PSA: Not Everyone Is Merry

Note: I wrote this post several years ago and won’t apologize for repeating it. It is dedicated to those of you feeling Bah Humbug. Chin up, we’ll get through this. Michele

 T’is the season to be jolly for many, but this is a public service announcement to remind those giddy with gift buying, tree decorating, and stocking stuffing, Christmas for many is agony.   For 35 years as an attorney practicing family law, I have personally witnessed the anomaly of Christmas. I wonder how a 24-hour holiday has managed to dominate our calendar beginning not before Thanksgiving as we once lamented, not before Halloween as we once complained, but now coinciding with the back-to-school frenzy. With four solid months to prepare for one day during which we are perfectly happy sharing a Martha Stewart feast with our television ready family, how is that so many of us fail to find bliss in Christmas?   It may have to do with money, or the lack of it. I am always swarmed by requests from clients in the fall to return to court for unpaid child support and alimony. For families who have been reconfigured into what society considers untraditional units, although they probably outnumber those considered traditional, Christmas is particularly challenging. During the season of sharing and caring, bouts of who-gets-the-kids-for-Christmas-this-year fill courthouses with shouting matches and an underlying profound sadness that Christmas will never be as perfect as it once was, or they’d like to believe it was.  Parents are desperate to meet the expectations advertisers, not necessarily their children, place like bundles on their doorstops. Even affluent families who can afford to buy Luke Skywalker’s Star Wars Landspeeder for $249.99 feel the underlying pressure and competition to have the best outdoor light display or a tree so over-sized it belongs in a national park. Everyone must receive a gift that not only shows appreciation, but also that the donor is a creative genius. You can no longer simply slip your postal carrier a few bucks. Now money must be included in a singing card with photos of the charming children and an adorable golden doodle. You get extra points if the dog is singing. And now that you buy everything online, don’t forget the UPS, Fed-ex, DHL deliverers.             Everybody is so happy, happy. Everything is so perfect, perfect. Ugly Christmas sweater competitions, the elf on the shelf mandatory ritual, secret Santa swaps. Are we having fun yet?           

If you are blessed with bounty and harmony and are having the time of your life, good for you. But for those who are reminded at Christmas just how imperfect their lives are, a deep sadness running to clinical depression can set in. Not everyone has the money to buy what’s on their kids’ wish lists. Many people come from splintered families and feel the division more acutely during a season that demands unity and harmony, and even that it be jolly. Those with debilitating chronic illnesses are not given a reprieve for the holidays. The imperfections of life refuse to take a holiday during the holidays.           

Be gentle with those who are not enjoying the season to be jolly. For them, it can be the season of melancholy. Be kind to yourself and have a gentle little Christmas. 

For more consolation please read Aine Greaney’s wonderful essay, Blue Christmas, You’re Not Alone.


  1. This is pretty close to how I feel. I spent many, many Christmases in movie theaters. The over commercialism kills me, and working in e-commerce for years meant no weekends off and definitely no Christmas Eve off, all while still trying to get the presents and the tree and the treats, all while the kid is off from school…sigh. I always feel better on the 26th. Bah humbug!

  2. I am not and have never been a fan of Christmas. From the time I was old enough to buy gifts, it felt like pressure to perform, to find the perfect gift for everyone. My mother was born on Christmas Day and always felt cheated because her birthday usually got overlooked. Somehow it fell to me, I thought, to make up for everyone else. And, did I mention she was incredibly picky and difficult to please? Add to that gifts for the extended family, friends and godchildren and Christmas shopping was always a nightmare. Over the years I’ve let go of almost all the gift buying/shopping and cut back on the “celebration” so I’m happy with a quiet dinner with my wife. Some years , like this one, we don’t bother with gifts, and even when we do buy gifts, there’s no pressure. But like Emily, I always feel better on the 26th when all the hoopla is over. Happy New Year.

  3. I loathe the early commercials and decorations in stores in early fall. I want to enjoy fall with Halloween and then Thanksgiving before being bombarded with tinsel and carols. My 89 yr old mom who’s housebound right now is so sick of the Hallmark Christmas movies playing for months she refuses to watch!

    Somehow the reason for the season has gotten lost…

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