Checking out of the holidays

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lights-1088141__340In listening to people this season, I’ve learned that there are good people who are no longer emotionally engaged in the winter holidays.  This is more than just not giving gifts.  Nor is it a function of religious affiliation.  However, this is real and each person has there own compelling reason for opting out.

Unless you listen, you may not know who these people are.  They may even put up decorations and wish others a “Happy Holiday” or “Merry Christmas.”  However, they aren’t having one themselves.

We know that (as of 2014) 9% of Americans were not giving gifts for the holidays.  That number may be understated.

  • Only 70.6% of Americans self-identify as Christian according to Pew.  Of course, Jews may give Hanukah gifts, but only 1.9% of Americans say they are Jewish.
  • Household finances are a major reason for abandoning gift-giving.

There are other reasons.  As on blogger notes

“If you’re anything like this writer, Christmas was just never a thing in your house.” Lieu

I don’t know about that blogger, but the people with whom I’ve spoken cite a number of specific reasons for loss of enthusiasm for the holiday.  This is a small sample, so I can’t quantify statistically how common these issues are, or which is more important.

  • The holiday is associated with loss of a loved one
  • Growing up in a dysfunctional home
    • An alcoholic parent who binges on the holidays
    • A workaholic or absentee parent
    • An abusive parent
  • Abuse by a minister or priest
  • Having a dysfunctional spouse (alcoholic, abusive or absentee)
  • Abusive relatives or in-laws

Any of these things can forever darken a holiday.  For the victim, the linkage is tattooed on the memory; he or she just wants to get past the day.

The best you can do as a third party is understand and show compassion.  You can’t make the person feel differently than they do.

Even compassion is hard when the victim won’t talk about what happened.  That’s where your listening skills have to be acute.  If you want to help, you need to hear “between the words.”

So the person who says “Bah Humbug” to the holiday may not be a Grinch or Scrooge, but may be someone in need of understanding. Or someone with whom to take in a movie.


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