It seems that every year we get past Halloween and Thanksgiving, and the conversation immediately pivots to the “Holiday Season.” This season is almost always geared entirely towards Christmas, and the overwhelming sentiment is that Christmas time is exclusively a happy time and anyone who disagrees can shove it. This is a dangerous mindset for society to take.
One dynamic to this issue is that everyone has a completely different experience compared to someone else. I can speak as someone who has fewer and fewer family members alive with each passing holiday season and the holidays only stand as reminders for people that their loved ones are no longer around or, possibly worse, are still alive but don’t wish to associate with them. This is a grim reality for many people and for some reason, our popular consciousness has decided that the normative experience is an entirely supportive and positive time at Christmas. The million-dollar question obviously is “Why?”
One reason might be the simple fact that positive vibes are easier to sell than negative ones. In a market economy, it is far easier to tell someone to be merry and forget all their problems by purchasing a business’s commodity than it is to remind someone that they have problem after problem and need to fix it. This approach is quite effective in reinforcing the idea that no one should be negative on the holidays.
I want to be clear: I am not advocating for everyone to be miserable during the holidays. That would be insane. My position is that if people are not having a positively excellent time during the holidays, we need to be understanding of that. We need to treat their feelings with care just as if we were going through a rough time, we would want them to do the same. The holiday season ideally should not be a stressful environment.
The earlier point of families not getting along during the holidays (or ever for that matter) is especially poignant for members of the LGBTQ community. There are so many horror stories of individuals coming out and immediately getting kicked out of their homes. LGBTQ folks must find their own family and the sad reality is that many don’t. The familial abandonment they experience during the holidays can be quite devastating and depending on their own mental health and personality, they might not even find a replacement family to spend the holidays with.
The moral of this story is that everyone needs to be more cognizant of everyone else’s individual experiences. This means taking the time to ask your friends how they’re spending the holidays, and listening with sincerity, not judgement. If they say they are spending the holidays alone, don’t open with “Why?” Open with “Do you want a place to spend the holidays?” instead. This way you are being both affirming to their feelings and supportive as their loved one. Those of us who find the holidays dreadful for social reasons will certainly appreciate it.