Confused by why someone might be miserable at your holiday dinner? It’s important to remember personal history when considering how we treat holidays.
I enjoy the concept of holidays. There is something fun watching a majority of society ready itself for coming months of joy, witnessing people rally around virtues of charity, and seeing how others come together in love. On the same note, the holidays are a difficult time for myself, and millions of others, for countless reasons. In our rush to celebrate the holidays, we should be cautious that we never forget the multi-faceted nature of the world we live in.
I never really processed my issues with holidays until I dated someone who absolutely adored this time of year. Where I could not be bothered with the concepts of Christmas and the idea of Thanksgiving stressed me out, she was bananas over these two events. Not only was her love for these days off the chart, but she loved every single holiday from 4th of July to Halloween to her former babysitter’s birthday. For her, the holidays were the number one cause for celebration.
Personally, these feelings were never mutual and instead holidays emerged in my life with a degree of cautious creeping. The calendar let me know they were right around the corner and before I prepared, these holiday slinked back into the gaggle of days.
If you are wondering how these two divergent ideologies surrounding holidays operated in unison, you would be right to assume that my ex and I often disagreed over these periods. Vehemently too. Where she wanted me to be ecstatic that it was Thanksgiving, I was considerably less than thrilled. By the time December knocked, and I opted staying at home alone instead of seeing family, the disagreement reached its head.
As we sat there on opposite ends of the phone, her slightly drunk off holiday cheer and me slightly bitter off whatever it was the Grinch drank, she compressed her thoughts into one question- what was it about the holidays that I hated so much?
In those moments I was challenged because surprisingly, this was the first time someone asked me this question. No one had ever explored my disdain for the holidays, most people just wrote me off as a Scrooge. In the majority of minds, I was incapable of feeling joy and this lack of joy must be why I hated the holidays. When faced with this question, I had to provide an answer. Not only did I have to answer her but I also needed a personal answer. I had never actually determined this reason
Reflecting on all the aspects of holidays, and the ones I profoundly disliked, my rationale came down to one thought. For her, the holidays were a time she could spend with her entire family. Me, well the holidays were a reminder of a past wound manifested in remembrance of my parent’s divorce.
Where I am now okay with both my parents and thankful to have a relationship on both sides of this denouement, the biggest issue that emerged is where my parents live. I am not upset my parent’s relationships did not work out but I was bothered because every holiday I was faced with a reminder. I, a young professional without much money, had a choice. I could see one of my parents or the other; I was not afforded the opportunity to see both. Where holidays themselves were times of celebrations leading into these spectacles, I was constantly reminded of my fragmented family.
Explaining these natural feelings of division to my ex it helped me put my thoughts into concrete words. Through these statements I also realized there had to be more people like me. There certainly are, and I know this based on the cultural narratives we tell about these individuals. These are the Scrooges, the Grinchs, the bah humbugs, and the misers. These are the individuals we see alone on the holidays, the ones who do not decorate, or the people who complain a little too loudly about Christmas music. These people are easy to spot because our cultures have made them holiday pariahs. If you do not love the holidays, something must be wrong with you.
Serving on behalf of these individuals, let me remind you that we are not bad and our disdain for holidays is often validated. It is not that I hate when others experience joyous holidays or that I find it deplorable celebrating the beauty of these time frames. It is just that these periods remind me of an issue in my own life that make them a little tough a pill to swallow. As with many things in life, there is no right or wrong. We are all creatures of preference and where my ex loved holidays, personally I find comfort in allowing these dates being just another date in the year.
If nothing else, my relationship with my ex taught me one thing about holidays. That where she loved them and I watched them pass with as little interest as I could allow, neither of us were wrong. Nor were either of us operating in a win-lose scenario. We each had different views of the holidays and these views were okay when they were hashed out because her celebrating did not detract from my existing and vice versa. Once we figured this out, we were navigated these time periods much better with a more clear idea of expectations.
No matter what your perspective on the holidays, remember everyone has their own background. There is nothing one-dimensional about any experience, holidays included. However you view holidays, remember this is your choice and not everyone will agree. Nor should they. The beauty in each holiday stems from how we individually choose to experience them. For you, this might mean all the cheer around your families specific traditions and events. For me, this involves a cup of coffee and a cursor blinking on my laptop screen. Neither of us has the better holiday, we just have our own.
Regardless, for everyone celebrating or not celebrating, may you have the holiday that you wish this year, whatever that looks like. Happy holidays, enjoy your day how you like and remember, no matter where you fall, only you can define your personal holiday spirit.