This weekend, I managed to get myself horribly depressed. What was I doing? Balancing my checkbook? Battling other shoppers for this year’s must-have gizmo? Weighing myself after Thanksgiving dinner? NO! I was watching holiday movies!
And I realized something. Holiday movies have much in common with women’s popular novels in the 19th century. Women authors, bound by conventional gender roles, invented scenarios that allowed their protagonists to be free, creative, and adventurous (usually after the death or desertion of the family bread-winner), and readers were fine with that as long by the end of the novel, those women were back to their proper role as “angel of the house.”
I see a similar pattern in many “heart-warming” holiday movies. A dysfunctional family comes together for the holiday. They don’t get along and they argue. No one is having a good time. The message is clear: Holidays are a time of stress and pain. And that message is fine, because at the end, some revelation brings them all together again to embrace the “true” meaning of the holidays.
But there are several problems with this scenario. Life is not a movie. Sometimes, a dysfunctional family gathers and there is pain, but there are no heart-warming revelations and hugs at the end. All go home a little more battered than when they arrived. Or there has been a great sadness during the year that the holidays simply can’t erase or even alleviate. And some people don’t have families to go home to.
This doesn’t mean the holidays are just one big sad blob on the calendar. But it does mean those folks who don’t fit into the Christmas Card version of the holidays need to be careful not to let that picture color their own celebrations.
So my advice is to celebrate (or not celebrate) in your own way. If you’re single and love putting up a tree, then do so. Ignore those folks who snidely say how they wouldn’t waste time with a tree except for the children. And Christmas really is for the children. Don’t just ignore those people. Actively walk out on those people.
And if you don’t have a significant other to buy you that necklace that shows up on every other commercial during this month, then be your own S.O. and buy it for yourself.
And if this has not been a good year for you and you have some giant sadness hanging over you that the season is only making worse, then give yourself permission to bow out of as many gatherings as possible. Some years, it is a noble goal simply to survive the season.
And if you are one of those gung-ho holiday celebrators, then go all out. Have a party. Or two. Invite me.