Post-holiday and future-holiday blues
January 2, 2018 11:08 AM   Subscribe

For some concrete reasons and some rather more nebulous ones, I am just really super sad that the holidays are over, and having a very hard time getting past it. What are some things I can do to shake off these blahs? How to properly grieve dying/dead traditions (especially when it seems like they were actually quite good ones!) and embrace new limitations?

So, despite being an atheist since I was a little kid, I am A Christmas Person, and always have been. It's the only holiday I give a damn about -- I love it as a symbol of finding any light in the darkness, I love it as an embracing of winter, and as one of the few opportunities I have for connecting with my late father's family. I decorate a truly baller tree, I bake some freakin' good cookies, my local bar serves mulled wine and I joyfully partake. I send cards, do fancy gift wrap, the whole deal.

That said, usually I'm ready to pack it away once January rolls around -- not fed up, just like, OK, time to move along. But this year I'm just. so. sad. I've been crying half the morning! There are a few actual reasons that I can identify:
-My mother has expressed a desire to cancel our family's longstanding Christmas Eve at her home and simply go out for a splashy meal. I know this is extremely practical in many ways but it's also quite sad.
-She and my siblings no longer wish to visit with my late father's extended family on Christmas Day and has definitely implied that I should not either. (NB: I'm, uh, probably not going to listen to her on this but it certainly adds a complication.)
-One of my siblings just is not ever coming home again, I think. Like, he doesn't hate us or anything but he lives far away, holiday travel sucks, and he likes it there better, so I don't think we can expect to see him at a holiday unless we go there. Which, again, fine, that is extremely practical and his total prerogative, and also extremely sad.
-My partner hates hates hates to host, or have guests, so my ability to replace these traditions with gatherings of my own is pretty limited.

Apart from this I'm sure it's just a whole mess of feeling my own mortality and knowing the futility of trying to stem the changing tides et. al., yadda yadda.

I know the world is a garbage fire and I should have more serious concerns than how I'll be spending my holidays. I have shit to do.

So people of MeFi, how have you bounced back from the loss of cherished traditions? Help me come up with a strategy so I can pack away my Christmas tree without feeling like I'm packing away the holiday itself, never to be seen again! This year I did a lot of "fine, if y'all aren't on board that's OK, this Christmas will just be my solo jam", but it wasn't very fulfilling, so I'm not looking forward to just doing more, and more, and more of that as time goes on.

Hope me, MeFi Wan Kenobi.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese to Human Relations (31 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
-My partner hates hates hates to host, or have guests, so my ability to replace these traditions with gatherings of my own is pretty limited.

Is it? Like, do you love, love, love to host or have guests? I do. And if my partner was all, I hate this!, I'd be all:

1. I do X, which I hate, for you. Or
2. There are 365 days of the year. I want to host on one of them. Or
3. What can I trade with you so that we can both feel good about me hosting Christmas once a year?

You wrote, I am A Christmas Person, and always have been. It's the only holiday I give a damn about -- I love it as a symbol of finding any light in the darkness, I love it as an embracing of winter, and as one of the few opportunities I have for connecting with my late father's family.

It's entirely reasonable that your mom wants to hang up the hosting duties. That said, basically your partner has been able to experience the thing he loves--not hosting--for many, many years.

So why isn't it your turn to get what you love by continuing the tradition? Or doing the tradition every-other year or whatever the hell will work for you? Sorry, not trying to hate on your partner, just don't understand why partner's preferences overrule your preferences for always and forever, especially when it comes to your favourite and most beloved holiday. Consider rethinking that assumption of yours. Maybe you can negotiate something that works for both of you. That doesn't make partner wildly happy necessary but also uplifts you instead of crushing your spirit. Cause that's no fun. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 11:20 AM on January 2, 2018 [34 favorites]

Response by poster: It's entirely reasonable that your mom wants to hang up the hosting duties.

oh yeah, just to reiterate: I absolutely do not feel like my mother should have to keep up hosting duties. That's a natural, practical change, as is my brother's decision to not travel, and those are things I'm just kind of grieving in a general way. I'm not mad at them about it or anything.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 11:29 AM on January 2, 2018

I agree with Bella Donna that absent some sort of serious mental health-related reason, your partner needs to get over it and get on board with hosting people *once a year* when it is obviously very, very important to you. Presumably you also make compromises to suit your partner's preferences on various things, such as, say, not hosting people all the rest of the damn year.

I will say in my case that our holiday traditions have also changed pretty dramatically over the years, due to a variety of reasons, and it's been really important for me to celebrate old traditions in new ways and/or replace old traditions with new ones much as you seem to want to do. Some things we have found helpful:

-- A lot of things that you could do with a big group, you can also probably do with just the two of you and/or with hosting friends or whatever family is available. The biggest thing for me in this bucket is food -- when we are not with family, I make an insane amount of Christmas cookies (way more than we can eat, but we share with friends/coworkers), all the kinds I love best from my family and my husband likes best from his. We also make the traditional Christmas breakfast from my husband's side, just in smaller portions.
-- Other objects that "feel" like Christmas even if you can't be with the people you'd want to be with. For example, getting the stocking you used as a kid, or duplicate of a special figurine, etc. If your family always did a certain tradition (like everyone gets an orange in the foot of your stocking), make sure your partner knows that and follows through on making it happen for you.
--Facetime with relatives who you can't be with! Feels much more personal than just a phone call. You can even open up some presents together while on Facetime. (Or, obviously, substitute Skype or other.)

Finally, I would emphasize to your partner how important this is to you, even if you think they're already aware. They may not "get" why Christmas is a big deal if they don't attach personal significance to it, and they may not love hosting people or whatever, but they should still have the empathy to recognize that it's a big deal *to you* and get on board with supporting both old and new traditions that will make you happy.
posted by rainbowbrite at 11:34 AM on January 2, 2018 [11 favorites]

Is your partner’s aversion to hosting because they would have to do a lot of extra work to make that happen? Is there a way you could make sure that YOU are doing that work, not expecting them to do it? (This is especially relevant if you’re male and your partner is female.) There’s a lot of scut work that goes along with hosting- it’s not fair for you to expect your partner to do that for something you want to do and they don’t.
posted by Anne Neville at 11:43 AM on January 2, 2018

This year I did a lot of "fine, if y'all aren't on board that's OK, this Christmas will just be my solo jam", but it wasn't very fulfilling

Well yeah, because what makes the holidays awesome is connecting with people you love in secure, warm, familiar ways. I agree with the above advice that it sounds like you would be a great host if you wanted to take over your mom’s old role. If not, maybe you could still go to your mothers house for drinks/dessert after the splashy meal? Also think about how you can incorporate your far-away brother into the new holiday ritual, with FaceTime or Skype?
posted by pintapicasso at 11:45 AM on January 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

I really encourage you to continue doing the holiday things you enjoy with your dad's side of the family. Unless there's a really colorful feud buried under polite distance, I can't see why your mom would want to hold you back. It's certainly possible that she doesn't love/enjoy her in-laws as much as you do.

I'm an atheist who likes Xmas but comes from a divorced family, so over time my celebrations have both shrunk and wandered around on to alternative days. I also remember seeing my grandmother really cut back the size of her holiday meals as she got older. So we had fairly stripped down traditions with my mom after that. My mom thought making huge meals and eating to the point of suffering was silly and she didn't go along with that later.

I'm probably less "into" Christmas than you are and never really want to host. My husband, while cheerful, socializes very little. Our solution to the housework problem is for the three of us (son included) to do very very little housework, so I don't ever host gatherings myself. That said, I think even if Christmas isn't negotiable, I think your partner should give you a couple of weekends a year where they are willing to help clean and shop and then leave the house and go do something else while you have a family bash or a friends bash or whatever kind of bash you would find delightful. This may work better on a day when it's not freezing cold and everything is not closed, so maybe you want to grab Bastille Day or some other balmy holiday to start a new fun tradition. (This is my idea of a compromise between "big Xmas bash at our house" and "no parties ever.")

I would also perhaps repurpose some special foods or drinks that are being dropped by your mom and add them back into your life on some other day.

I do find the darkness of January depressing and I count down the days until the sun comes back.
posted by puddledork at 11:47 AM on January 2, 2018 [2 favorites]

Ask your partner to suck it up and host the next Christmas gathering.
posted by Kwadeng at 11:55 AM on January 2, 2018

Could your partner go on some kind of trip related to his/her hobby over Christmas, leaving you to host to your heart‘s content? I‘m a Christmas-hater married to a Christmas-lover and once the kids are a bit older, I‘ll definitely go on a knitting retreat (Ypartner‘sMMV) over the holidays some time and leave the rest of the family to do caroling around the tree or whatever. Yes, it‘ll be weird to do Christmas without spouse, but something‘s gotta give...
posted by The Toad at 12:04 PM on January 2, 2018 [2 favorites]

A lot of things we do in life have to do with timing. In the past, she chose and it was your mother's "time" to do big home Christmas doings, she'd now like to move on from that, and you get that. Now, you are in a different time. Where you once attended, you are now in your "time" to host.

Making Christmas "magic", with the traditions, the food, the decorations up and down, dealing with the expectations or lack of...all those things are a choice and they require some planning and work. (and certainly managing your own expectations) If you are committed to doing the work part, then YOU are what makes Christmas happen, in the ways that mean something to you. Basically, giving the gift of "holiday doings" for other people. So, its cheesy, but Christmas is in you and you make it happen every year, because its now your time.

If your other half cant get on board for something innocent and meaningful, once a year, I would reevaluate that situation, but that's a personal choice. A big, personal choice on both sides.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 12:13 PM on January 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

Forgive me if this doesn't help, but as one Christmas-loving atheist to another, I want to recommend some other, if lesser festive days: January 6th, so coming right up, is Epiphany, neatly summarised by Wikipedia: "Popular Epiphany customs include Epiphany singing, chalking the door, having one's house blessed, consuming Three Kings Cake, winter swimming, as well as attending church services." I do 1-4 :) you could bake an awesome cake!

February 2nd is next, Groundhog of course, but also Candlemas, symbolised by candles and pancakes (double win!). Some people keep Christmas decorations until Candlemas, btw!

This gets you where I live safely into carnival season, but at least close to St Patrick's day and later the spring equinox. For this, you can freely borrow from all/any cultures what feels meaningful.

I realise this doesn't take care of the hosting-people-aspect of Christmas, and it's not entirely the same, but it also helps me find light in the darkness & keep some of the magic going, so I hope it helps you, too.
All the best!
posted by any_name_in_a_storm at 12:14 PM on January 2, 2018 [5 favorites]

I one trillion percent agree with those saying your partner needs to suck it a couple times a year, and one obvious time to do that is this widely-celebrated holiday that is clearly very important to you. (like, you can never have guests in your home?)

The only other angle I can think of is to identify the stuff your mom is sick of doing. Is it literally having people in her house? Then you're probably out of luck. Is it the prep, the cooking, the cleanup? Then find a way to do all of that (plan and cook the menu, stay late/overnight to get everything in and out of the dishwasher/laundry, etc.)

If it were up to my parents to plan and cook Xmas dinner we'd prolly also be doing a splashy meal out, but everyone is happy with my brother and I doing the work but in their home.

It might also be nice to have another social gathering to look forward to after Christmas? A couple people I know do big annual parties in late January and mid-February, which is about the time here in the US Northeast that everyone's all rested up from the holiday chaos and boredom and isolation have set in.

Both have jokey summer themes but of course you could do something related to celebrating winter. Since you can't do it at your house, you could try and plan an event at your local pub or something outdoorsy.
posted by lalex at 12:16 PM on January 2, 2018 [3 favorites]

You mentioned siblings, and it sounds like beyond the brother who lives far away your other sibling(s) might also be uninterested in doing a lot for the holidays. Have you talked with them about it, just to be sure? Is there any chance they might actually be interested in doing something like alternating hosting years with you?

One other suggestion: if you have any friends who are close, they might also be interested in doing something together for at least part of the holiday. And especially if there are any older people you know who are alone during that time - or just plain old lonely people without family nearby - doing things with them as part of your celebrations would both be a huge kindness and sounds like it would fit in well with the feelings you have around the holiday.

Finally: have you thought of taking up caroling? (Is that a thing where you live?) Seems like it might meet some needs and be a way to meet like-minded people.
posted by trig at 12:21 PM on January 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

I live in Minnesota, where we have to embrace winter or be miserable, and I have gone on some really lovely moonlit snowshoe hikes and sledding adventures. That kind of has a holiday feeling because you go and get all sweaty-yet-cold, come in and warm up around a fire or in our case as kids, the furnace, drink a hot beverage and play a boardgame. Is there something like that available to you - wintery fun that continues the holiday feeling?

Looking ahead to the next holidays, do you have a friend who likes to host? I have a lot more fun hosting when I have a partner who is interested in hosting with me. My husband isn't always big on that kind of thing so sometimes I plan an event with someone else, at their house. Maybe a friend or relative would like to plan a holiday party that the two of you plan and host together.

I'm sorry you're having the blahs and I hope you start to feel better.
posted by Emmy Rae at 12:23 PM on January 2, 2018 [4 favorites]

I would say the best thing would be to do a comination of two things.

1) Focus on what is not changing. Cards, cookies, fancy wrapping (even if the presents are more modest), your Dad's family, etc. Look into ways you can emphasize these. Make cookies for the whole office? Or a local nursing home? Or make fancy dog cookies for an animal shelter? Invite more people to mulled wine night?

2) Add some new things. Find some carolers to join, do some other festive volunteering, start a new distance-friendly tradition with your sibling, etc.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:27 PM on January 2, 2018 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: To clarify and defend my partner (a little), he has sucked it up for my sake a couple of times in the past. We've hosted one holiday meal and one sort of post-holiday cocktail hour thing. Both times, the days leading up to the events were so filled with anxiety and misery that it just wasn't worth it, even though the events themselves were actually pretty great.

(like, you can never have guests in your home?)

Basically, yeah. He is just extremely uncomfortable/averse to having anyone, apart from the two of us, in our home, even his own relatives or friends. It isn't a thing I understand very well but he's my partner and I respect that that's how he feels.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 12:50 PM on January 2, 2018

Why throw all the glitz and glamor on one day? Things coming up:

Lunar eclipses! One this month on Jan. 31, and one next year on Jan 20/21, 2019. Grab some hot cocoa or a thermos of coffee and enjoy this! Have a double feature night with friends. Visit your local planetarium.

Celebrate the equinoxes and solstices. They happen every year, it's fun to mark the first day of the season, so start some traditions. Take pictures at the same outdoor location (a nice tree?), take a hike (even an urban hike), make some phone calls to relatives. Bring in some greenery suitable for the new season (narcissus for spring, nuts and gourds for fall).

Happy Un-birthday! Lewis Carroll had it right -- there is no good reason to wait 365 days (366 on leap year) for a mad celebration. Throw a dart at a calendar and plan something for a "personal day."

Family traditions scrapbook. Pick a theme for this year (recipes for special occasions) and gather the information from those who want to participate. Set up a camera and make that holiday roast together -- and record the memories ("The Thanksgiving I almost burned the house down," "The time I gave your father food poisoning trying to make his mother's special meatloaf," "The birthday party when the police showed up.")

Holidays are about sharing the season with the ones we love. Take some of that special energy and shift it to less-stressful times (yeah -- be that weird cousin! It's fun!) Take some of the pressure off Mom to be the Holder of all Family Traditions (she did all the picking and choosing of annual stuff years ago -- she deserves a break).

Seasonal affective disorder is a thing, and the big blowout is a good break from the winter doldrums. But it can be Too Much, all wrapped up into an unreasonably perky knot of expectations. It's okay to spread the joy around a little.
Don't wait for December to make Christmas cookies.
posted by TrishaU at 12:51 PM on January 2, 2018 [3 favorites]

A few years back, around the time of the eighth Christmas in a row in which I cheerfully tried to get someone in my family to visit me and was once again brushed off, I had some sadness about the holidays, too.

I decided my immediate family--me, my partner, and our kid--would simply do something awesome for ourselves instead. And we did. We went to Mexico and it was badass. Smiling people bringing you beer and shrimp all day will put you in a fantastic mood. There were still Christmas songs and decor, but we did it all in the sun and on the beach. It was magical. We liked it so much, we did it again last year.

Even though we opted not to do that a third time this year, it made us fearless in a way and we continued to do our own Christmas thing. We made ourselves lobster tails for Xmas Eve. And we did our own version of the Iceland book flood. We went to see the holiday lights at the Morton Arboretum. Those things were great. I think they may be new traditions.

Anyway, I'm rambling here and the point wasn't the specific things my family did to replace the traditions I was missing. The point is that we gave ourselves permission to find new ways to love Christmas. Give yourself that permission, too. Go to NYC and skate at Rockefeller Plaza. Rent a cabin somewhere snowy and roast marshmallows on the fire. Or put up ridiculous Christmas decorations that make you happy. Your partner doesn't want to host? Make a batch of mulled wine and make a big show of delivering batches to people at their place. That would be fun.

I know that not having your family to enjoy in the way that you are used to may still sting. But don't discount the fun you can have looking after yourself and your local loved ones and friends.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:08 PM on January 2, 2018 [8 favorites]

Would hosting an event without your partner being present for it be acceptable to you and him? Would hosting an event somewhere other than your home be acceptable to you?

What is it about the idea of a meal at a restaurant rather than at your mom’s home that makes you sad? Figuring that out might help you come to a solution that would be acceptable to you and your partner.
posted by Anne Neville at 1:12 PM on January 2, 2018 [2 favorites]

Could you meet at a restaurant or other gathering place, and then maybe have some folks (not all, just some, because many many not be able to for scheduling or child care reasons) come over after, for dessert, so it's less fraught? All you really need is a reasonably clean house (or defined house area) and some store-bought fancy dessert (or not! maybe you just buy a bunch of Little Debbies and throw them in a bowl) and people can sit around playing Heads Up or just watch funny videos. The less stressful the lead-in, maybe it will be come more OK for your partner?
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 2:21 PM on January 2, 2018

I lost my immediate family for good this Christmas thanks to some Family Stuff that I won't go into because it's not germane, but what I sort of realized is that I have to figure out new traditions. A friend of mine and I were talking about how the holidays can seem like "alternates" or "less than" especially since we both grew up with big extended family gatherings and now our families are both small (mine is now basically a family of one: me!) But she was telling me about some new traditions she came up with this year and that they really helped make the holiday feel like hers again.

So, I don't know. This year I donated a bunch of funds to a local food pantry so they could help people buy Thanksgiving dinners. I will probably do some kind of boots on the ground volunteering next year (this year the "surprise you do not have a family anymore" thing came up kind of quickly and did not give me time to prepare). So: what do you value? What matters to you? What brings you joy? How can you foster those things for other people, if you can't have and hold those things yourself? Like, I love the Christmas tree but I've never had one. Next year, l will have one in my house. I love the tradition of giving to others, so I was really generous in giving this year, to families and people who needed more than I needed. I love baking cookies, so I will do that with friends next year. I'll make hats for people who do not have homes rather than hats for my family members. Etc. I'd spend a little bit of time prepping this kind of stuff now, making lists of what matters to you and what really means "Christmas" so you can figure out small ways to do those things in your life next year.

Best of luck. It is really hard when seasons change (I mean in a more global sense, seasons of our lives). I saw someone list out their "typical New Years eves by decade" on Twitter and it was illuminating: 10s, playing cards with family; 20s, going out to parties and staying up all night; 30s, quiet time with girlfriend, switching to noisy time with babies in mid-30s; 40s, family parties with the kids, playing cards; 50s, quiet time with wife, kids out at parties. And I really liked thinking about the holiday this way, because I had been very sad thinking about how much my life had changed and how much lonelier my NYE was this year until I kind of realized: change is the only constant.

Best of luck. Change is really hard. Take care of yourself. The post holiday blues are real.
posted by sockermom at 2:50 PM on January 2, 2018 [7 favorites]

I'm sure these changes were announced this far in advance out of kindness, but it might be adding to the difficulty to know that next year it will be different when there's still 11 months and 3 weeks to go. That's a lot of anticipation. Maybe it could help a bit to remind yourself that once the moment arrives, it's likely going to turn out really enjoyable?
posted by Former Congressional Representative Lenny Lemming at 3:31 PM on January 2, 2018

My niece just posted pictures of herself and a bunch of her friends celebrating the holidays in a lovely rented cabin in the woods. Her pictures show a very cozy, homelike atmosphere and looked to be a nice getaway for all. Is there anything like that within driving distance for you?

If you find a place you like, that could be the new traditional holiday gathering every year. Or you could try a different place every year. Thanks to my in-laws we've gathered in rented vacation homes at the beach, in the woods and in the mountains. Destination Christmas!
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 3:32 PM on January 2, 2018 [2 favorites]

I vote to find another place to host at. Rent a space, or ask if you do all the work, can you still use your mom's if she does not have to do anything?
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:07 PM on January 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

I am kind of like your partner. I do not normally have people over ever. I prefer my space with ME in it. And my husband.

But I know that is selfish of me and I am trying to work on it. I say that to say that-practice makes things less nervewracking and-your partner is being selfish.

I am sorry he is so averse but this is making YOUR life way more difficult and it is not fair to you for him to just accept that this is the way he is without figuring out a way to change just a little. You both have a year to put your heads together and figure out ways of increasing his comfort level and/or planning around it but status quo is not fair to YOU and he needs to grok that.

And you can tell him I am preaching to myself too, because I am having to do the exact same thing.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:54 PM on January 2, 2018 [5 favorites]

Ok, so I'd venture to say that I care more about tradition than probably anyone else on MeFi. It's almost impairing for me. My wife once called me a "tradition hoarder". I've had some traditions change this year, and it's caused a mild depression for me. BUT: Change happens, and it's surprisingly easy to adapt. Things might be different, but there's no reason they can't be just as good.

Specifically, I'm not as concerned about your mom's idea of Christmas Eve at a nice restaurant as you are. Eaay for me to say; if my mom suggested it, I'd throw a fit. But with some distance, I can see that there are upsides to this. Give it a shot. Ten years from now, it will have become a cherished tradition in its own right.

I agree with those saying to spread things out. Especially since Christmas itself doesn't really have significance for you, do different things on different days. Shoehorning everything into the two or three days around the 25th creates unnecessary stress.

The big thing, though, is to not lose sight of why these traditions are important. The purpose of tradition is to keep us connected to the parts of our past we don't want to lose. In the case of your dad's family, it's obvious to me that it helps you remember and honor your dad. In the case of dinner at your mom's, there are powerful emotions regarding Mom's home cooking, and even more if she still lives in your childhood home. And there's something about being together with your siblings that's hard to duplicate.

So the question becomes, how can you preserve the spirit of these things? Maybe instead of Christmas Eve dinner at your mom's, you do the splashy restaurant, but you commit to more dinners at her place throughout the year. For your siblings, maybe you can plan a get-together some other time of year as well - maybe plan a trip in between your one far away sibling and the rest of you.

I'm not as convinced that hosting Christmas Eve dinner at your place will satisfactorily replace dinner at your mom's. If the emotional basis of the tradition is your mom's cooking and your childhood home, cooking for your family at your apartment won't evoke the same memories. And your partner's negativity about it will color everyone's perception. (Although it does sound like that's a conversation the two of you should have at some point.)

One thing I would suggest is to build up some traditions with your partner. That's really what got me through my hard times. The sad fact is that you grow farther and farther apart from siblings, extended family, etc. as you grow older. People move away, they start their own families, they have other commitments. But, short of separation, your partner is right there with you. Your traditions with them are the most durable.

Perhaps I'm off-base and reading way too much into some things. If so, I apologize. But this is a subject I enjoy talking about more than just about anything else, and I've gone through some similar experiences recently, so please feel free to MeMail me if you'd like to talk about stuff.
posted by kevinbelt at 8:25 PM on January 2, 2018 [6 favorites]

I wonder if the fucked-up-edness of the world right now may be wearing on you more than you realize, and maybe that's why the post-holiday comedown stings more than usual. For anybody even halfway sane, life is just really grim these days. We basically have Scrooge for president. (Well, a really dumb, orange Scrooge.) I wonder if this sadness you feel might not just be about Christmas passing, but also sadness about the resumption of "normal" life here in the darkest timeline.

If that's a part of why you feel sad, maybe it would help you to do some volunteering or charity donations. Honor Christmas in your heart, and try to keep it all the year! It might also help to do some crafting or baking, or other stuff that makes you feel homey and cozy, or to begin prep for some extra-elaborate birthdays, Valentines, etc. Finally, maybe it'd help to have something new to anticipate. Plan a vacation, or something else special.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:58 AM on January 3, 2018

I'm going to come at this from an entirely different direction - what are you doing for joy the other 11.75 months a year?

I completely understand not wanting to host for the holidays - for some reason, there's a bunch of added pressure and the feeling that things need to be so extra special that it makes things like a meal excruciating for people who don't like prepping for it. In that light - would your partner maybe be okay with hosting a family barbecue in the summer, or maybe booking a park and having all your family come to an event there where you barbecue? That's a lot less stress but involves the same fellowship and can maybe instill a new tradition. A midsummer Christmas, if you will. You can give little gifts even.

We have had to go light for work reasons on holiday celebrations and have made up for it in spades by getting the people we love together at other times of the year. The bonus is - people generally feel less frazzled, travel is generally a lot easier, and there's less pressure and more fun. Also - all our eggs aren't in the "holidays have to be amazing" basket which means if one event isn't perfect or someone key is missing, it's not such a big deal.
posted by notorious medium at 5:52 AM on January 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

It sounds like there's a lot you're losing, and that's real. It can be a challenge to escape thinking of aging as one prolonged process of loss. What can you construct that you would look *forward* to building over the next years?

Some ideas: Are there kids in your life that you could visit and help make Christmas for, places you want to go, festivities in town you could go to or get involved in when you aren't doing family things, things you and your partner would love to do, friends you want to see more of and get closer to?
posted by Lady Li at 8:02 AM on January 3, 2018 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you guys! I might still be a little too sad for any of your wonderful suggestions to really resonate yet, but I'll be revisiting them throughout the year and seeing if they start to click.

The point about my other 11.75 months being pretty shitty is kind of spot on. The truth is, we don't have very many local friends or family, we don't have much money to travel (and barely have any vacation time to speak of). Non-winter seasons are not my friend; I basically don't even want to leave my house once the temp hits 70.

Whereas at Christmas, some of our long-distance friends and relatives come home to their families, we have enough money to do a couple of nice things thanks to holiday bonuses --and cooking a meal is a lot cheaper than plane fare. It's like the only time I feel anything approaching bounty or peace; the rest of the year is just a parade of anxiety and lack.

But I'm realizing maybe nobody else feels that sense of bounty or peace at all, and for them it's just another slog of anxiety, only ol' Blast Hardcheese is over there, grinning insanely and trying to get them to do something ridiculous with cookie icing. So, I dunno.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:11 AM on January 3, 2018 [4 favorites]

The holidays aren't over until the Three Kings arrive this Saturday! My family is having a little Twelfth Night party, because illness and weather kept us from getting together on Christmas Day and New Year's because illness and weather kept us from getting together on Christmas Day and New Year's Eve.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:15 AM on January 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm belated but want to extend my sympathies. I feel you on this. It sounds like a lot of change, all in one year, and that could lead to it feeling like The Last Christmas in a way that really would be very sad. :( On preview, I am seeing your recent update (i thought I hit reload but apparently not!), and I'm sorry I don't have time to rewrite to incorporate that, but wow can I see how the situation during other months would add to things.

Reading between the lines (i.e., grain of salt!), I also hear a lot about family. Christmas, among other things, was one day when your family of origin came back together, at your mother's home no less, and when you saw your late father's family (and maybe also felt some connection to him?). It seems like maybe that sense of family togetherness is part of what you're losing? Christmas is generally that part of the year when people slow down, spend more time at home, and generally share more of themselves with family and friends.

Losing that really is sad, for those of us who like that feeling of being surrounded by family. My parents divorced in my early-ish adulthood, so I lost that sense of having a center for family celebrations before I was at a place in life when my own household could start to provide some of that home base.

And ... you mention your own mortality. I know AskMe can sometimes go too far in reading into the 250 words we receive in a question, so I don't want to make too much of it. But, everything else you write is about other stuff, and then there's that heavy word. So if I were a friend sitting and listening to you, I'd want to ask why you brought that up and how the two things connect.

Anyway, here comes the brainstorming of ideas, for whenever, if ever, you want some. But there is more sympathy again near the end.

I wonder if it would help to re-root in your own home, with you and your partner at the core, in whatever ways you can. Even things like, lighting a candle together or putting on carols in the background helped me during the Missing Christmas years. I finally started getting a tree, and that made a big difference, but you mention you already do that. Could that be a compromise with your partner, if hosting at home must remain a No, that s/he joins you in more Christmas activities of the two of you at home?

Could you "host" elsewhere, be it at a close friend's, by renting an Air BnB, or by volunteering to be a community center's volunteer Christmas and "toys for tots" coordinator?

Also, if family is part of what you're losing, it might help to find ways to specifically connect with each person. I find I can kind of evoke the feeling "surrounded by family" if I spend time talking to family members back to back, and more often, during the holidays. Three "what size shirt does Sally need again?" conversations over two weeks, and I start to feel part of their daily life in a way I usually don't.

On another note, I share your love of the symbolism, and for me, lacking that home base to feel ensconced in Christmas-ness, I actually found more Christmas spirit in the outdoors. Camping on the days right after Christmas felt really meaningful. The large sky with the stars twinkling through the icy air... the North Pole and the Christmas story of shepherds in the desert, etc. One year, a friend and I just took candles out to a field and stood there shivering and trying not to drop wax on ourselves for 8 minutes -- so awkward and imperfect, yet, that whole manger situation was too, and somehow it gave me a deep feeling of Christmas on a year that I otherwise had very little of that.

These days, I also make a point of getting reservations for a Christmas show, like a choir event or a play. Or heck, go to church for the carols and make your grocery list during the prayers and sermon. Being in a crowd at a Christmas event gives me another big dose of Christmas feeling and takes some of the pressure off of Christmas Eve and Day itself. I'm slowly accumulating events (especially free / cheap ones): the tree in the town square gets lit on the first weekend, I can decorate our own tree on the second weekend... Anyway, you probably have a great calendar dialed in given how much you manage to do, but that's been helping me. Christmas Eve and Day no longer receive the full 100 points, but all these 12- and 18-point weekend events make up for whatever it's missing.

I also want to acknowledge, though it probably goes without saying, that this idea of "building new traditions" is ... a lot harder and slower than it looks, if not entirely bogus. If any of us could just invent a tradition any day we wanted, it wouldn't be a tradition. The way it's worked for me is an awkward process of trial and error. The old thing ends, so a stopgap remedy is suggested. It is awkward but gradually starts to suck less over several years. A new auxiliary idea gets suggested and actually feels "right" in a way that the stopgap idea never did, so it gets added to the repertoire. A few new ideas get tried and turn out to suck. Another "right"-feeling idea gets tried and added to the following year's repertoire. Someone tentatively suggests not doing the bad stopgap idea, now that two good ideas have removed the need for it as a security blanket, allowing new experiments to start around filling the remaining smaller gap...

I think one possible "half full" way of looking at this is that the Christmas traditions aren't quite working for some of your family members now, so maybe by dropping those, you guys can find new good traditions that work better for the group as a whole. And, maybe they won't be entirely awful? There is one restaurant that we went to by chance one year on December 23, and it was so wonderfully Christmassy that - while I generally dislike the idea of Christmas in a restaurant, if it were that place, and if it made my mom a lot happier, I'd totally do it. Not the same, but still.

One thought based on your update. Any chance that it would make sense to save some of the end of year bonus for a ... Fourth of July campout under the redwoods? You say your brother isn't into holiday travel, so would he be into getting together at another time of year?

I'm not sure if any of these ideas will help, and I am sorry things are changing away from a way that you treasured. I wish you the best in going through the grieving you're doing and slowly making your way toward another approach to finding Christmas spirit. It sounds like you have so much love for Christmas, I feel like you'll find a way.
posted by salvia at 10:44 PM on January 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

« Older where to begin: Brazilian history   |   Does France have a DMV? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.