December 24, 2017 by Cláudia
I really do not like Christmas… For this, I have personal as well as societal reasons.
I do not want to criticize people who enjoy Christmas. If it feels good for you, then enjoy and be happy! I just want to explain why it doesn’t feel good for me. In fact, every year around this time I get a really weird mood, very close to depression: I just want to stay in bed and wait for the 26th December to come.
The last few years I’ve been experiencing progressively less enthusiasm for Christmas and that’s probably because my nuclear family is progressively becoming smaller. Me and my mom join some extended family but, even though they are nice, they are almost strangers to me. I don’t see them any other time during the year, I don’t know much about them and they don’t either about me. We meet once a year, I briefly explain what I’ve been doing during the last year and that’s it. They are nice people, but they are distant from me. Even though I like to be with them, it just seems forced and unnatural to spend Christmas there because I don’t feel at home or comfortable.
In the past, joining with my father’s family in a “happy family” sort of way was always forced. All the propaganda to “reunite” and “share” with loved ones seems a little over the top when your family is problematic, to say the least. There are so many expectations around this time that I know that can’t be fulfilled with my family.
But enough about me. There are other reasons why I would gladly skip Christmas. The first one is very obvious and straightforward: it fosters a compulsive consumerist behaviour with serious environmental consequences (See High environmental price of a very merry Christmas). While some people still sleep rough, obscene amounts of money are spent compulsively on stuff that a lot of times is not needed, wanted nor is it ever going to be used. The amounts of waste created are probably unparalleled throughout the year. Wrapping paper, plastic container, old electronic devices (often still working), old decorations and Christmas trees are thrown away and mostly end up in landfills.
At a time that is supposed to be about sharing and gratitude, the main focus seems to have become the material possessions. Once again, we have been brainwashed into thinking that stuff is equivalent to well-being and intimacy and that is what we are teaching the children in our family in these times.
Paradoxically, Christmas time exacerbates solidarity. Almost as if overcompensating the guilt of overspending, Christmas has become a time linked to humanitarian campaigns and massive donations to ONGs. Every brand is fundraising for one cause or another, NGOs receive larger donations than usual and I can’t buy anything without being asked if for an extra 50 cents I want to donate to this or that. It seems like Christmas magic makes everyone feel just a little kinder than usual. Although solidarity is good no matter what the cause behind may be, I cannot help but be a little sceptical of this sudden solidarity. It is the only time of the year that everyone cares about everyone else. For a couple of weeks, associations have food and resources. But what about the rest of the year? Don’t homeless people need to eat throughout the whole year? Don’t stray animals need food and don’t sick children need comfort? Then New Year comes and most people are back to their egotistical self-centred selves.
But to me the worst part is how Christmas can negatively affect mental health. We are bombarded with images of reunion, togetherness, happy families… But what if you don’t have a family to share it with?
How absurd it is that a time with nothing but good connotations can cause feelings of distress or despair.
Loneliness is probably the most heartbreaking feeling and assigning a time to be with loved ones can only further the sense of detachment in people that for one reason or another have found themselves lonely. After the loss of a loved one, Christmas is markedly more painful. Multiplying that to a situation where someone doesn’t have any family to spend it with, the pain it is going to create makes me wonder if we should put this much importance on it. On social media, on TV, in advertisement, all we see is messages about togetherness. It may seem like no one else is lonely, but I’m sure there are many suffering in silence while watching a movie about a happy family.
For homeless people, Christmas must be the worse time of the year. Streets are deserted, businesses are closed. Everything is quiet. People are at home, eating well, exchanging gifts. All they’ve seen lately was people buying and buying and buying, carrying shopping bags, discussing the amounts of food they are getting or making. And they can’t have any of that, not the family, not the nice food, not the comfort of the home. And they are left completely alone in empty cold streets. At a time that is supposed to be about reunion. It is heartbreaking.
I know some people are really happy around this time and I don’t want to take that away from them. I know good things come from reuniting families. I know.
I also know that, like me, many are down this time of the year. And I am lucky because I have my mom. I am not alone in an empty home. I am not alone in the cold streets. Those are levels of loneliness I cannot even begin to understand. I don’t pretend I do.
It’s just extremely unfair. And it is a situation that accentuates feelings of loneliness and despair. I don’t necessarily have a solution. But more should be taken into consideration in order to avoid causing pain to others. More should be done in order to curb loneliness. This joyful time should not be the cause of pain. We should all recognize how this time is only good for the most privileged of us. And if someone, for whatever reason it may be, is feeling lonely this Christmas, I promise you, you are not the only one.