The Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays debate.

This week in hospitality, guests have ended a lot of interactions with “Merry Christmas.” Myself being the naturally cherry self that I am, retorted quickly with “Fuck off…” in my head. However my I-really-need-this-job sensibility led me to promptly respond with “Oh yeah, thanks, happy holidays.”

Year after year this debate catches fire as to what is appropriate and what is not. Granted, as pointed out to me, I am a particularly free-love type of person, laid back and not looking to get heated if someone who believes in the religious background of Christmas feels the need to say “God Bless You and Merry Christmas.”

In fact, I like to take comfort in that despite what they believe their intentions are purely to wish me well during this holiday season. Now that I have spent the last 3 days on my own, buried in my bed, hiding from the world and subsequently the Christmas Spirit I realize why people take such offense.

I believe – that it is not actually the words that offend people, but the holiday season itself. I have this sneaking suspicion that I am not the only one that cringes when the calendar turns to December and all I can do is brace myself for the 32 days that follow.

Holidays bring up a lot of emotions, for everybody. Stemming from our childhoods and what our families did to celebrate. Whether or not we celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or the solstice December turned into the month of pretending everything is okay.

We got presents as children, regardless if our parents could afford them. Families made sacrifices to spend time together and as we all know: time = money. These holidays are really a big old fashioned cover up for money, and someone that doesn’t have any money may not feel much like they’re included as part of the holiday festivities.

I’m 29 and single and I live alone in Chicago. My brother is 31, with a long term girlfriend and they celebrate with her family every year in California. My mother lives with her boyfriend in New York and they celebrate together.

This year, knowing I was going to be leaving the country soon I wanted to organize a family Christmas in San Diego. Way back in the fall when I suggested this to my mother she said “Oh honey, Christmas isn’t like that anymore, everyone has their own plans.”

My heart broke, it shattered, I couldn’t believe my mother had said this to me. Granted, it was completely true, but what hurt the most is that it made me feel like I was the outcast in my own family. The only one that doesn’t have somewhere to go on Christmas, and someone special to spend it with.

Obviously, I have family, but most of them have their own families and their in laws. It makes me miss the simple days of yore, the Clark Griswold Christmas spirit, where nothing could ruin it. Now, it feels like a consumerist holiday where everybody just bitches about having no time to enjoy the days because they’re too busy shopping (and getting pissed off while shopping) to buy presents for everybody.

I’d say at least 5 or 6 years ago was the last time my entire family was together to celebrate the holidays. At the time, I was the youngest person in my family, so we didn’t have hours and hours opening presents. We drew a name from a hat and everyone in the family had 1 person to buy a present for. The present portion of the day lasted about an hour and then we got to the best part – eating, drinking and bullshitting.

I feel like now, that we’ve lost 2 members of my family since, it seems a lot more meaningful now than it did then. We’d have one family day together but never really appreciated it, I think we all took it for granted and were still consumed with our day-to-day problems of bills and stress.

So this theory I have now about why people get so offended is because they are not having a Merry Christmas or a Happy Holiday. They feel left out, they feel like there is something missing because in this day and age the December holidays start in October and get stuffed down your throat the entire time. They tell you you need to buy more, do more, bake more, decorate more, be happier, be nicer, be more grateful, BE MORE of everything, instead of just being.

My mother basically laughed at my notion to have a “family” holiday. Then, very tragically, my uncle passed away. The entire family gathered for 9 days. 9 days together, every day and night. It was one of the best times I have ever had with my family because we dropped everything to give each other love and support. It was awful and horrible yet full of love and I came out of those 9 days being so bonded to my cousins that I feel like we’re siblings. In the face of loss, we re-value our priorities. Family ALWAYS comes 1st after a major crisis happens. I just can’t figure out why it doesn’t stay first everyday.

I would give anything to be able to call my Dad right now to rant about how much I hate Christmas. Wanting to trade in anything I have in life to spend one more day with him, however if he were still alive,  I guarantee you I wouldn’t take the time off work and would still be alone in Chicago and scheduled to work on the 25th.

Like everything I write – I know I clump people into major groups and this isn’t the same for everybody. Some people do actually have great holidays and get exactly what they want from the holiday. My plea is that some people have pain so deep you would have no idea it exists. The holidays are a VERY, very hard time for a lot of people. Even if their life seems great from afar, you never know what that person truly wants, or is yearning for.

The holidays are not about material things, or baked goods, it’s not even about being with a bunch of people (especially if you don’t really appreciate them). It’s a time to suspend the need to need. You know that dream when you’re falling from a high place and you know it’s not going to end well, but while you’re falling you’re not as scared as you think you should be. That’s what we need to live like – full of acceptance that what is, is.

It’s faith in the unknown, it is the ultimate expression of freedom – where there is nothing holding you back and you are all you can ever be in that one, fleeting moment. This shouldn’t only be celebrated in December, we should always try to live like the best versions of ourselves. But that’s fucking hard, and we’re not going to. So why not just let people say and do what they feel in their hearts for 32 consecutive days in a 365 day run.

Next time someone says something kind and heartfelt that you don’t agree with, or feel is acceptable in your made up world of right and wrong instead of getting offended why don’t you stop, get over yourself and say “Thanks, you too!”


You asshole.


just kidding.

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