcing my tiny children to endure this on Christmas Day. So every Christmas since has been amazing, my months of anxiety leading up to it has cleared up and we spend it with family who actually like me. My dad wants nothing to do with me and it turns out that giving him what he wanted, having him out my life has been the Christmas present ever! Thanks dad.
posted by Jubey at 9:15 PM on November 22, 2019 [137 favorites]

Standing in solidarity with all who choose not to participate in all of the everything this season brings. I also choose to not engage for my own personal reasons - that I also don't really care to share with anyone. Meanwhile, most people in my life either think I am crazy or feel sorry for me, or both. *sigh* Thankfully, this all only comes around once a year ;)
posted by augustinetill at 9:22 PM on November 22, 2019 [14 favorites]

Yeah I felt this way for years. It got better when I stopped participating. Holidays are something other people do. I don't mind them now since I've stopped being a part of it.
posted by evilDoug at 9:26 PM on November 22, 2019 [15 favorites]

posted by odinsdream at 9:41 PM on November 22, 2019

There's a lot missing from this story but it does point out how hard it is to enjoy this particular holiday if you have a shitty family. I mostly love the darkness and cold and the lights and the music and I have those still. The rest, as it turns out, is extra.
posted by emjaybee at 9:44 PM on November 22, 2019 [14 favorites]

What I hate the most about Doing Christmas Things is the pressure. Do it well, do it right, do it awesome, do it Martha Stewart or whatever. I think life is better off without that pressure, honestly. It's okay to do nothing. Holidays are referred to as "being observed", which means you don't have to look if you don't want to.
posted by hippybear at 9:53 PM on November 22, 2019 [11 favorites]

It was a great relief when I stopped trying to participate in these sorts of things. Actually all holidays. If I'm broken somehow I prefer to just be alone with that fact rather than trying to awkwardly confront and reconcile it with the interests of others.
posted by ead at 10:26 PM on November 22, 2019 [15 favorites]

I'm beginning to think the US (world?) has more dysfunctional, hateful families than loving & supportive ones.
posted by bleep at 10:51 PM on November 22, 2019 [27 favorites]

Well, dysfunctional family author/expert John Bradshaw once estimated that maybe 96% of American families were dysfunctional, which instantly made me insanely jealous of the 4% who won the family lottery when I read that.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:12 PM on November 22, 2019 [13 favorites]

There's a lot going on here that's not about Christmas at all.
posted by betweenthebars at 11:19 PM on November 22, 2019 [32 favorites]

I usually just end up listening to lots of '70s Jethro Tull, which I quite enjoy. A pleasure I feel no guilt about. Also some of the local strong ales.

Meanwhile, from the actual fucking article:

Yes, I’m depressed. Yes, my depression gets worse during the holidays. Yes, my anxiety worsens during this time of year. No, confronting my family is not going to help. Spending a week in a town that I hate with people who don’t care about me while I worry about my chronically-ill cat isn’t going to make me feel better. Stuffing down my irritation with the continued farce of familial bliss isn’t going to magically erase my justified anger with people who abandoned me when I needed them the most. So please, stop asking me what I’m doing for the holidays and then letting loose exaggerated gasps and unsolicited advice when I say I’m doing absolutely nothing.

Because I hate Christmas and there’s actually nothing wrong with that.

The important thing this time of year is to somehow trick the sun into coming back* for another 365 days, or so some pagan told me. In which case, I'm all in favor of strong ales and sundry other songs and rituals ... celebrations even.

* northern hemispherical bias acknowledged
posted by philip-random at 11:23 PM on November 22, 2019 [20 favorites]

There's a lot going on here that's not about Christmas at all.

Except that Xmas is an inescapable catalyst that magnifies and exacerbates that lot. Inescapable if you so much as go into a store in the two months before the day. Magnified and exacerbated if you attempt to fulfill the expectations of holiday behaviors, particularly involving family. Sometimes even involving co-workers. If you're not one of the people who actually enjoys Xmas, the whole thing is oppressive.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:40 AM on November 23, 2019 [15 favorites]

RE: I hate this time of year in general. Everything around "happy families" and "couples" swoops over my head and takes a shit on me.
posted by bendy at 2:41 AM on November 23, 2019 [4 favorites]

Many people with manic depression who fly manic (not all of us do so) seasonally do so in the spring-time. I can fly any time, for any reason or none at all, but late in October, and in November especially, and then into December, too -- just wow. It can be totally savage.

That thin, fine, golden light that shines and shimmers in the air due to sunshine coming through more of our atmosphere, I have learned to see that as Red Flags Waving, and look the fuck out because here it comes.

Or might come.

Mostly, it comes.

Don't mistake the fact that I'm talking mania with this being all festive and joyous and happiness and great painting and careening and carousing about. Any and/or all of that can happen but there is such a thing called "mixed states", which sounds friendly enough -- maybe a friendly initiative between northern California and southern Oregon to curb litter, or big quilting bees and barn raisings put on in North and South Dakota.

That may well happen.

I don't know.

What I do know is that I can be depressed as fifteen different kinds of fuck and have that depression powered by and driven by the hugest, nastiest, powerfullest mania you can feature. It is Not Fun. At all. It's like you're in a really powerful jet that really shoves you back into your seat upon take-off and you're hurtling down the runway and you start to shit your drawers as you realize that the pilot has not lifted the plane at all, and now you're smashing through fences and gates and runway lights and then smashing through trucks and cars on a service road and still the engines scream, and wail, everything is on fire and twisted and smashed yet still carried by its momentum and it all totally sucks.

Mixed States.

Better living through chemistry -- in late 2003 I found a combination of mood stabilizer (for the mania) and finally finally finally an anti-depressant that actually lifted my depression and my "holidaze" season is nowhere *near* as grim as it had always been, the whole of my life. I'll still careen and career here and about but nothing like it was. It is a huge relief, a huge release. I cried every Thanksgiving. I cried every Christmas, every new year, most especially in years when I was not Seriously Dating someone but even when I was, it all mostly sucked. Because there certainly was a lot of trauma in my family when I was coming up I assumed that all the pain and crying and the rest of it was all behind the holidays and my birthday and valentines day. And I honestly thought that everyone felt as I did but were somehow just more adept at covering it up and/or negotiated it through love or money or who knows what -- I damn sure didn't.

Adrie Rose's description of her holidaze is awfully familiar to me.


She's a great writer. I don't know if any of the rest of you followed down her links but it's sure worth your time. She's admirable: She's got guts, she looks this stuff dead-on and tells us what she sees, whether it's pretty or not. Just like in movies, writing like hers might not be pretty but it damn sure is beautiful -- there's a big difference and she's got it pegged.


I don't give a rats ass about Christmas, one way or the other. Obviously it can't be avoided, not if you live here in the states -- it's this forced chaotic madness, it's this disgusting, phantasmagorical, blended vomit of Jesus and santa and chestnuts on an open fire and lame-ass movies and wise men and credit cards and consumer lunacy and beautiful, beautiful lights (but one hell of a lot more ugly ones -- here in Austin for a period of about ten years the city festooned some garbage on the streetlights downtown, I think it was supposed to look like golden ribbons but I honestly could not say, I can say and will say that it would have looked a lot better had they just dangled filthy, shit-encrusted toilets, maybe wrapped with colored lights, a speaker inside each of them blaring out some asshole rendition "Oh Little Town of Bethleham" by Miley Cyrus or some other moron) on and on it goes, in every store an aluminum tree (wtf?) or, worse, a fake "pine" tree covered with ornaments and candy canes and no one -- No one! -- has any idea how any of this jive started, aside from some horses-ass, bitty religious sect wanting to symbolically celebrate the birth of spirit and now, 2000 years later, we get Miley Cyrus and Santa Claus.

What. The. Fuck.

But, as I said, I don't give a rats ass, one way or another. I walk through it, A Free Man, celebrating my very favorite holiday, December 21st, The Winter Solstice. It's *my* celebration of *my* favorite holday, it's my New Years Eve, it's my Christmas, it's the day that I dig. I'll go to a coffee shop, with a laptop or even a pen (Pilot G-2 10) and that zippered leather legal pad holder and I'll suck down some coffee, maybe I'll get caught up in the fun of the holiday and eat some sugared treat, hopefully they'll have some good pie and Amy's mexican bean ice cream, which could pretty much make any day a holiday, in my book. I'll maybe write a letter, or maybe not -- it's my holiday, and free-form -- and I'll sit back and drink the lightest roast coffee they've got on hand, and then I'll likely get another cup, too, because I can.

Hopefully it won't be a cold day but even if it is, being as I'm from yankeeland I know what real cold is I'll smile inwardly, and pretend that I'm cold, and dress the part even -- I've got these ridiculously dorky striped socks (I'm wearing them right now, and happy about it) that I like ever so much, they're thin but remember, it's not really cold here, they're plenty thick enough. I've got this blue flannel plaid shirt which I've had since 1985 and it's super high quality and looks brand new, and I've got two gorgeous, heavy wool sweaters which I bought that same day, and probably I'll choose the blue one, and some jeans, and my black Sundowners (either of which small people could live in -- I've got these huge honkin' feet; I'm plenty tall but I'd be *really* tall if I hadn't had so much turned under) and I've got a bunch of wool scarves to choose from, which I have no idea where they came from; I'm somehow a person that finds wool scarves.* I look like a lumber-jack, I swear like a sailor, I love dirty jokes, and clean ones, too, I'm sometimes happy and sometimes not, I'm fit as I can reasonably expect, or even unreasoably expect; I still ride that mountain bike every day and I've got this push-up thing going now, to boot.
*Myself, I'd rather it had been girlfriends that I somehow casually found, instead of scarves, but here I am, ten after 5 AM, writing on MetaFilter, and looking out my door I don't see one woman. Not one! No scarves, either.

I have no idea how I wrote myself into this corner, wool scarves, no women outside etc. And no idea how to write my way out, either.

Let's see what happens...


My best friend, with whom I will spend Thanksgiving, has almost certainly got cancer eating up his tongue. It's terrifying, to me, and I know to him also. He's definitely my best friend here in Austin and perhaps my best friend anywhere, though Tina would be awfully hard to edge out. Anyways, he's got this doc who hacked a bunch of his tongue out, told him he'd know in ten days -- I was totally, completely pissed the fuck off, I'd want to know in ten minutes. I do not understand this jive. If I had cancer in me, anywhere, I'd want to be on it Right Now. Jimmy trusts this doc and I trust Jimmy's judgment but I do not like this jive.

You can't imagine what a great person Jimmy is -- when I had my hard time, laying comatose in that hospital, and my family pouring in from all over, Jimmy took over, told them "No, don't stay there, stay here." and "No, don't eat there, eat here, here, here, and here." and of course he steered them straight on course. My family trusted him immediately, he's also blue-collar yankee stock, from Albany NY but I don't hold that against him too much, just bad luck he didn't get to be born in Chicago like regular people. Anyways, my family knew right off that he was A Total Citizen, and they were right.

We have an awful lot more fun together than you have with your best friend, that's for sure.

And now he's sick, and I'm scared shitless, and of course we don't talk about it much, because you don't, but we don't have to, it's right out front, scaring fuck out of both of us. His sweetie is on the scene, and she's A Great Woman, crazy about him and crazy for him, and I'm glad she's there -- they're real deep in this love thing, which is really beautiful to see. I'll see it close up on Thursday, and likely before that also, but Thursday for sure.

I don't much give a damn about the holidaze anymore. And what does any of it matter if Jimmy is sick? How can I have a holiday with that going on? Of course we bust each others ass still -- I told him yesterday I ought to have cut his fucking tongue out years ago, think how much wiser he'd be if he'd had to listen and then not talk back to his betters. I love this fuck, I'm scared as hell, I don't cry behind Christmas anymore but what if Jimmy doesn't get better?

That's all I want for Christmas, is for Jimmy to get better.
posted by dancestoblue at 4:19 AM on November 23, 2019 [34 favorites]

Justified anger feels right. Righteous even. And in short bursts can drive the occasional crucial change. But it will kill you in the end.

I've spent many, many Christmases (especially) loathing and resenting the next crass and transparently commercial money-grab or conspicuous performance of religiosity. I resented the inescapability. I resented what I saw as performative insincerity and maudlin sentimentality. And I hated what it did to my kids - the simultaneous greed, envy, churlish disdain for the feelings of the giver and ostensible reason for giving gifts at all (not the religious reasons, just the "people love you and want to see you enjoy things"). And the othering - I'm an atheist in both the most aggressively Christian and aggressively Capitalist holiday in the Western world, making it a months-long assault on my identity.

But it's not the holiday doing it to you. And it's not the people who want to enjoy that time for their own reasons doing it to you.

And sustained anger, resentment, bubbling self-othering: that shit is toxic in both the abstract and literal somnatic sense. Sadness that parents can be criminal, family can be delusional and willfully ignorant, and circumstances
unfair and cruel can be acknowledged, processed, and used to power better choices and seek kindness. Anger over those things becomes hatred for self, for others (for not acknowledging or adapting), and eventually just seething rage that makes it harder to even maintain relationships. And it all feels righteous and justified.

I hope this person finds further help. The anger - especially justified, especially rational - doesn't actually punish anybody but the self.
posted by abulafa at 4:24 AM on November 23, 2019 [13 favorites]

My mother Loves Christmas, it is by far her favorite time of year. It used to be mine too, I loved everything about it.

But it's different now. She assumes that because I'm her daughter, I like what she likes. After years of trying to be polite about it, I finally said the other day:

"Mom, I hate Christmas."

"What??! Why?"

"Because it's for families, and I don't have one, and I'm excruciating lonely and it's too painful to see everyone with kids and husbands putting up lights for their wives."

"Whaddya mean you don't have a family? You have me!"

"You're really comparing yourself to a romantic partner?"

(She knew perfectly well that I would kill her with my eyes if she tried the "but you shouldn't need a man to be happy" line yet again, so she didn't do that one, and I could see the wheels turning.)

Finally she said with genuine concern, "You're not thinking of killing yourself, are you?" (Because not loving the holidays is a fate worse than death.)

"No, I'm not. But I want to shut myself in my room for the duration."

The wheels kept turning. "So, are you saying, you want to just go to a movie or something, and not have dinner?"

"I want to shut myself in my room."

"Well, when you're feeling down, that's the worst thing you can do! Going out with people will make you feel better!" (No it doesn't, I'm an introvert, even if it wasn't the holidays.)

In the end she more or less got it, but not much is going to change. "Don't forget to give me your Christmas list!" she said a few days later. "Let me get through Thanksgiving first, I hate the holidays, remember?" And she just looked baffled, torn between loving the holidays and genuine concern that her daughter might need fixing.
posted by Melismata at 4:45 AM on November 23, 2019 [17 favorites]

This is like an essay written by the protagonist of a Hallmark Christmas movie at the beginning of the movie.
posted by officer_fred at 5:20 AM on November 23, 2019 [23 favorites]

I don't hate Christmas, but I'm not a huge fan. My most prominent memory is as a teenager eating a quarter of an apple pie alone because my parents had had a huge fight because my mother had felt my father had not thanked her for the gifts we got him and stormed off after an extended period of yelling. I had been the bright spark who suggested that we open presents before, rather than after, dinner.

My parents never got around to that divorce, but ever since my father died, Christmas has just been my mother and me. Not something I hated, an excuse to get some time off from work, but mostly just a reason to go see my mom. Until last year.

Last year was in Japan with my wife, who I'd been married to for nine months at that point in time. We spent it with friends in Tokyo and did the whole KFC thing. It was fun, it's not really Christmassy.

She loves Christmas. Adores everything about it. This year we're going to her parents. I'm hoping for better memories. Even so, I don't think it's ever going to be a favorite holiday.
posted by Hactar at 5:50 AM on November 23, 2019 [5 favorites]

For many, many years I spent Thanksgiving and Christmas alone for one reason or another and loved it despite all the well-meaning people who would wring their hands or try to invite me to their family gatherings.

The first time was when I was away at college and had to work Christmas day, so I laid in provisions and rented two movies I'd never seen (at least in their entirety) before, The Godfather and It's a Wonderful Life. It was awesome.

These days I will invite close friends to spend Thanksgiving or Christmas with us if they are alone, but I will not press it. I do not want my friends to be alone on a holiday if they do not want to be but I get and respect that people have diverse feels about holidays and don't want to compound things by putting pressure on them. If somebody declines but seems really down I'll check in with them in and around the holiday, but won't press them to do anything they don't seem up for. Sometimes a "hey, just thinking about you today" text or call is important.
posted by jzb at 5:51 AM on November 23, 2019 [6 favorites]

I don't want to try to convince anyone to feel like they have to enjoy the season. At the same time, if Christmas means anything to you and the sadness is coming from the gap between Idealized Christmas and what's actually going on, you do get to have the Christmas that *you* want. The author's decision to celebrate in her own way is still celebrating. A day off to self-indulge is still celebrating. There are a lot of things you can do, a lot of different traditions that people have. Movies. Taking a hike. Helping with the Christmas Bird Count. Having an alternative celebration with people you do love, or connecting to a celebration for a community you belong to (I used to work where there was an enormous AA-linked group from NYC for LGBT folks, nicknamed "Gay-A," that did an annual holiday retreat over Christmas/New Year's which was always well attended, fun and raucous). Taking a trip somewhere new, organized or not, where the "outsider" feeling feels more natural and good, somehow. Participating in some kind of service work - serving meals, helping buy presents for a needy family or seniors. Crafstravaganza.

I think the hard part is that the Thanksgiving-thru-New Year's Day run, while at the same time being the traditional Northern Hemisphere most festive time of the year for good reasons, also has a lot of elements that point up the difference between the ideal - our wishes and hopes - and the real. IT's sharper this time of year, but dealing with it requires the same tools you use any time of the year you experience grief, anger, and loneliness about the gap between the ideal and the real. You can work on shifting what "ideal" looks like to you, interrogating the way that ideal was formed and whether it ever made sense, and defining a new "ideal" for yourself. Or you can work on making the real match the ideal more, to the extent that you can, even if that match is imperfect. Or you can focus on and react to the gap and ruminate on feelings of resentment toward others who are celebrating or anger at all the rituals that are bringing you pain or grief and regret over the things that didn't happen for you, though I find this path the most painful one, personally. A certain amount of grief and confronting of the reality is needed for adjustment, but centering sadness' for sadness' sake does little to help me or the world around me, in itself. Transforming our grief somehow into healing for ourselves and the world is one of the things I think of as the work of life. Christmas can be tough because it catches people arbitrarily in their process every year due to the calendar, no matter where we are in that personal work.

Whatever your situation, I hope the next 7 weeks are kind to you and that you find some moments of joy, no matter what their origin.
posted by Miko at 5:57 AM on November 23, 2019 [23 favorites]

Please. It's 2019. Be inclusive and say, "I hate the holidays."
posted by non canadian guy at 6:08 AM on November 23, 2019 [9 favorites]

Please. It's 2019. Be inclusive and say, "I hate the holidays."
With all due respect,.... I don't even think I can phrase my response to this respectfully. This is a bad take. You should feel bad about it.

I think I have mentioned here that last year, my workplace scheduled the annual staff retreat on Rosh Hashanah. My workplace goes all out for "the holidays," by which they definitely mean Christmas. I know this because the first year I started working there, the guy who organized one of the "holiday" parties made a point of calling it the "Christmas, oh, sorry, I'm not allowed to say Christmas, I mean the holiday party." That definitely made me, the only Jew in the office, feel super welcome! (I don't think he realized I was Jewish, so this was not overt antisemitism. Just garden-variety clueless Christian dominance behavior.) We have a "holiday" lunch and an evening "holiday" potluck. Like I said, these things are definitely Christmas parties: red and green decorations, instrumental versions of Christmas carols, all the trappings of Christmas, but we call it the holiday party, with an optional sneer that makes me feel like they think I'm ruining their party by my very existence. We also have our big annual service project, our "holiday philanthropy", which is when we adopt a poor family and buy them "holiday" presents. There are many non-Christian poor families in my city, but apparently the non-universality of holiday gift-giving isn't something that troubles the directors. This is officially optional, but it's organized by the directors, who keep track of who claims which family member and what they purchase, and I definitely don't feel like I can sit it out.

There is one fun thing that we do as a staff that doesn't revolve around Christmas, and that's the annual staff retreat. There is also a working retreat, but this retreat is just fun. It involves lots of food, and it takes place at a nice nature preserve place, and the activities are fun and mostly optional. I genuinely look forward to it every year. So last year, they scheduled it on Rosh Hashanah. I pointed that out, and they said that it was the best day, and nothing work-related happened at the staff retreat, so they wouldn't change it but it was ok if I missed it. Then they announced the theme, which was multicultural potluck: everyone was supposed to bring in a dish from their culture or a culture that they felt connected to. Then they announced that they would be giving people comp time to make their dishes. I have to take a vacation day to celebrate Rosh Hashanah. It was a celebration of everyone's culture but mine. It was a totally overt statement of exclusion, which I'm not sure that anyone even intended to make, and I don't think that my relationship with my workplace is ever going to recover. Every year, they coerce me into spending a month celebrating their holiday, and then they turn around and do everything they can short of actually pissing on a Torah to make me know they have contempt for mine.

So no, I don't hate Christmas. Christmas is swell. I hate compulsory Christianity. And I don't want any smug lectures from Christians telling me how I should feel about it or how I should do it better or why I'm wrong about this. You have nothing to say to me. If you don't want to be assholes, maybe take some time to figure out how you can create a culture of respect for other religions' holidays (and no, I am not talking about Hanukah), since you seem so hell-bent on forcing us to celebrate yours.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:00 AM on November 23, 2019 [108 favorites]

Thank you, Miko. You said it better.
posted by abulafa at 7:19 AM on November 23, 2019

I cancelled Christmas a few years ago. I had oral surgery and I couldn't even eat. I spent the holiday in a Percocet stupor watching movies. It was glorious.
posted by thelonius at 7:36 AM on November 23, 2019 [5 favorites]

Though many people hate Christmas because of the disconnect between their ideal Christmas and her actual Christmas, I don't think that's why the author of the piece hates Christmas. To me, it sounds like a major part of why the author hates Christmas is that to her, Christmas = Grandma, and (from my read) her Grandma died like 4 years ago, and she's still grieving the loss of her grandma (and to a much lesser extent, the end of her childhood.)
posted by 23skidoo at 7:37 AM on November 23, 2019 [3 favorites]

I have a fine relationship with my family and no traumatic holiday memories, but I definitely join in the "ugh, it is Christmas season" feelings and really resent a lot of the trappings. When I was a kid my parents were trying hard to make things less materialistic (which was great, and is one of the hippyish things of that era that I still appreciate, unlike carob), and that part of the "holiday season" still leaves me cold.

I also really dislike the pseudo-inclusion that is really exclusion that ArbitraryAndCapricious describes so well. (I'd give multiple favorites to that comment, if I could.) The company I work for does something similar, adjusting the wording in the emails ("holiday party," no longer "Christmas party") but keeping the total focus on the Christian holiday.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:39 AM on November 23, 2019 [8 favorites]

I just don't want to deal with the whole production some years - I'd rather just have a little vacation where I relax for a day or two.
posted by thelonius at 7:42 AM on November 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'd rather just have a little vacation where I relax for a day or two.

I don't know if there is genuinely an increase in this overall, but more and more people I know are doing this for major holidays -- taking a trip somewhere by themselves or as a couple rather than going to family celebrations. It's a great way to avoid the entire issue of how to divide up your time with the common situation where there have been divorces and remarriages, making the whole where you go for the holiday meal so fraught for a lot of people.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:03 AM on November 23, 2019

It got better when I stopped participating.


Although it was fun being part of the leftist war on Christmas, now I just plain don't give a shit. I'll be over here making French onion soup and day-drinking bourbon in my bathrobe, same as I do every year.
posted by aspersioncast at 8:19 AM on November 23, 2019 [7 favorites]

This is like an essay written by the protagonist of a Hallmark Christmas movie at the beginning of the movie.

which makes the movie I'd love to see it's opposite. The one that starts with a few paragraphs of voice over eloquence as to the magical and fulfilling nature of the season (all of its joys and whatevers) while our protagonist delightfully prepares (cooks things, makes things, wraps things, kisses husband, hugs kids, blah-blah-blah) ... but then over its ninety or so minutes of running time (interrupted by relevant commercials, of course) shit happens, reality imposes*, such that our protagonist ends up alone, no husband, no kids, nothing but a word processor and maybe an electric heater pushed up close, and a bottle of scotch, of course -- payoff to an earlier scene where somebody says joshingly, "Well, my ole mom always said, never trust a lady who drinks scotch."

Anyway, this woman is now most definitely drinking scotch and writing a creed similar to I HATE CHRISTMAS AND I DON'T WANT YOU TO CHANGE MY MIND. Perhaps it even ends with, "Because I hate Christmas and there’s actually nothing wrong with that."

* maybe work a zombie apocalypse into things ... for authenticity. But kept tastefully to the background. This is HALLMARK.
posted by philip-random at 8:29 AM on November 23, 2019 [6 favorites]

My issues with Christmas stem from my grandmother's annual holiday meltdowns, which only started up after I left the toys and candy phase of childhood. I don't know where my grandmother's issues with Christmas really came from in the first place. Was it something that developed in response to her impoverished childhood, or her abusive first marriage? I was never quite sure, but it was a problem I know many of you will recognize in your own families -- she had certain expectations for the season, but never actually voiced those expectations, and when her unspoken expectations weren't met she'd fall into a bitter depression, often lashing out at me. One of my strongest memories of Christmas when I was in high school was the year that everything had seemed to go pretty well right up until Christmas morning. No screaming meltdowns at me about my lack of appropriate gratitude and deeply ingrained selfishness, no threats to cancel Christmas and return all my gifts to the store... none of the usual stuff that happened once I became a teenager, is what I'm saying. I really thought it was all going to be okay, but when I woke up and went out to the living room she was just sitting there staring into space, and after I made coffee I said, "Um... do you want me to go get the camera and we can start opening presents?", and she sobbed, "I don't want any pictures of this Christmas!" and I think I blocked out the rest of the day because I remember nothing after that moment.

I could go in-depth about the incident ten years ago this year that led to me refusing to celebrate Christmas with her off and on until her death in March 2018, but it sucks a whole lot and is painful and brings up unfortunate reckonings for me about how deeply my VERY dysfunctional family dynamic impacted my ability to connect with other people and likely led to the demise of the last romantic relationship I had, which started about a week before that fateful holiday. Super fun on a sunny Saturday morning! So I won't do that here. But I will talk about how fucking great Christmas was on my own, because holy shit, it was THE BEST. I got to do whatever I wanted, nobody had a meltdown at me, and I heard later from so many friends that they really envied me because the happy family Hallmark movie image they projected about their own holidays on social media was untrue, but not projecting that image to the outside world would have drawn even more ire from their relatives who had made the day unpleasant in the first place.

The expectations are the killer. I spent last Christmas alone and it was really great, especially after the previous Christmas of having to escort my newly mentally impaired grandmother (who had had a head injury 10 days prior) to the extended family gathering that I'd avoided attending since age 17. This year I'm living a mile away from my best friend and her family instead of living 2500 miles away, and there's an expectation from her mother that I'm going to join their festivities. I've spent the past several years hearing from my best friend about how hard it is to deal with her mother during the holidays and how much it poisons her own feelings about the season -- that if she could just step back from the crass commercialism and emotional landmines and do things the way she wants to do them, she'd be so much happier. But… she’s got that mother, with her expectations. And her husband, with his expectations. And their two kids, who are fantastic kids but who DEFINITELY have some expectations re: the magic of Christmas.

It's the expectations that make me a little wary of trying to be in a serious romantic relationship again someday. What if they have expectations of the way we'll spend the holidays that doesn't line up with my own desires in an insurmountable way? What if they have a family that expects we'll always spend Christmas with them, or excludes me for being an outsider? Is it weird to put "fellow orphans only" in my Bumble profile?
posted by palomar at 8:47 AM on November 23, 2019 [9 favorites]

The holiday season got orders of magnitude better for me when I realized that I have no actual obligations to any of the people in my life that I did not choose to have as a part of it. Some years, that number has definitely been zero. Others, a number greater than zero. Either way, "Family" are the people you chose and who reciprocate that; and certainly not people you accidentally share chromosomes with.
posted by Xyanthilous P. Harrierstick at 8:49 AM on November 23, 2019 [5 favorites]

Though many people hate Christmas because of the disconnect between their ideal Christmas and her actual Christmas, I don't think that's why the author of the piece hates Christmas.

I think since she has active grief, and that's why it's not ideal. What she had can't come back. Loss. Loss of the ideal. So I see these as cohesive ideas.
posted by Miko at 9:20 AM on November 23, 2019

Please. It's 2019. Be inclusive and say, "I hate the holidays."

This is rude as fuck. My “Christian” family disowned my trans queer ass and doesn’t speak to me any more while at the same time posting pictures on social media about how sad it is for them that they don’t get to see “their” grandkids (my children) over their bullshit holiday. Like the author, I didn’t do anything in this situation except be myself. I don’t hate “the holidays,” I was fucking shunned. Have some goddamn compassion for us.

posted by odinsdream at 9:27 AM on November 23, 2019 [40 favorites]

I've been keyed up lately and couldn't really figure out why. Like asking my wife "Are we fighting? Did I forget you're angry at me about something?" even though I know damn well that, say, I came home from work, ate dinner, we read together in bed, and I went to sleep. Like, I would've remembered a fight. Or, like, a raised voice. But something was tripping my alarms.

I finally figured out it was this time of year.

I've finally cut off my mother but from before Thanksgiving to New Year's was always when she maxed out her crazy because those were the two big Family Holidays About Being A Perfect Family Together, so Thanksgiving had to be Perfect. Even when I'd moved out, she'd spend the latter part of October hassling me about what I was doing, what food I was making, who I was eating with, how I knew them...etc. etc. Last year we'd briefly moved back in with her and god, it was so weird going through the motions of being The Perfect Family Having A Family Holiday.

And then Christmas. She'd start hassling me about what I wanted and what I was doing and what I was eating and how I was celebrating...

Here's where I say I have always hated Christmas because once my sister was born, I still had to show up to all the Important Family Events but I was obviously an afterthought. Like one year I got literally a folding chair for Christmas.

And then my ex-wife liked Christmas. She wasn't insane about it, but I still had to do it and Thanksgiving.

Fortunately, my current wife doesn't care for either, and we don't talk to my mother, so for the first time in my life I am free. I finally figured out all that stray anxiety was 30+ years of getting spun up for two months showing up by force of habit because it's always been such an intensely unpleasant and stressful time for me.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:37 AM on November 23, 2019 [4 favorites]

I used to love xmas. We used to have huge multi-family (non-relative) gatherings, of a formed family we had, sort of extended clan. Same w/T-Day.

I had 2 sisters, a dad, mom, me, and then our extended families often.

In 2007, one sister was killed by a drunk driver... Her family stopped coming (due to some particular issues found out during the trial where my father disowned her husband) So that left my other sister and her 2 kids. By that point we were all grown up and the big extended family xmases were long gone, but they were still nice.

But then they got smaller.

IDR the exact timing, but one year I ended up missing seeing my family during xmas due to my boss demanding I work the time my fam had off. 2011 or 2012. In 2013, my other sister killed herself.

I had already set up time to see a friend in AZ that year and TOOK my time back that year by "missing" a flight and spending and extra few days to see my friend (after they took my days with my fam the year or two before as noted above).

I listened to Pink Floyd Echoes a lot during that trip.

The following couple years were a lot more empty, missed not as full. Christmas became less and less of a thing. I also used to get 1 or 2 full weeks to spend w/family so I had a lot of time.

In 2015 I lost my job and was in the process of helping my old company transition, so xmas was faint and small. Mom disliked that I wasn't around as much that year... Then my new job had fewer days off. 2017 I was in the hospital and missed them, and 2018 Mom was upset I left early so I could have a few days of "ME" time.

This year, Dad died in October. We now have me, my mom, and my niece/nephew.

I have been thinking the past few days how sad I am about how xmas will never be the same and hasn't really been the same since 2011 or 2012 (I mean really 2007 since my first sister died, but especially since my boss started messing with my holiday schedule, then it all snowballed).


And my new job, I used all my days up for seeing my dad while he was alive so I don't even GET any extended holiday days - just xmas and tday and xmas eve. no extra days can i take to see fam on my 3 hour drive. So - yet another year of shitty xmas.

I have my roomies but they see their fams and I work and it's just gonna be lonely this year.
posted by symbioid at 10:21 AM on November 23, 2019 [8 favorites]

The thrust of this, along with this thread, is basically "Leave me alone in my depression," which is... fine, I guess. Should we all just leave everyone alone with their depression every day that isn't during the holidays, too?

I don't know the answer to that.
posted by SoberHighland at 11:01 AM on November 23, 2019 [6 favorites]

No? That’s not the take-away? Respect people with depression and what their specific needs are. Listen to them about what they need. Don’t exclude queer people from your life because they’re inconvenient or make you uncomfortable. Call out shitty people who do this, don’t let them hide behind “the holidays” as an excuse to be pieces of shit.
posted by odinsdream at 11:11 AM on November 23, 2019 [16 favorites]

Yes, I’m depressed. Yes, my depression gets worse during the holidays. Yes, my anxiety worsens during this time of year. No, confronting my family is not going to help. Spending a week in a town that I hate with people who don’t care about me while I worry about my chronically-ill cat isn’t going to make me feel better. Stuffing down my irritation with the continued farce of familial bliss isn’t going to magically erase my justified anger with people who abandoned me when I needed them the most. So please, stop asking me what I’m doing for the holidays and then letting loose exaggerated gasps and unsolicited advice when I say I’m doing absolutely nothing.

In this paragraph, she's calling out busybody assholes who believe in magical thinking. Fine! But: suicide and other self-harm happens and/or is triggered by the holidays. Perhaps some people who ask questions about your holiday plans aren't being assholes and may have genuine concern for you or the well being of the person they are asking?

I guess we all need to be better communicators. Maybe that's the best lesson for a holiday to have.
posted by SoberHighland at 11:30 AM on November 23, 2019 [5 favorites]

I grew up in a shitty-ass self-destructive family full of mental illness. I always liked Christmas a lot anyway. I never felt Christian, I just liked the sensations of it. Also, my wife did too and chose to really not like Christmas. That's never been a problem for me.

That said, humans thrive on rituals, especially ones tied to seasons, especially ones marked with certain colors and sounds and other sensations. If we completely dismantle those, life gets harder overall. What do we do about that, if it is true?

I don't know where that leaves people who want nothing to do with it. I have zero interest in hounding someone out of their bedroom and demanding they be jolly at a certain time. But the small community I live in, which is pretty damn secular overall, has lights in town and a singalong at the movie theater and the shops change over and it's all nice to be a part of. Is that disrespectful?

My wife has come to accept that my son and I love this part of the year. We watch terrible Christmas movies, we put up the tree, we visit my shitty-ass self-destructive family and take what we can get. I've waited for years for her to either unload the burden of enduring this crap or tell me she likes it now. But she just keeps on keeping on, probably because she can see it's a net-plus for our family overall.

Also: The whole thing is ours now, not owned by terrible families of the past. We get to use it to make good times together. Yes, we can make good times without holidays and we do, but this one annual thing has become a good ritual for our family -- and I mean ours. So I can't hate it.
posted by argybarg at 12:07 PM on November 23, 2019 [8 favorites]

One of the things I love about Christmas is all the people who hate it. I'm not a huge fan of parties, and just the fact that the haters exist takes the pressure off me to have a good time all the time. I also like how if your celebration of Christmas is mostly about lights, red and green, mistletoe, Christmas trees, heightened emotions, gift giving, animal sacrifice and feasting, you are really doing more of a Yule celebration than anything Christian. It's only once you add in the angels, nativities, prayer, and lord baby Jesus that it turns Christian. Most people don't go hard on all that Jesus stuff, and as an atheist I really appreciate that.

I like Christmas so much that if everyone liked it as much as I do the net happiness of the world would surely increase. That's probably where the impulse to convince people they oughta like it too comes from, but as I said, I think the haters help. If too many people liked Christmas it would ruin Christmas.
posted by surlyben at 12:23 PM on November 23, 2019 [12 favorites]

I don't know if there is genuinely an increase in this overall, but more and more people I know are doing this for major holidays -- taking a trip somewhere by themselves or as a couple rather than going to family celebrations.

This is true. There is a secret network of Thanksgiving emigres that flee the United States and I’m not even joking. I am not the biggest fan of Thanksgiving and I’ve gone abroad during it three times, and each time I have encountered fun Americans and we bonded over hating Thanksgiving.

Christmas is a lot tougher to get away from.
posted by Automocar at 2:23 PM on November 23, 2019 [4 favorites]

That said, humans thrive on rituals, especially ones tied to seasons, especially ones marked with certain colors and sounds and other sensations. If we completely dismantle those, life gets harder overall. What do we do about that, if it is true?

I think as a culture there is a huge space we could explore between "nice winter holiday" and "forty-day nonstop sensory overload capitalist extravaganza".
posted by lefty lucky cat at 4:29 PM on November 23, 2019 [23 favorites]

This person doesn’t have to like Christmas, but in general among my millennial cohort the “fuck holidays” attitude is way more prevalent than its opposite and if anything I feel like more of a weirdo for still enjoying it, so I dispute the premise.

Also, they don’t like it for what seem to be deeply personal reasons, which while valid, do not generalize in the way this kind of think piece structure implies.
posted by Sokka shot first at 4:42 PM on November 23, 2019 [3 favorites]

I think we do explore that space. Nearly everyone I know does.
posted by argybarg at 4:43 PM on November 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

Because I hate Christmas and there’s actually nothing wrong with that.

I agree, but I must say it is really hard to be married to someone who hates Christmas. I used to LOVE Christmas and now I approach it with the same dread as my husband because everything is usually awful at this time of year. We fight more. Navigating family is completely dreadful. I used to wish he would just opt out since that's so clearly what he wanted but we did that once and he was MORE depressed that year. Plus he has suicidal tendencies so I'm not keen on leaving him completely alone during the worst time of the year for him. He doesn't have any family trauma or anything . . . he just doesn't like Christmas and it makes it impossible for me to like it either.

It's hard.
posted by chainsofreedom at 4:58 PM on November 23, 2019 [7 favorites]

On a personal level, I think a lot of people do explore that space between “festive season to shout life against the cold and dark” and “forty days of retailers screaming at you that you have a responsibility to produce year over year sales growth for their shareholders.”

On a cultural level? I don’t think so much, because we Americans are still heavily into letting consumption define participation in culture. Even in the “millennials want experiences over stuff” tropes that analysts trot out, it’s experience as a form of performative consumerism. If it weren’t, influencers wouldn’t be raking in the big bucks posing with their kids in Old Navy pajamas for the experience of making memories on holiday movie night.

I love the holidays in ways that are tiny and personal and meaningful to me: I love driving my kid’s carpool somewhere, having “Felix Navidad” play, shouting, “Dance like a muppet on the chorus,” and looking in the rear view mirror to see a troupe of third graders all flailing their arms like Kermit. I love finishing my work late at night while sitting on the couch with the tree’s lights on and the Windham Hill “Winter Solstice IV” album playing, an audio time-travel trip back to college where a girl in my dorm played this album constantly. I love hiking in the redwood-lined hills above my house and leaving suet-and-seed balls for the birds on the fourth Sunday of Advent. I love our marital tradition of eating cookies for breakfast on December 26. I love that these things belong to my holiday.

At some point, the kids will be too cool to dance like muppets and my knees may not permit hiking, but I hope I can keep holding on to the idea that the holidays are anything that make me feel as if I’m shouting life against the crumbling end of a used-up year.
posted by sobell at 5:18 PM on November 23, 2019 [12 favorites]

I would never advise anybody to move to south Florida if you don't have to, but the Christmas season seems so much less pervasive and more easily avoidable when it's 85 degrees and sunny outside. (Also, if you're Jewish, chances are you're not the only Jew in your office, and Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are official school-district holidays.)
posted by Daily Alice at 6:41 PM on November 23, 2019 [3 favorites]

I have a fine relationship with my family and I still wish I could just avoid Christmas. Schlepping back to the midwest at the dreariest time of year, trying to divide my time between my divorced parents equally, stressing about having gotten presents for everyone, trying to make the reality of christmas day live up to the ideal.

The last couple of years my partner and I have gone to Mexico over the week between xmas and new year's which is FANTASTIC, but I always feel like I have to at least make a pit stop to visit family because I don't want either of my parents to feel lonely on christmas. Maybe if I had a big family to celebrate with instead of just parents and one brother it would feel different. But as it is it just feels like an obligation.
posted by geegollygosh at 8:59 PM on November 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

Man, a whole bunch of you read "I Hate Christmas" and had to jump in with your hot takes on what's wrong with all of us without finishing the damn title which concludes "AND I DON'T WANT YOU TO CHANGE MY MIND."

The people in this discussion who hate Christmas don't need your permission/suggestions, and we were tired of you before you began banging on with your WELL AKTCHULLY.

We can't even say we hate a thing without people trying to turn it into a diagnosis.
posted by tzikeh at 9:50 PM on November 23, 2019 [12 favorites]

I get regularly vilified for not decorating for Christmas. I’m an atheist. My husband is pagan. We celebrate Christmas because it’s a fun cultural extension of Yule. But I’m not going to spend my precious little spare time dressing up the house for the holiday. Somehow this is interpreted as a CRIME by the family. I tell the kids and husband that if they want a tree and such that’s fine, but leave me out of it. This is somehow seen as bad behavior by those outside. You can’t win.
posted by EinAtlanta at 6:43 AM on November 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

There's a lot of reasons to hate Christmas and I think they all get conflated, and people who take liking Christmas for granted talk about those of us who hate it as if we all have the same reason, and talk down to us by cycling through their arguments as if they're going to find the right one next time! Just you wait!

There's hating Christmas because it's birth-family-centered, and they're disconnected from or strained with their birth family, like the author of this piece for very understandable reasons which are compounded by deep mourning.

There's hating Christmas because you have depression and people without depression are really kind of shitty at knowing how to treat people who have it.

There's hating Christmas because you actually love Christmas but hate the hypocrisy of the disconnect between what you identify as the meaning of Christmas and the mundane realities of its celebration in a capitalist society ("Sure, I can tell you what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown")

There's hating Christmas because of the blatant Christian supremacist colonialism of its dominance being forced on all other members of society 24-7 for practically half the year (but really if we're honest the entire year), and even weak, half-hearted, too-late, well-meaning but ignorant attempts to acknowledge that other people exist besides Christians by saying "happy holidays" are part of the Christian-supremacy for reasons that ArbitrayandCapricious articulated very vividly. (GUESS WHICH OF THESE REASONS IS MY REASON FOR HATING CHRISTMAS)

Nobody who likes Christmas and takes it for granted needs to look down on people who dislike Christmas and say "Well I guess I'm trying to understand, but I just feel bad for you", like...... you can actually just take our word for it and take us seriously as adults with valid opinions about our experience of the world!
posted by elsilnora at 10:44 AM on November 24, 2019 [14 favorites]

That said, humans thrive on rituals, especially ones tied to seasons, especially ones marked with certain colors and sounds and other sensations. If we completely dismantle those, life gets harder overall. What do we do about that, if it is true?

In the USA, we are nowhere close to dismantling the traditions associated with Christmas, so I don't think life will be getting harder for Christmas-lovers any time soon. Some subset of the population has always hated Christmas, and yet Christmas traditions still persist.
posted by 23skidoo at 11:36 AM on November 24, 2019 [6 favorites]

Some subset of the population has always hated Christmas...

This is very true. In fact, when my family emigrated to America, Xmas was completely banned. Personally, I'm OK with some middle ground, where the current full-court Xmas onslaught is dialed way back. In the same way I don't want to be proselytized to convert to Christian religion, I don't want to be proselytized to join in the Xmas joyfulness.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:39 PM on November 24, 2019


To clarify, I don't feel Christmas is endangered in some way. I just wonder if the author, or any here, endorse the idea that the public version of Christmas is intrinsically offensive, especially to those who would prefer not to see it.
posted by argybarg at 10:56 AM on November 25, 2019

Did something in the piece give you that impression? It's clear the author hates Christmas, but nothing in the piece gave me the impression that she was offended by other people enjoying Christmas or by Christmas celebrations in general.
posted by 23skidoo at 11:11 AM on November 25, 2019

Less to do with the article than the comments on it. "If you're not one of the people who actually enjoys Xmas, the whole thing is oppressive," etc. That could mean a few different things. And I'm not outraged, nor am I fighting for something; I'm just curious on what the shared sense of the etiquette around it is.
posted by argybarg at 11:29 AM on November 25, 2019

I feel like the most painful thing about Christmas Expectations for myself was the overwhelming onslaught of GO BACK TO YOUR CHILDHOOD HOME AND PUT ON PJS AND SLEEP IN YOUR OLD BEDROOM YES YOU ARE EIGHT AGAIN!

There are so many reasons that is not a great aspiration or memory for a lot of us, and yet, despite "Friendsgiving" being much more culturally permissive, Christmas still feels like a month long trumpeting "get back into your childhood role!!!"
posted by nakedmolerats at 11:38 AM on November 25, 2019 [3 favorites]

I feel like the most painful thing about Christmas Expectations for myself was the overwhelming onslaught of GO BACK TO YOUR CHILDHOOD HOME AND PUT ON PJS AND SLEEP IN YOUR OLD BEDROOM YES YOU ARE EIGHT AGAIN!

No need to wait until Christmas for a license to act like a 13-year-old in front of your parents, I usually do it with 24-48 hours of being back in their presence at any time of year.
posted by lefty lucky cat at 11:56 AM on November 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

Welp. My wife's family celebrates Christmas and I'll be joining them this year. Here's hoping this thread is not representative? They've seemed like nice people so far...
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 9:12 PM on November 28, 2019

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