It’s November and Christmas decorations are already out, they have been since mid-October. I, personally, am full of joy about that but some people, not so much. This used to baffle me. How could someone not be excited about Christmas? The holiday cheer, the gathering, the food, light displays, Christmas trees, Christmas music….*GASP*…CHRISTMAS MOVIES! Every year around this time I hear faint whispers of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas” on repeat in my head and I grin. Christmas is my favorite holiday! There’s something in the air that just makes me feel happy! Surely everybody feels this energy. At least that’s what I thought.
It wasn’t until I began asking my peers, friends, and acquaintances questions about the holidays that I found some answers. Christmas, my favorite holiday, is disliked by a lot of people. Why though?
Retail, memories, exhaustion.
A Beast Named Retail
Retail happened to be one of the main reason people dislike Christmas. Working in retail is already a beast, but to work in retail around Christmas is another story. Corporations throw out their holiday discounts and sales convincing consumers to line up and throw money at them. To say that retail stores get hectic during Christmas is an understatement. I know because of stories I have heard and also because I have worked in a retail store around this time. Employees deal with the regular disgruntled, rude customer with complaints that most of the time they have no control over. They also are subject to dealing with the holiday customer. The holiday customer is similar to the regular disgruntled customer but amplified times 10 and with a devil tail. Something about the holidays brings out sides of people that you probably wouldn’t see on an average day.
These types of people treat employees bad, talk to employees in ways they shouldn’t, and can be overall very unpleasant. Imagine dealing with a disgruntled Karen while Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas plays for the 5th time during your shift. This definitely sounds like a recipe for creating a seething dislike for Christmas. Understandable.
Every year new memories are made, whether good or bad, and every year people carry those memories with them into a season where being with family is highly revered as the “traditional” thing to do—hello holiday season. What about the people who lost loved ones around this time? *Raises Hand* What about the people who don’t live close to their families or are estranged from their families? (We know how family can be sometimes.)
Pain. Some people experience a lot of pain around this time. Emptiness plagues the hearts of those ruminating on past hurts. Don’t get me wrong, I understand how powerful memories are, and it’s easy to get trapped in those memories. Before you know it you’ve triggered a downward emotional spiral. As children, Christmas felt different because our perspective was different. For the most part life hadn’t unfolded in ways that left us with trauma scars. As kids, a lot of people were able to enjoy Christmas in the purest way. By the time we come into adulthood we’ve experienced things, seen things, and heard things that have tainted us, made us bitter, and made us angry. By the time Christmas rolls around it doesn’t feel like there’s a lot to be cheerful about. So much baggage in all the wrong ways.
Work the Job, Don’t Let the Job Work You
Que overtime and holiday pay. Promises of holiday pay, Christmas bonuses, and even holiday pay raises sucker the general public into clocking in astronomical amounts of hours in the hopes of getting cut checks containing at least one comma. Parents slave away at their 9-5 jobs so they can create the “perfect” Christmas for their kids; loads of presents under the tree, new technology, new cars, new everything, more everything. Pressure. Lots of pressure to keep up with the latest release of products seen on TV and in Youtube Ads swallow the consumer making them feel like they HAVE to get this new thing. It then becomes a struggle between buying all the new stuff or risk feeling like a bad parent.
I had a friend tell me they don’t like Christmas because everyone is exhausted and overworked. Thinking about that made me feel a way. Why is it that so much emphasis is placed on gifts and creating an image of what Christmas should LOOK like rather than what it should FEEL like? Corporations and businesses push their sales and holiday deals out to the public with intentions to entice us to go out and spend unnecessary money. However, on a soul level I feel like everyone knows it shouldn’t be like this. Our souls know that Christmas is not about that. So why do we succumb to the pressures of traditional gift giving in such a way? Why is it that we fold and work to create an IMAGE of the ideal Christmas verses the FEELING of the ideal Christmas?
Between the painful memories, rude customers and shoppers, and overextending oneself at a job, it’s no wonder that the Christmas spirit gets lost as we transition from childhood through adulthood.
I have experienced all sides of this prism. A few years ago I lost a loved one in the weeks leading up to Christmas, I have worked in retail as a photographer at a portrait studio; the busiest time of the year for photography studios, and I have worked as a supervisor getting holiday pay/overtime at a children’s shelter. Despite having dealt with loss, nasty customers and the craziness that is retail, and working in corporate I have never lost the pure warmth and joy I experience around Christmas time. Holidays are what YOU make them. Not what someone tells you they should look like nor what your grief is screaming at you.
I still get a tingly feeling between my shoulder blades and an internal smile when I hear Christmas bells or see Christmas lights, or hear Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas” for the umpteenth time. That’s because regardless of what I have gone through, life’s good and I am the only one who has the power to create the feelings that I want to feel during the holidays. There’s power in that. If children are ever part of my life’s journey I hope to create traditions with them that do not center around materials but rather experiences with hope that they are full of the same joy that I remember.
SCROOGE! ALL OF YOU…A BUNCH OF SCROOGES! That’s what I want to shout every year around this time. Then I remember how fortunate I am. Fortunate to be in a space where life has not tainted me and hardened my joy about a childhood favorite.
ABOUT SHAY HOLLOWAY
My name is Shay Holloway. I am a creative from Arkansas. I say creative because at that’s the thing that feeds me. It runs through me a fuels my every day. More specifically, I am an acrylic/mixed media artist, and photographer.