My little family doesn't care for Christmas like they used to, among other things. How can I avoid or learn to cope with the holiday blues this year?
posted by ohmy to human relations (39 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I am a 30 year old only child raised in Canada. I have a very small family, and I have always been the youngest, by far. I had no cousins until I was 20 years old. I have no children.
Christmas dinner this year, if it even happens, will consist of my parents, my aunt and her husband, and my grandmother - all between the ages of 65 and 94. Both of my parents are immigrants from outside of North America (one British and one south East Asian) and a) came from extremely humble beginnings, and b) although they are both Christians, neither of their families ever celebrated Christmas... at least not the way it's celebrated here in North America.
My childhood was full of Christmas cheer, bustling family dinners (all of my grandparents were alive, my only uncle was still living in this city), gifts, stockings, everything. All of my memories are extremely fond. But over the last ten years or so, Christmas has basically become just any other day. I realize now that my parents only really went through the Christmas motions when I was a kid because... well, I was a kid. Now that I'm older, they seem to have stopped caring completely as seem to have stopped seeing the point in celebrating at all.
My dad doesn't care about Christmas at all. My mom cares more, but only very slightly. She no longer wants to make Christmas dinner. The last few years, she has consistently suggested that we don't invite my aunt and her husband over for Christmas and have "just us"... meaning my parents, myself, my boyfriend and my grandmother, who lives with my parents. This upsets me because how rude to not invite part of the family over, when they've been spending every Christmas with us since I can remember, and probably have nowhere else to spend it with! Not to mention the fact that dinner "just us" is basically a normal dinner I might have on any weekend when I visit my parents.
My mother is 71 years old. I don't expect her to make a big Christmas dinner after doing it and stressing about it for twenty something years (I only realized it stressed her out as an adult). In fact, I would be even happy with no dinner at all. We could just go over and eat premade snacks and sip eggnog or whatever all night, as long as we're all together enjoying ourselves. However, even this kind of low-key gathering doesn't seem to appeal to anyone.
I made Christmas dinner at my apartment one year because I wanted to relieve my mother of the responsibility of taking care of everyone. What happened was that my mother ended up criticizing the way I cook which made me feel totally bitter, and it was generally inconvenient because my grandmother is quite on in the years and doesn't really take to being at my place for very long (when we're at my parents house, at least she can excuse herself early when she gets tired and go straight to bed), my parents get immensely stressed out trying to find parking around my apartment because I live downtown and parking isn't easy to come by, especially during the winter, and my aunt is an extremely nervous driver who normally only drives very short distances to buy groceries in the suburbs where she lives. All of these things made everyone on edge for the entire evening, and it wasn't really a good time for anyone, especially me, who slaved away all day cooking only to serve a group of miserable people who didn't seem to appreciate it or the fact that it's Christmas and not a time to be stressed!
I'm not a super gung-ho Christmas lover myself, it's not like I'm trying to force my family to sing carols and wear Santa hats and give extravagant gifts. I'm not into the material part of Christmas, or the immense sense of obligation that comes with the holiday season. I am my parents' daughter after all, I'm really low key on the Christmas thing. However, I still enjoy and really miss the feeling of being part of a loving family that enjoys spending time together - all of us - not just me and my parents. There aren't many of us... we should cherish what we have, right?!
My parents usually decide that our family won't trade presents at Christmas, and I have absolutely no issue with this whatsoever, as my parents are extremely generous and emotionally supportive year-round.
This always makes me feel really blue for most of December. On one hand, I feel relieved that my family expects virtually nothing from me, yet at the same time, it feels so lonely and depressing. Most of my friends have moved to other cities. People will inevitably ask me what I'm doing for Christmas, and then they'll react with shock and pity when I tell them that I'm doing... nothing. My wonderful boyfriend will invite me to his huge and friendly family's great Christmas dinner on the 24th, and even though I get to be part of that celebration, the reality is that being at someone else's Christmas dinner and seeing THAT family enjoy being together so much makes me feel even more alone. In fact, I'm actually really dreading it and I really wish I didn't have to go (nothing against his family, they're great. They're just not MY family).
All of this combined with the fact that I live and work downtown, where it gets unbearably frenetic during the holiday season, and that we have excruciatingly cold winters here and it's just getting colder and colder, leaves me with a pretty severe case of the holiday blues. People always seem so happy and excited this time of the year and I don't feel like a part of it at all. Some days I'm filled with holiday cheer, and other days I feel like the grinch and wish that I could just go to sleep and wake up mid January.
I keep telling myself that I'm incredibly fortunate to have parents who despite not really very enthusiastic about anything, are generally extremely supportive and generous with me (and each other). On a darker note, I realize that they're all senior citizens now and have a lot less energy and patience. Though I try not to think about it, in the back of my mind, I can't help but think about how this is the only family I have left and that I might not have very much time left with them and I want us to enjoy being together as much as possible.
How can I best deal with all these feelings?