Being in late January, the holiday season is behind us. Like a lot of people, I have mixed feelings about the holidays. As a Person of Faith, Christmas obviously means a lot to me. The religious significance places it right up there with Easter as one of the two most holy days of the year. Christmas time is sacred, and it brings into many of our lives peacefulness and harmony with other people and the world.
“Holidaze” is for the negative aspects of the holidays, and unfortunately there are many. I like to joke with people that January 2 is my favorite holiday because the cultural “craze” is finally over. Obviously, the holiday season is completely commercialized, commodified and monetized. The religious meaning or even cultural meaning is replaced by the drive to shop till you drop. It places stress upon people who are concerned with buying the best possible gifts for their loved ones. The will to not disappoint is very strong. It is also places a financial burden on many people and thus they must rely on the plastic, putting them into significant credit card debt. The true meaning of the season is lost in a whirr of consumerism and capitalism, and this is a truly a shame.
But in addition to the commercialism of the season, there is the imperative that people be happy, joyous and merry. What does this mean for those of us who battle chronic depression? In 2017, my family and I celebrated Christmas on December 24th because Christmas day was very snowy. I sat home alone on Christmas day and it was really hard for me. On the one hand I felt disappointed for buying into hegemonic cultural imperatives. On the other, I felt compassionate for myself because like it or not these cultural directives are overwhelming. If you are not out and about with people and eating fancy food and opening expensive presents you are seen as some kind of loser or failure or may feel as such.
Many people, depressed or not, feel overwhelmed by the holidays/holidaze and feel like they are not living up to the threshold of joy and happiness required of this time period. Religious and cultural significance aside, it is ultimately another day or series of days on the calendar. We should not feel disappointed in ourselves or others for failing to evince the requisite merriment.
In a more general sense, I have to say that I am not a huge fan of tradition, and holidays are so entangled with tradition. Tradition is based in repetition, and I always prefer the fresh and the unestablished. It is no wonder people get bored with the holidays because they are the same year after year after year. I think we need to create new holidays and subvert the existing ones. The newness keeps us young and refreshed, rather than dreading another round of stress and requirements. I like the idea of new traditions or traditions that morph and transform over time. Traditions are, after all, meant to be broken, meant to be violated. One of the things I am trying to do each year is make the feast day of Joan of Arc into my own personal holiday since she is my Patron Saint. There is no infrastructure for these personal holidays, which makes them more challenging. But even if it is just me and a strong intention, I can consider it a holiday that has worth and meaning. We also need more queer holidays beyond pride parades. One that I celebrated in November was the birthday of Black Lesbian writer and activist Audre Lorde. It was really meaningful to me and we had a nice group and discussion.
What I would say to people is to celebrate or not celebrate holidays however you want. Don’t feel stressed out by them or bound by tradition or expectations. Holidays are meant to be fun, so how did it happen that they have become a drag for so many? Also, practice good self-care during the holidays and reach out if you are struggling. Your well-being is infinitely more important than any holiday. And finally, consider establishing new holidays or traditions for yourself, your family and your community. You will find others also appreciate new ceremonies and rituals and that these help to keep life fresh. Whether you opt in or opt out, you are in the driver’s seat and get to decide your own relationship to holidays and traditions.